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Nalu Is a Secret, Second-Floor Tea Lounge Hidden Behind North Portland’s Red Fox

Kava Tea is the main drink Holland Mulder wanted to serve when she opened in March 2018.

Combining all the enticing aspects of “secret,” “tea shop” and “secluded rooftop patio,” Nalu Kava has been quietly under (or above) our noses for nearly four years.

“Only the daring and persistent find us,” Nalu owner Holland Mulder tells WW. Though you can spy the shop’s second-floor patio from the alley behind Cherry Sprout Produce and Red Fox, most patrons would be too polite to venture down the alley to the door that bears the tea shop’s name.

Up a steep flight of stairs you’ll find a homespun tea room with a few tables and a canopied pillowed nook, which on one of our visits provided an intimate space for two high school-age girls to chat and relax in comfort.

Mulder says the nook has also been used as a stage for open mics and live music performances—back when it was possible to pack the little room.

These days the shop is more mellow. The rooftop patio is covered and partially shaded by bamboo plants. On a weekday evening, you might see someone reading or hear a couple on a hesitant first date.

“What’s the difference between drinking chocolates and hot chocolate?” one of the daters asks.

Mulder says she uses “drinking chocolate” and “hot chocolate” interchangeably, but hot chocolate generally implies that the cacao is cut with more sugar. All of Nalu’s drinks—from the superfood lattes to the kava root teas—are ones Mulder thinks of as healthy or at least “supportive of health.”

The kava tea is especially important to Mulder, and it’s the main drink she wanted to serve when she opened the small secret tea bar in March 2018.

“These days it feels like our only option of socializing is at the bar,” Mulder says. “I reached a place where I just didn’t want to go to the bar anymore.”

Mulder also relates an older story from her anxious, younger years when she stumbled into a kava bar in Florida, the state she’s from, and found that while kava isn’t intoxicating, it does seem to relieve her social anxiety and create a low-level stress-relieving feeling of euphoria.

Nalu makes its kava tea using real roots. “Squeezing the roots,” Mulder says. “It’s a beautiful process.” Still, the tea Nalu serves won’t be as strong as kava you might find in Hawaii or Fiji—where regular kava drinkers have a tolerance for its mood-lightening effects.

“We tend to go more middle of the road,” Mulder says.

DRINK: Nalu Kava, 722 N Sumner St., 503-519-3415, nalukava.com. 5-11 pm Thursday-Sunday.