The first thing to hit you when you walk into Elixart gallery and tea bar is the burst of color on the walls. From there, your eyes move to an inviting set of couches and tables.
Then, there is the expansive bar top that gets at the heart of what owner Colter Merrick hopes to offer — a sensual, holistic experience that engages the mind, body and spirit.
From the local mixed- media art and the array of teas and elixirs to the patrons and the owner himself, the space provides a sense of warmth, comfort and self-awareness.
The gallery, located at 408 Broad St., Nevada City, recently underwent renovations, closing down in March and reopening to twice its size in July.
It was originally opened in January 2012 as part of John Richter Photography until owners Colter and Sharon Merrick decided to create their own entity.
In November, a four-person tea bar was provided through donations that allowed Colter Merrick a way to delve into his passions of connecting with people and providing a sense of well-being through the teas and elixirs.
“It’s been a real passion of mine that has allowed me to interface with more people and have an exchange and talk about something that was a little bit more connected to me,” he said.
“I’ve been involved with teas and nature and plant medicine, so to speak, for as long as I can remember.”
Merrick was born in Nashville, Tenn., and moved around the country, from the mountains of Colorado and Telluride, where he lived for more than 10 years, to Sun Valley for more than three, and the Bay Area for eight years before moving to Nevada County nearly two years ago.
He has also traveled around the world, gaining insight and information about the products he offers.
In addition to Elixart, Merrick also owns a restaurant with his father in Pittsburg, Penn., Isabella’s on Grandview, which was named one of the 100 Most Romantic Restaurants by OpenTable.com and among the Top Scenic Restaurants list from Huffington Post.
The opening of Elixart was a way to provide a multifaceted experience, catering to several senses, Merrick said.
“We want to create an experience for people and open the door to discovery for a lot of people on some less-known things,” he said, citing some of the menu items, including Ant Soda from Changbai Mountain ants, because of the ants’ fortifying properties. The ants contain the highest amount of zinc from a substance that can be ingested, Merrick said.
Also included on the menu are various teas from around the world of oolong, black, Pu-erh, white and Chinese and Japanese green varieties, as well as specially created Chinese herbal elixirs and tonics. Flower essences by Floralchemy, exotic teas including ingredients like coca leaf tea, rosebuds from the Anhui Province and kava are also offered.
Prices vary from about $6 an ounce to about $15 an ounce.
The worldwide ingredients are mirrored by Merrick’s traveling experience and people he has connected with along the way, he said, describing wall art from Thailand and a gaiwan tea vessel, that includes a covered glass bowl.
“It allows you to have an interactive experience with the tea,” Merrick said, describing that tea is traditionally drunk from the bowl, using the lid as a straining tool for the leaves.
The tastings are an affordable $5 and involve not only a flavor experience, but a mental experience as well, with a detailed history of the origin of the tea and elixirs.
The gallery also offers a raw food bar created by Atma Campbell that is 100 percent plant-based, with organic and locally sourced appetizers, snacks and sweet treats, as well as salads and crackers and spreads paired with various teas.
The space can be reserved for parties and private events and will feature a kava and cacao party from 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays, with live demonstrations and music. The gallery also offers events, like a “Young Frankenstein” movie night at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 30, which will utilize the HD projector the space also includes.
A traditional Chinese dance and tea ceremony by Lily Fan will take place from 6-9 p.m., Nov. 16.
“It’s not just another cafe where people come in and create another distraction for themselves,” Merrick said. “It’s about eliminating distractions and creating a unique experience.”
For more information, visit elixart.net or contact 530-265-1901.
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.