It’s been more than a year since Terra at the Isabel Rose Cafe moved to the Montclair Public Library from its Church Street location in May 2011. I checked in on Grace Chow Grund, who started the shop five years ago, for an update.
“We actually are doing quite okay in the sense that we lost tourist traffic because Church Street is a tourist destination, but we also gained a steady library clientele because the library is also a destination,” says Grund, sitting at a table at Terra. “For me, I really had wanted to focus on the café part, and this was more my cup of tea. We like being a part of this institution; we like the company. The staff loves being here and the space is beautiful. Everything we’re doing is enhanced because this is an educational institution. Part of our mission is to educate and promote fair trade and local food, wine and who the people are, so it’s been great to be here.”
Terra offers 125-plus varieties of tea, and yes, coffee, along with breakfast fare (oatmeal, eggs, bagels, pastries), homemade soups, sandwiches, wraps, salads, cheese, fruits and desserts, along with jewelry, bracelets and other fair trade goodies. “99% (of the menu) is local, fair trade and organic whenever possible. If I have to choose organic from another country and local, but not certified organic from New Jersey, I would choose that,” explains Grund.
As a child growing up in Singapore, Grund and her family gathered together every day at 4:00 p.m. for tea (“The opportunity to sit and have conversation, wait for the tea, and it sort of slowed us down and brought us together.”) Her feeling that tea connects people, the time she spent as a student at UC Berkeley and the beverage’s international popularity inspired her to open Terra. The shop’s most popular teas? “Straight black tea; it’s the easiest; freshly brewed iced teas and our herbally-infused teas or tisanes,” comments Grund, who is currently studying the liquid at the Speciality Tea Institute, which is a part of The Tea Association of the USA.
Any differences she notices between tea and coffee drinkers? “There are very clear folks who hate tea but love the coffee…There are people who just disdain tea, but they love us and they love coffee and fair trade.”
October is Fair Trade Month and this year Grund and her “family” of employees will celebrate by offering a tea tasting, along with fair trade banana splits made from fair trade bananas and Ben & Jerry’s fair trade vanilla ice cream. They will also host a holiday sale in which 10% of the proceeds will be donated to the Montclair Public Library Foundation.
The Montclair resident is using her background in the arts (she was a modern dancer for a brief time) and her event coordinating and fundraising experience with Lincoln Center and a SoHo producer to bring more cultural programming to the library, including a possible collaboration with Montclair State University’s Alexander Kasser Theater on a pilot program that will bring four performances to the site in 2013.
In addition to running Terra and serving as the library’s unofficial cultural programming liaison, Grund is a mother of four kids, member of the board of directors of the Montclair Academy of Dance & Laboratory of Music at the First Congregational Church in downtown Montclair, head of the Montclair United Chicken Keepers (MUCK) and co-chair of the School Action Team at Montclair High School. How does she manage everything?
“I’m pretty organized. I have a lot of energy. I do collapse and then I have to retreat, but I guess I do it because think it’s important and get a lot of joy out of doing it.”