Agnes Kravit pours piping-hot water into a mug containing a Moroccan mint tea bag. She stirs in agave syrup and sets the mug down on the counter as steam rises above the yellow cup.
Moroccan mint is one of Kravit’s go-to drinks during chilly months, and it’s one of 53 tea options available at Sarikopa Coffee and Tea in Riverside. She pairs it with a freshly baked morning glory muffin, a recipe that came from her grandmother’s kitchen in Vulnose, Lithuania.
Kravit, who emigrated from Lithuania to East Hampton 20 years ago, opened the café with her husband on Valentine’s Day in 2014. The organic shop also bakes and prepares fresh pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches daily.
“It was in my dream,” the Riverhead resident said. “It was in my mind to open a European-style tea and coffeehouse. People have different [preferences] and want different options.”
Despite being located just 500 feet from the busy Riverside traffic circle, the teahouse on Riverleigh Avenue is a farm-like oasis: apple and pear trees surround the property and a small garden with fresh herbs sits beside the back entrance.
At Sarikopa, tea is an interactive experience, she said. Loose tea sits in labeled jars and customers are encouraged to sniff each blend before they prepare a hot beverage themselves (cold teas can also be requested). Menus indicate the caffeine levels of each tea.
Choices range from traditional styles, like English breakfast and green tea, to different varieties, like white silver needle and coconut chai.
Kravit said all coffees are unique to the store. After ordering beans from Guatemala, Colombia and other locations, she blends them together and creates different roasts.
“This is our recipe. Nobody else has our coffees,” she said.
In the winter, Kravit said, she aims to have six soups available to customers each day. The most popular is the yellow lentil soup, she said.
“Come fall, people are asking for it, because it’s tasty and healthy,” she said.
Sarikopa, an Armenian term meaning “yellow cup,” refers to European farmers and residents who wake early to pick tea leaves in Armenian mountains, Kravit said. As they work, the sun rises and paints the region a warm yellow.
“Everything is yellow. Yellow bushes, yellow lake,” she said. “It’s a beautiful view … it’s peaceful, sunny and happy.”
Before moving to Riverhead in 2014, Kravit ran a home-cleaning service. During that time, she gained a passion for healthy living, she said, and started doing yoga and mixing fresh smoothies. It’s part of the reason the menu contains all organic, vegan and gluten-free options, she said.
“I wanted that represented for customers,” she said. “My customers are my guests. They have to feel the hospitality.”