With second location, Teavolve evolves into bar


November 06, 2008|By SAM SESSA | SAM SESSA,sam.sessa@baltsun.com

Teavolve never felt right in Fells Point.

Don't get me wrong - I always liked the funky little tea shop with its array of nonalcoholic drinks and regular local music showcases. But you wouldn't expect to find a place like Teavolve in a neighborhood filled with pubs and clothing shops.

Then word spread that Teavolve's owners had opened a location on Aliceanna Street in Harbor East, complete with a liquor license and live entertainment. In short, Teavolve had teavolved. Zing!

The new Teavolve, or Teavolve 2 (as I call it), is drastically different from the first. For starters, it's huge. Teavolve could comfortably hold a couple dozen people; Teavolve 2 can hold a couple hundred. The first Teavolve was a light, intimate space, and the new one is open, dark and earthy. Co-owner Sunni Gilliam says she plans to keep the old Teavolve open for private events and is focusing on the new space.

And she should. As Harbor East creeps toward Fells Point and more people move into this part of the neighborhood, Teavolve is really going to take off. It's already drawing a crowd. When I went there recently for a free performance by R&B singer YahZarah, well-dressed people kept trickling in until all the tables and chairs were taken.

There is a lot of wood inside Teavolve, including movable light wood dividers that help separate the space into three areas. Patrons can choose to sit in a wood chair or sink into one of the dark leather couches.

From the votive candles on tables to the glass containers filled with free candy, it's clear Gilliam paid great attention to detail at Teavolve. I snacked on a caramel while waiting for a signature martini.

Teavolve has about a dozen mixed drinks, as well as four beers and five or so wines. If you're not into alcohol, you can pick from the nearly 50 loose-leaf teas, served hot and iced, as well as coffee drinks.

I first tried the Eden Mar-Tea-Ni, which was made with Fukuju green tea, green apple puree, Absolut vodka and a dash of lemon juice. Tart and syrupy, it was an apple Jolly Rancher in liquid form. A slice of green apple bobbed around in the glass. One point worth noting: You couldn't taste the vodka. That's a bonus or a drawback, depending on your point of view.

Since I don't have much of a sweet tooth, I liked the Spicy Mango Maragari-Tea better. It had a mix of Himalayan green tea, mango puree, Jose Cuervo tequila, Cointreau and a dash of habanero lime juice, so it tasted like punch and packed plenty of zip. Both drinks cost $12, which I think is a little steep for a mixed drink, no matter how fancy it may be.

Acid jazz and soul music bumped through the speakers as Teavolve filled with people. Originally, I was told YahZarah would perform at 7 p.m., but she didn't go on until 8:30 p.m. When she was introduced, it was revealed that some of the lounge tunes we'd heard were YahZarah's. I understand this isn't a club, but I still think Teavolve should abide by the Cardinal Club Rule: Never play the band's music on the house PA the night of the show. That's taboo.

YahZarah sang emotional R&B over backing tracks. She's a charismatic performer and was just getting warmed up when she ended her set after three songs. It was a free show, so I can't complain about being shortchanged. I just had hoped she would keep going. Oh, well.

There is still no official sign outside Teavolve, just a "Now Open" banner above the entrance. That hasn't stopped plenty of people from finding the new location. After spending an evening there, it's easy to see that Teavolve has a bright future.

Gig request form

Landing a gig at a local club isn't always easy. Sometimes musicians have to know the owner or one of the more popular bands that plays there. Or maybe they e-mail the club or snail mail a press kit.

It can be a confusing and frustrating process. That's why I really like what The Ottobar (2549 N. Howard St.) is doing. It put a digital Gig Request Form on its Web site. Bands fill in the form with their hometown, genre, MySpace site, contact information, etc., and the folks at the venue will consider them for a show.

Sounds like a great idea. I wish other clubs around town would follow Ottobar's lead. The only thing about the form that made me scratch my head was "average age of band members." Hmm. Does that reflect the band's appeal? Its coolness factor? I mean, there are rock bands around town whose average age has to be in the 40s or 50s. Does that make them less gig-worthy?


Now that music lovers are shaking off the hangover from New York City's CMJ Music Marathon, it's interesting to read the recaps. Over five days, more than 1,000 bands vied for press, attention and the ever-elusive promise of a record deal. After the festival ended Oct. 25, two Baltimore bands, experimental-rock group Ponytail and indie-rock duo Wye Oak, were featured on renowned music blog Stereogum's Top 8 From CMJ List, at Nos. 8 and 7, respectively. Congratulations! Find out more about Ponytail and Wye Oak at myspace.com/jreamteam and myspace.com/wyeoak, respectively.

if you go

The new Teavolve is at 1401 Aliceanna St. It opens at 9 a.m. daily. Call 410-522-1907 or go to teavolve.com.

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