I love coffeeshops that put a big emphasis on tea. Nestled in the Northwest Indiana/Chicagoland area is Grindhouse Cafe — a place really fitting that description. Whether you want to spend some time working on your computer while enjoying a cup of oolong, or you want to meet up for a friend for lunch and a tea latte, Grindhouse is a relaxing spot with an “all is welcome” attitude that makes it appealing to its regulars, and a good selection of gourmet coffee, premium loose leaf teas as well as tasty, yet affordable food and snacks.
I got to sit down and talking to Gabriel Mauch, who owns the coffeeshop with his sister, and he shared their story, as well as their passion for tea.
Q: How did Grindhouse get started?
A: The idea started in 2004 or 05, my sister and I went to culinary school together. She owns the business with me. And we said we’re going to someday open a coffee shop/cafe in our hometown Griffith. For about 8 years in between, I worked in 4 or 5 coffee shops, she did pastries at the casino and I was chef at a couple restaurants, and we just pinched our pennies. We’ve always been really passionate about coffee, food, tea — so we knew this was what we wanted to do. And it was just a matter of saving our money. It’s a lot harder to get a business loan nowadays than it used to be. When we talked to somebody in 2011, they kind of in a nice way laughed at us, so we just had to open it all on our own money. We saved up a lot, did everything ourselves. We couldn’t really afford to hire a guy to put in flooring, so we ate pizza and learned how to put in flooring, we learned how to build walls. But Grindhouse has always been the plan since culinary school. It opened in May 2012 — it will be 5 years next month.
Q: How did you come up with the style for the cafe?
A: We wanted it to look like somewhere we would hang out. It’s kind of a joke, but kind
of not at all. We say we’d like for it to be hip, but not so much that our grandma wouldn’t want to come here. It’s comfortable. We are kind of demographicless. We get all ages, all types of people coming in here. We wanted it to be comfortable for anyone, and I think we’ve succeeded.
Q: Tell me about your teas and where you get them?
A: I love tea. All of our tea except for the cascara, which is the husk of a coffee fruit, comes from Rishi Tea out of Milwaukee, one of the best tea companies in the country. So we’ve got about 36 different kinds of tea — black, green, white, pu’erh, red and other herbal teas. Oolong, which is my favorite. The earl grey supreme is our best selling tea. Rishi has a regular earl grey and then the supreme has a higher grade of tea with the bergamot oil, and it’s really popular. It’s the only tea that we have some prebagged, because we have enough regulars that come in and drink it every single day.
While working at another coffee shop that carried Teagschwender, from Germany, and then they started carrying some Rishi and my bosses hated it, but I would drink it and I’m like, man, this is good. I worked in other shops that carried it and I knew when I opened my own shop, I wanted to carry Rishi. We started off in 2012 with 6 options, and now it’s 3 dozen.
Q: How did you choose which teas you wanted to have here?
A: The teas I thought tasted the best, and also what we think people would like.
Like, I hate coconut but we had a lot of people asking for it. It’s a really popular seller, the coconut oolong, but we were able to sample a lot of tea ahead of time, so we were able to weigh price and quality. There are some teas Rishi makes that were just incredible, but I would have to charge like $6 per cup, and I don’t want to. I don’t want to ask people in Griffith to pay $6 per tea. All of their tea is really high end, we don’t get the cheapest tea they sell, but this middle of the road that’s super good that I can sell affordably. We do two blacks, two greens, a white, a red, we do three different oolongs because it’s my favorite. It’s the best of both worlds, between a green and black. You get that body.
Q: How do you come up with recipes? How long did it take you to come up with the menu?
A: My sister and I were at a bar, and I wrote it on a napkin. We were dreaming about doing a cafe for 8 years. We’d always had these ideas in our head. Like, I want to do a quick version of a French croque sandwich, I love my chicken salad so I wanted to have that on the menu. It was just kind of what we had been thinking about but never officially for 8 years. (Pictured above: curried tofu sandwich on sourdough bread).
Q: What do you hope people take from their experience at Grindhouse?
A: I want people to learn that food and drink can be not just a commodity. Not just you come in and drink coffee because you’re tired, or not just Snapple Iced tea. All of our tea is served with no sugar. We get a lot of people who come in say, ‘Oh my god, this rooibos tea, you don’t even need any sugar.” And we’ve had a lot of people who said ‘I didn’t realize your coffee was so good until I went back to Speedway.’ So to just try to elevate pallates a little bit. We’re not a $30 a plate restaurant — we try to keep everything pretty affordable, so we want to do great food and drink affordable.
As far as tea goes I’m really proud of our tea lattes. Chai has been around forever, but people don’t think of using another tea for a latte. We always have two different teas rotating, we’ll use the earl grey lavender, right now we’ve got an orange blossom green tea latte, which is a green tea with orange blossom, lemon grass and orange syrup, and then a pu’erh bordeaux tea, which has bordeaux wine grapes, raspberries and simple syrup. We try to show people what you can do with tea. We make salad dressing out of tea, we pickle vegetables in tea. We try to use tea as an ingredient. It’s got such cool, dynamic flavor. With pickling vegetables, we use the jasmine green tea, so you get that jasmine flavor. We’ve done a tea soda in the summer before.
Grindhouse cafe is located at: 146 N Broad St, Griffith, IN 46319.