New downtown restaurant focuses on tea

Herba Thea, 220 S. Campbell, Springfield, 417-866-1669

Herba Thea, 220 S. Campbell, Springfield, 417-866-1669  Herba Thea, 220 S. Campbell, Springfield, 417-866-1669

Herba Thea, 220 S. Campbell, Springfield, 417-866-1669 Herba Thea, 220 S. Campbell, Springfield, 417-866-1669 (Teresa Blondo)

I had been hearing some buzz about a new tea house in downtown Springfield for the past couple of months. Always one who loves to try something new and different, I ventured into Herba Thea for lunch today. While noshing on a French Dip sandwich and sipping some bubble tea,I had the chance to visit with owner Ed Strauch.

After several years working as flooring contractor in his home state of Wisconsin, Ed relocated to Southwest Missouri in 1999. He also moved into a new career path as owner of the Culver's Frozen Custard franchise in Springfield. Ed sold the business 5 years ago to pursue other opportunities, but ultimately knew he wanted to open another restaurant. He wasn't sure what kind of restaurant it would be, so he began researching possibilities, and eventually decided to focus on tea.

Ed informed me that Herba Thea (pronounced Thee-ah) is Latin for "herbal tea." At Herba Thea, you will find several varieties of tea: herbal, classic hot, milk tea, and Boba – more commonly known as bubble tea. The Royal Milk (which is nondairy) has become their signature tea, and they offer bubble tea and smoothies in over 30 flavors. If coffee is more your style, you can still get your fix. Herba Thea offers four brands of coffee, including Wolfgang Puck, Green Mountain, Gloria Jeans, and Coffee People.

While the main focus has always been tea, Ed realized that to remain profitable he would also need to offer food. Right now, Herba Thea's menu mainly includes sandwiches and salads. They have several classic sandwiches such as the French Dip, tuna melt, chicken salad, and grilled cheese. However, Ed highlighted the Nutella & banana sandwich, which he describes as a "snacky" option. Herba Thea opened its doors last October. Since then, Ed and his crew have been continually developing and tweaking the menu. He has found that it is a process of learning what works, and what doesn't work, and discovering what customers like, and what they don't like. A vegetarian avocado sandwich and some gluten-free options will be coming soon.

Ed's experience in the construction industry once again came into play. With the help of family and a few others, he was able to do nearly all of the building renovations. In keeping with an earthy and outdoorsy feel, Ed chose to use as many recycled products as possible. A focal point inside Herba Thea is the large, round brick water column. Resembling a fountain, it doubles as a table where you can sit back, relax, and sip hot tea. The use of patio furniture adds to the earthiness. Finally, Ed and his daughter spent over 5 months finishing the walls of Herba-Thea with Italian parchment. They painstakingly used over 2,500 pieces of hand-torn, hand-colored paper.

You will often find live music on weekends, especially during the First Friday Art Walk. An old piano graces the small stage in the window, and Ed plans to add classical pianists to the repertoire. The mezzanine seating area can be booked for private parties, and future plans include making the entire restaurant available for wedding receptions.

Herba Thea is located at 220 S. Campbell, in downtown Springfield. Their hours are Monday-Thursday from 10:30am until 11:00pm, and Friday-Saturday from 10:30am until 1:00am. They are closed on Sunday. You can also check out Herba Thea on Facebook or call them at 417-866-1669.

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