Today’s post is the fifth installment in my new series Discovering PDX, where I am documenting my experiences as a newcomer to the City of Roses.
My mission to find the perfect coffee shop in Portland continues, and though I haven’t found it yet, I am definitely enjoying the search. My friend Luis Till continues to give me good recommendations and he mentioned that there was a Townshend’s in the southeast. When I was in Portland about a month ago apartment hunting, I frequented the Townshend’s on Alberta in the northeast. With excellent teas, friendly service and great wifi, it was always packed, to the point that I often wasn’t able to find a seat.
Today I decided to check out Townshend’s Division Street, and I’m glad I did!
What it has going for it:
Townshend’s Division Street is about an 8 minute bike ride south from my house, and it’s on a fantastic street – SE Division. This is yet another street in Portland that is made of wonderful local businesses like great restaurants, coffee shops, clothing stores and everyday amenities like corner stores, banks and clinics. Unfortunately, Townshend’s Division is missing the copious bike parking in front that I’ve become accustomed to.
The staff, which consists wholly of young bearded men this morning, is very friendly and welcoming. The tea menu is pretty huge and is listed in a menu that is actually like a little booklet. It could be a little intimidating for people who aren’t very familiar with tea. I think the signage and the ordering process could be made a little bit more accessible and easy. But architecturally speaking, the space is plenty welcoming and, not nearly as busy as the location on Alberta, it’s easy to find a seat. I like that there is a variety of seating as well, including sofas, comfy chairs as well as typical tables and chairs.
Food & Drink:
The very best thing about Townshend’s is the tea!!! It’s probably the best tea service I’ve experienced thus far in Portland. I really liked the steampunk-esque tea pot which comes with a little flame to keep it warm.
Plus, they have a crazy extensive selection of teas.
I appreciate how seriously Townshend’s takes tea in a country where tea is a little bit like soccer, something that’s under-appreciated and mostly ignored except in niche markets. Coming to Townshend’s is a tea nirvana for someone who’s starved for serious tea like me.
Why it’s not the perfect coffee shop for me:
Finding my spot next to the big window facing Division, I comfortably settled into a morning of work.
For the most part, Townshend’s provides a perfectly good working atmosphere, with comfortable tables and good wifi. The only thing is, it’s a bit too quiet and relaxing in here for my taste, though I’m sure it’s a pleasant atmosphere for most. I think coffee culture is edgier and more energetic while tea culture is supposed to be more relaxing and spa-like. I like to have hustle and bustle in the background, with loud music perhaps, creating a little bit of the pressure-cooker feel that I found at Stumptown Coffee on Belmont. It would be interesting to find a tea house that rejects the stereotypical zen-like calmness associated with tea and instead embraces the edginess and high energy associated with coffee.
The design at Townshend’s is soothing, relaxing and spa-like, which is nice if that’s what you’re looking for. A very cozy atmosphere is created with the dark browns and muted colored accents in the sofas, light fixtures above the counter, and tea pot display.
I’m not a big fan of the white wood wainscot that surrounds the store, but it’s in keeping with Townshend’s ‘plantation’ brand.
The most remarkable design element in the place is the flooring. I’m not sure what it is, but it looks like stained and sealed OSB (oriented strand board). It has the same feel as cork, it’s soft and springy and it gives a really nice warm and textured undertone to the space.
Overall, the design of the tea house is pleasant enough and well done for what it’s trying to achieve, but remains largely unremarkable.
As I mentioned before, the vibe in here is a little bit too stereotypical for a tea house. It’s basically a place I would come after yoga or a meditation class and not necessarily a place to come to be inspired be productive. But that’s ok, this is a good place to unwind after a long busy day, or a place to hang out on the weekends if you want to relax and take it easy.
As with most of the establishments I’ve been to in Portland, Townshend’s is very very white. Admittedly, there have only been about a dozen people in here at any given time this morning, but all of them have been white, except for me. Portland continues to be disappointing in the ethinic diversity category.Tags: portland coffee houses, portland tea culture, portland tea houses, southeast portland, tea culture versus coffee culture, tea house architecture, tea house design, townshend's tea house, townshend's tea house division street
I completely understand what you are saying about the vibe. I think this is the downfall of a lot of tea places. People have come to think of tea culture as calm and relaxed. While coffee gets the hype of being the urban person’s drink. More tea companies need to reject the stereotype. That was the driving force for me starting my tea company. Hope you find your perfect spot soon! 🙂
If you want diversity head west. Hillsboro and Beaverton and even some west parts of Portland like Forest Heights and Cedar Hills are VERY diverse as a result of the Silicon Forest Employers. Portland moving into Clackamas County gets less and less diverse as you head east. We lived in Beaverton for 10 years before we moved to Chandler. Check out Uwajimayi in Beaverton, one of the nicest Asian Markets you will ever see in your life. It is full of people of all different backgrounds. In the Spring check out the Beaverton Farmers Market, again, more diversity than you can shake a stick at. Check out Ava’s in Downtown Beaverton – it is an old gas station the owners coverted into an awesome 24 hour coffee cafe with an awesome patio. Beaverton actually has a higher population density than Portland does. Beaverton might be considered just this side of hell by the Portland Hipsters, but I loved living there.
I am part of mixed race couple (WF/AM – and we were one of several mixed race couples I knew that lived in Beaverton) and my neighbors where of all different backgrounds – Asian (Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Korean), South Asian/Indian, Persian, Arab, Hispanic, African, African- American, Caucasian. Living there gave me a lot of hope for the future of our country. Not as walkable as a lot of parts of Portland, but Beaverton is working on it. Don’t be afraid, the west suburbs of the Portland area are actually pretty cool and DIVERSE.