Pick your pot—of tea
A sight rarely seen outside the grid: an independent local teahouse where the owners would rather you snuggle into one of the plush chairs for three hours than buy their pastries. England-raised Anthony Sadeghi, new owner of the Karma Cafe on Sutter Street in Folsom, wants to hear your story, play you music and serve you tea in a pot that will fit your personality. Awesome.
So you opened a week and a half ago?
About a week and a half ago. And I’m surprised at the positive response I’m getting. Well, not surprised as much as moved. That people would be open to a place like this in Sutter Street.
Yeah, Old Folsom’s not exactly a cultural hotbed.
Whenever I come here, it’s all hard-core drinking. I grew up in London, and you always had a place to go late at night where you didn’t have to drink. You could relax with your girlfriend, date, wife, children, without being harassed by drunk people. So I thought I’d come in the belly of the lion—the lion of alcoholic beverages—to open something that would almost be spiritual when you’re in it.
How long did it take you to set this place up?
I threw everything out and brought everything in within six months. The fireplace mantle is from a $10 million home in San Francisco. The walls are a gallery of local artists—the woman who brought you in here, those are her pictures.
I’ve had support from people like her: my friends, my neighbors. I have been so lucky—it’s amazing for me, the word karma. For the picture in the mantle here, I told a friend that I was looking for a Victorian bird’s-eye view of the bay. Three years later, he called me saying, “I found it.” I’ve been so fortunate—it’s like I wish for something, it comes true. What’s the word for that? It starts with an “m.”
Metaphysical? King … Midas?
Maybe what I mean is kismet.
Do you consider yourself a religious person? I mean, karma is a Buddhist concept.
I’m not a Buddhist. I’m spiritual; I believe in all religions. I believe things happen for a reason. I could have lived anywhere—Berkeley, London, San Francisco. I ended up here. Whatever happens—negative, positive—events have led me here.
What are your hopes for the future?
I predict that a year from now, people will be lining up out the door. Fifty people! This is a place where I want guests to come in, play chess, backgammon, use the free Wi-Fi. I want to plan events, like poetry readings. … I have a number of local musicians already clamoring to come play. There’s a classical Swedish piano player and a bluegrass band, for example. I’m looking for diversity. Why not?
So what sets this apart from your average teahouse?
I have over 60 different kinds of tea. In here, this could be San Francisco. This could be Italy. I want to make a worldly kind of design—I play very, very good music. During the day, I play nice music. At night—you’ve heard of Tiësto? DJ Tiësto?
He’s the No. 1 deejay in the world. Here, I’ll play him for you. See, I’m interested in a fusion of aesthetics, blending the modern with the ancient. I’m a food photographer by profession, so when I make food—I design it. I set up a spotlight on it and make it beautiful. I’ve had two customers here who said, “I don’t want to touch it! It’s too pretty!” I want food, drink, an atmosphere you can really enjoy.
How long were you a photographer before going into the business?
I studied in England in college. When I wrote my master’s thesis in graphic design, I spent so much time describing the places I went, trying to portray the images in words, and they told me, “You’re a photographer.” But you don’t need a camera to be a photographer. With words, with food, I want to capture something breathtaking. I used to do a lot of the advertising campaigns for local businesses. I did the logo for Pizza Guys, Yogurt Delite—but I wanted to make something my own. I’ve never been in the restaurant business before. I thought I’d jump in, get wet and then learn how to swim.
Are you worried about opening a business with the economic conditions the way they are?
You know what? I realized I could react in two ways to the current climate: I could sit on my couch and watch the world go by, or I could try to create something new. Forget that I’m running a restaurant. For me, this is a social place. This is like my baby, you know? I want people to work for me who feel the way I do about people, about food, about spirituality. My heart is here. People can come and rejuvenate. I want to take care of them. I want to take care of you. Here, you want some iced tea?
Oh my God. This is amazing.
Everyone says that.