Thursday, September 13, 2012

Billy Corgan opens tea house

In my day gig, I published a piece this week about Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan — who today opens his own tea salon, Madame Zuzu's Tea House, in a northern Chicago suburb (announced late last year).

Corgan's on hand today, greeting customers and playing his 1930s Bosendorfer piano throughout the afternoon. He's hoping to create a real mixing, conversational atmosphere in the place, booking not only fellow musicians but guest speakers of every stripe. Earlier this summer, he told me he'd like the place to be "a more casual hang, a place where you could come see a guru or a rabbi talk."

The nice thing is, it's not really a celebrity vanity project. Corgan's not exactly that kind of guy. He's a genuine tea person — claims to have never had a sip of coffee ("I always hated the smell," he says) — and he himself is buying the teas for the shop.

A typical suburban kid who thought all tea was Lipton, his band hit big in the ’90s and he traveled the world — thus sampling great teas in their many native lands.

This week, he related to me a sublime tea moment that cemented his conviction to fulfill the dream of opening this shop: "I was staying at the Savoy Hotel in London, and they have this classic English tea area under a garden dome. I was ordering a pot of rose petal tea. I'm in this historic hotel drinking this incredibly pleasurable tea — it's the small things in life. It stopped time for those few minutes."

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