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Wellness Tea Bar and Bistro celebrate first year anniversary

by EMILY BONSANT
Staff Writer | May 30, 2024 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — A local family is transforming a historic building into a health- focused tea bar and bistro in downtown Bonners Ferry.

The Wellness Tea Bar & Organic Bistro recently celebrated its first anniversary and the Chouinard family is ready to continue serving customers.

Located in downtown Bonners Ferry across from the Boundary County Museum & Historical Society, the tea bar is housed in the  original 1923 Ford Model-T building at 7224 Main St. and is steeped in history.

Built by Mr. M J. Estlund — the family found three of the Estlund’s signatures on boards during renovation — the building was used for various automotive businesses up through the 1990s.  

Founded and owned by Abra Chouinard, the tea bar first opened  in 2016 in the manager’s office of the Rex Theater, located next door to its current location. While the original  space was small, the shop offered hundreds of loose leaf teas from around the world. 

“Customers would have to wait and take turns to come into our tea shop because the space was so small,” Abra Chouinard said. “During a rush, our customers would line up down the street, even in the rain. 

“With the new location and additional space, our customers have room to take their time to select teas. The biggest addition to our tea shop is the long anticipated organic bistro and hot brewed teas,” Chouinard said. 

The Wellness Tea Bar & Organic Bistro offers 25 hot brewed teas served in environmentally-friendly to-go cups as well as baked goods. Customers can also purchase from a selection of loose leaf teas. 

Chouinard has opted to implement a health-minded focus to every aspect including  compostable, disposable and sustainably made to-go cups of plant-based materials. This includes no Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances of PFAS. 

In addition, the shop’s sachet tea bags are made using a certified non–GMO sugarcane-based material, a plant-based material, which are 100% biodegradable and compostable with no petroleum-based plastics.

The menu changes daily and consists of pastries from biscotti, gluten-free cookies, flavored breads and more.  

“The biggest compliment I get is when people tell me they feel ‘good’ after eating my food,” she said. “I use healing spices and farm fresh ingredients.”  

Chouinard said her children have been begging her to open a restaurant for years. The passion for food started when Chouinard grew up learning to bake, starting  when she was 3 years old on her great-grandmother’s antique Kitchen Queen.  

“My dad’s side of the family has French lineage, in fact, we are one of the founding families of Canada, aka New France,” she added. Great food and drinks are in my blood.”  

Chouinard is the chef and curator of the organic bistro. This summer she plans to expand the menu to include soups from scratch, super salads, moon milk teas and more. 

The Chouinard family wants to provide a space for community groups. Currently, every Saturday an art group meets for tea and artistic expression, taking up a table and letting inspiration come. 

Chouinard said there are additional rooms in the building and that she hopes to open them up for more community events and groups to enjoy. 

The Wellness Tea Bar & Organic Bistro is located at 7224 Main St. in Bonners Ferry. To order in advance call 208-817-7271 or go online to wellnessteabar.com.

They are open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and will be open earlier for events, including the  Rod Benders Car Show this weekend and Kootenai River Days in July. 

    Tea cookies available at the Wellness Tea Bar & Bistro.
 
 
    A wide selection of loose leaf teas at The Wellness Tea Bar & Organic Bistro.