You may not have heard of David Rio, but if you like drinking chai, there's a good chance you've sampled their tea blends, which are served at the likes of La Boulange, The Grove, DeLessio Markets, Little Griddle, and Darwin Cafe. The company has been based in SF since the late '90s, but has primarily been a behind-the-scenes operation, providing tea and chai concentrate as a foodservice business. But they've decided to step into the spotlight, taking a cafe space in the mid-Market building that houses Zendesk. "We want some physical space where people can experience our products firsthand," says CEO Scott Lowe, who co-founded the company with wife Rio Miura. "Without a brick-and-mortar space, we've been missing a part of our business."
David Rio's space, at nearly 2,600 square feet, is larger than the standard cafe, and will have a "modern rustic" interior with lots of wood and original brick. Since the space is so big, there will be other enticements besides chai to keep it humming, including coffee and wi-fi. A cafe menu with Japanese influences will be served for breakfast and lunch, and the company will also offer free samples of new products it's testing to get feedback from customers. In the evening, the space will transition to more of a lounge atmosphere, with beer, wine, and small plates for the after-work crowd. And of course, the company plans to serve its full library of chais, which include vanilla, mango, maple, and green tea versions, as well as a frozen blended chai drink.
While Mayor Ed Lee and his office have been offering a lot of enticements to get businesses to open up on what can still be a pretty rough stretch of Market (the cafe will be on what's generally considered the toughest block, between 6th and 7th Streets), Lowe says he chose the space without assistance from the city. David Rio's original office was at 3rd and Bryant, in the heart of what's now a major tech corridor, and he thinks mid-Market has the same potential. If all goes according to plan, expect David Rio to land on Market early next year, around the same time that Equator Coffees & Teas will open their own space across the street.