Well, everything! Newly opened on September 19th in Fashion Island, Whole Foods Market, Newport Beach remains consistent in their mission of offering the highest-quality natural and organic products, but delightfully different in that the 32,000 square-foot store will also include the coastal-themed Back Bay Tavern, a relaxing and casual beer and wine bar and the national debut of The Tea Hive, a fusion café and tea bar.
The popularity of tea in the U.S. has been brewing for some years and, I for one, am super excited about the Tea Hive. In fact, there is an entire tea culture defined by the way tea is made and consumed, by the way the people interact with tea, and by the aesthetics surrounding tea drinking and the therapeutic benefits derived from tea… even certain ubiquitous coffee chains have realized the importance of tea offerings to satisfy the population of non java-drinkers. Orange County has a diverse culture and is home to many nationalities, I’m excited to see Whole Foods embracing tea in its traditional form and fresh interpretations.
Raspberry Creamsicle Frost | black tea, raspberries, creamy vanilla
This is not your grandmother’s tea room, the space is open and airy, swaying palm trees visible through the expansive windows, reclaimed wood softens the cool, modern aesthetic of stainless steel with artistic hanging sculptures of marine rope and sea glass bringing the nautical aspect of Newport Beach into play. Customers can choose green, black or oolong tea in almost any imaginable form – whether frozen, sparkling, iced or steamed. The Tea Hive menu is cute and catchy with headings like: Frost Me,Freeze Me, Ice Me, Sparkle Me, and Steam Me. Specialty drinks are made in martini shakers by “Tea Tenders.” An energizing and healthy breakfast of Chai Oatmeal or Açai Crunch Cup is served until 10:30, after that these delicious beverages can be paired with natural fusion entrees of bowls and wraps using local and organic products.
Mango Madness Freeze | oolong tea, diced mangos
In keeping with Whole Foods commitment to locally-sourced products and sustainably raised meats and seafood, the store will feature offerings from more than 100 local vendors and farmers from Orange, San Diego and Los Angeles counties. Consumers dedicated to those same missives will be delighted to find favorite brands such as Homegrown Meats, Backyard Bees, Archi’s Acres, Stehly, Suzies, Go Green, Carlsbad Aquafarm, Ale Smith, South Coast Winery and Fallbrook Winery. But what we’ve also come to know about Whole Foods is, each store is designed to be unique to the community – here is a glimpse of what’s in store on your visit.
With the environment in mind and Newport’s Back Bay as inspiration, the muted color palette provides an ethereal backdrop for the wood used on the walls and soffits – all reclaimed lumber salvaged from old canneries in Northern California; and in the wine and dairy areas, used wine tank staves, stained deep purple and light red from the wine in the barrels, were used on the walls. Even the bar in the Back Bay Tavern comes with a pedigree and storied history originating in a Harlem speakeasy and a cameo role in the movie “Revolutionary Road“.
The Back Bay Tavern is making its own statement with seating for 150 and a rotating selection of 24 craft beers on tap, plus wine and spirits and an extensive menu that includes beef, seafood, vegetarian and vegan meals. There are cocktails made with organic ingredients and, in the wine department, just to the left of the Back Bay Tavern entrance there are over 100 bottled wines, some priced under $9.99. For the wine connoisseurs, there will also be more than 100 wines with 90+ratings – I spied one of my favorites: Sea Smoke Pinot Noir!
P.S. If you’re in a hurry or desire a quick quaff before dashing home with your meal to go, there’s a smaller “Express” beer and wine bar with 12 beers available on tap at the front of the store for quicker service.
But, if you can stay awhile, the dim, cozy, pub atmosphere and conviviality certainly invites you to grab a stool and a savory bite. On the menu are organic salads and tavern favorites like the Tavern Burger, House Veggie Burger, Heirloom BLAT, Bayside Club (with Mary’s Chicken), and Local Brew Fish and Chips. And, with the active, seaside community of Newport Beach in mind, Back Bay Tavern’s menu also includes a selection of premium sashimi, sushi rolls and Asian startes from Kikka Sushi – unique to Whole Foods, Newport Beach! Some outstanding tastes from the preview night I attended prior to the opening were:
Kenter Canyon Herb Salad and Beet Carpaccio
Local Brew Fish and Chips
415 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Disclosure: I was compensated for this post by Whole Foods, but any opinions stated are my own – I do buy fresh organic produce and love good food, fine cheese and wine, and tea.