If neither a coffee shop nor club is your cup of tea, a new Davenport eatery promises to fit somewhere in between.
Step inside Element Tea and Wine Lounge, which opened Jan. 21 on Belle Court near the intersection of 53rd Avenue and Jersey Ridge in Davenport, and you'll see it's not the typical eatery.
Inspired by tea rooms in their home country of China, owners Kelvin and Jin Chen, of Bettendorf, aimed to offer an escape from the rush of bars and restaurants as well as an alternative to the cozy coffee joint.
The answer was a concept the couple grew up with.
“We’re tea people,” said Jin Chen, who moved to New York as a child. “In our culture, if you have guests coming over, tea is always there.”
The selection of tea includes black, green, white and herbal with signature blends such as white ginger pear, chocolate rose, coconut chai latte, jasmine and Moroccan mint.
And it’s served with style — in an English-inspired teapot warmed with a tea candle and matching teacups.
As her husband of 12 years says, it's a mix of classy and casual.
"There wasn't a place like this where you could start your day with a pick-me-up or come to after work," Kelvin Chen said. "It's that in-between kind of place."
Element’s menu also includes a list of 35 wines, a dozen craft brews and appetizers spanning from the simple and elegant (shrimp cocktail, crab cakes, a charcuterie – that's a French word for smoked, dry-cured or cooked meat – board to deep-fried delectable (waffle-cut sweet potatoes dipped in a waffle batter and splatted with seasoned salt and chipotle ranch).
And, because Jin Chen "always can go for something sweet," show-stopping desserts, such as tiramisu, mango mousse cake, red velvet cake, gelato and an array of cheesecakes are also on tap.
“There are cakes that you might not find (elsewhere) in the Quad-Cities,” she said. “They're really something else ... We’ve seen a lot of people stop to take photos of them.”
That includes Brooke Schelly, who recently has filled her Quad-City-based food Instagram account, called FeedMeQC, with photos from the chic establishment.
“The initial reaction is … wow,” Schelly said. "They don’t just offer a plate with a cheesecake. They design it with the sauces and chocolate that looks really pretty and is perfect for photos.”
And, she said, the taste is on par with what you see on your plate and around the tea room.
“What will make it successful is how people feel when they walk through the door,” Schelly, who has visited Element Tea and Wine Lounge fives times over the past few weeks, said. “It’s automatically relaxing. It’s a place created to rejuvenate your mind and the tea room really matches that in this calm, modern, sleek way.”
That “next level” combination is what sets the cafe apart in the Quad-City food scene, she said.
“I think I said out loud, ‘This is my new favorite place,’” she said. “It’s the kind of place you can go sit in a corner and read a book for two hours without being rushed out the door and the kind of place you can bring a group of friends.”
Melissa Peters, of Clinton, another early visitor to the lounge, agrees it brings a unique atmosphere to the Quad-Cities along with desserts that don't have the "once frozen" taste.
“I was able to unwind with a friend and we didn't feel hurried, which is a nice change,” Peters said. "I think it's a very chill and relaxed environment."
And that's the environment that Jin Chen had in mind.
“I wanted to create an atmosphere around a place I would like to hang out after a long day,” she said. “I might not want to go to a bar, but I might want to go somewhere and have some warm tea or a glass of wine.”