Fika Tea Bar: came for the boba, stayed for the statement

A Fika Tea Bar beverage. Photo by Blair Vendehey.

The name of the little tea bar right off of Houdini Plaza does not have an exact translation from its Swedish origin, so ‘fika’ can be hard to define in words. In each passing minute I spent at the store, however, the more and more I understood exactly what the word meant to me.  

I had the opportunity to talk with both Julie Martin, manager of the shop, and Emily Traurig, the assistant manager on Thursday last week to learn a little more about what ‘fika’ means to employees and customers alike.  

The Fika (pronounced fee-kah) Tea Bar was founded in 2019 by a pair of women on a mission; to bring a larger variety of tea-based drinks to the Avenue in a safe, community-oriented space. The two friends knew of many shops that specialized in coffee, but they wanted to expand their area’s options when it came to tea and boba. Hence, the birth of the shop.  

Inside Fika Tea Bar. Photo by Blair Vendehey.

The name ‘Fika Tea Bar’ was chosen because it highlighted what the founders were hoping to accomplish; establishing a tea-focused space where one could “slow down and appreciate the good things in life,” as ‘fika’ roughly translates to. It has been their mission statement since opening, the quote even painted in big white letters on the wall near the entrance, followed by the warm request to “Have a cup of tea with friends.”  

Regarding wall décor and paint, those who visit Fika are further encouraged by the calming physical atmosphere of the store, not just the emotional one. The wall on the side of the entrance is painted with a beautiful mural depicting ferns and other flora in soft greens, auburns, blacks and whites. The black wall parallel to the entrance is decorated with hand-painted canvases in the same relaxing color scheme. The artist behind the masterpiece? The old assistant manager!  

Aside from the wall art, the seating area promotes comfort for both body and mind with couches in earthy tones, plants everywhere you look, and tables with aesthetic black-and-white photo books for the pleasure of the visitor.  

Hung up on the window looking out over the Avenue is a pride flag and a Black Lives Matter poster. When I asked what kind of environment they hope to create, Traurig let me know that the heavy emphasis on inclusivity that Fika promotes is the reason she chose to work there. She told me that the importance of the shop’s mission is to create a welcoming atmosphere for people of all kinds to feel like they can be themselves from the second they enter the door, especially those who identify with marginalized groups.  

Commitment to the environment is just as important as commitment to diversity at the tea bar. The employees do a lot of recycling, especially by using reusable glass and plastic containers for their syrups. The team is always looking to increase sustainability. Traurig mentioned her hopes to move towards compostable straws in the future.  

Shifting to the ever-growing menu, Fika sports a large variety of hot and iced teas, first and foremost. Fan favorites include the house-made chai, which Traurig recalled was so popular she has even been asked for the recipe, raspberry mango boba, blue velvet boba, and her personal favorite, the Thai tea. Do not let the name ‘Tea Bar’ fool you; the shop also offers many diverse kinds of coffee. Their London Fog happens to be a bestseller, highly recommended by the staff.  

A Fika Tea Bar beverage. Photo by Blair Vendehey.

The tea bar provides drinks suitable for different dietary needs with a large number of alternative milk choices. One of the things that sets Fika apart from other places is rice milk, a lactose-free substitute with a texture similar to skim milk. Traurig noted that the alternative is not commonly seen in coffee shops around the area; it is something unique to them. Their vast selection of popping boba, too, sets them apart from your average teahouse.  

The staff crafting the drinks does not use the term ‘family’ lightly, but Traurig stated fondly that that is exactly what being a member of the crew feels like. There is a close bond within the Fika employee base at every level, she continued, adding with complete sincerity that it is the one workplace in all her years of experience that she feels connected to every single coworker she has.  

External connection to the community, too, is a value important to Fika. The shop takes care to participate in as many College Avenue community-building activities as possible. A good example would be the Culture Cuisine Walk a few weeks ago, where the shop served samples of their Thai tea to more than three hundred guests. 

What is the College Avenue community without Lawrence University? Fika Tea Bar offers a ten percent discount with presentation of a valid Lawrence ID, a special perk created for our school alone.  

The Fika Tea Bar will have a table set up at the wellness fair on October 12 (a day to engage with on and off campus resources for wellbeing, open to staff and students), so do not be afraid to stop by and get to know a little more about Appleton’s tea masters.  

To use the discount, and to find out what ‘fika’ means to you, stop by Fika Tea Bar, and redefine the word for yourself.