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Explore Rare Tea, Fine Wine, and Tech Services at The North Branch

By Marina I. Jokic

Owner of The North Branch Café in Montpelier, Vermont, Lauren Parker is intimately acquainted with the world of tea and fine wine. As you can probably surmise by now, The North Branch is not actually a café in the traditional sense of the term. Ironically, Parker has never tasted coffee in her life, instead choosing the multifaceted and richly nuanced way of tea. A family-run business, the café is stocked with some of the choicest and rarest teas and fine wines in the world.

Some favorites in the white tea selection that are marked by light and refreshing notes include Chinese silver needle, wedding blend, Mutan white, and Ama Dablam. Green teas include Lung Ching, Kuki Cha, Sencha Fukumushi, and the Nepali Pokhara classic, each varying in intensity and caffeine content. Additionally, there are green tea blends, Oolong, herbal tisanes, and the Amazonian native teas called Runa Guayusa.

"My favorite experience with serving tea is introducing it to someone who is not a tea drinker, but is open to trying," Parker said. "I love determining what they like to drink and matching them to some tea options?then of course, the great gift is when they love it and become a fan of tea."

Tea is currently the number two drink of choice in the world, second only to water. In the United States, it holds fourth place, but it is steadily climbing. Passionate about tea throughout her life, Parker saw the growth of its popularity as a golden business opportunity. Having recently exited the field of healthcare, she was ready to make the transition to small business ownership with no qualms in her mind. Her plan was to open her own tea and wine place ten years before retiring from the workforce.

"The North Branch Cafe has been open for over four years," she said. "I felt that creating a gathering space in Montpelier would be the best gift I could give to a town that I love and call home."

The food menu at The North Branch is simple and consisting of fresh local ingredients. The café capitalizes on Vermont staples such as cheese and aged meats as well as gluten-free and vegan options. Olive tapenades, freshly made hummus with warm baguette, and fennel pollen salami are crowd favorites. Pastries and sweets are restocked daily from local bakeries and patisseries.

Working at full steam for the last four years, The North Branch has diversified its services to include an IT consulting and repair operation in the adjacent room to the café. Local businesses are making hay of the more than 20 years of technology expertise offered by The North Branch Tech. Offering services such as Apple and Windows repair, device tune-ups and upgrades, backup and recovery as well as IT training sessions, the small tech operation is one of the best of its kind in the area.

"Our goal is for people to feel at home at the café [so] we have used color and comfort to welcome our patrons, from the walls to the floor and from comfy chairs, benches and pillows to relaxing music," Parker said. "The energy of tea is calming and focused so it is a great place for a person to read a book, work on their laptop, have a meeting or a gathering."

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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