The aroma of freshly brewed tea wafts through a room with bold red curtains surrounding soft lounge chairs and pillows, a calm contrast to the busy street with cars swiftly passing just outside.
Nestled within a row of shops on Gayley Avenue near Weyburn Avenue, the Nirvana TeaLounge offers UCLA students and Westwood residents a place to slow down and recharge.
The tea lounge officially opened on Labor Day as an addition to the Westwood Wellness Center, which offers natural remedies like herbal tonics and acupuncture rather than traditional medications.
Joe Recsnik, the director of the Westwood Wellness Center, said he wanted to create a space that would bring the community closer together and start conversations about natural medicine.
Recsnik said Westwood is an ideal location for the center and tea lounge because it is only a few blocks away from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and the UCLA campus.
He said he hopes that the staff at the Westwood Wellness Center and medical professionals can exchange ideas and learn about each other in order to better serve the community.
Since UCLA is known for being a top-tier university, Recsnik said students and UCLA faculty are constantly seeking out knowledge and new ideas, which is helpful when trying to spread the word about alternative medicine.
“I think people are interested in learning about natural remedies, but they don’t necessarily know where to start,” Recsnik said. “Tea and its healing properties are a great segway to opening up conversations.”
Recsnik’s background in integrative medicine stems from his training as an acupuncturist and chinese herbalist.
He used to own a private practice where people could only learn about natural remedies if they had an appointment.
He said he instead wanted to create a place with an open-door policy where people could just stop by and learn about complementary medicine.
Ryan Endicott, a veteran and one of the founding members of the tea lounge, said natural remedies helped him with his post-traumatic stress disorder when he returned home from deployment.
He added that when he began using natural remedies instead of medicine, he noticed a greater improvement in his health.
When he saw a job opening for the Westwood Wellness Center, he knew he wanted to be a part of the project because he personally experienced the healing effects of herbal medicine, Endicott said.
“Tea is about transformation,” Endicott said. “That’s kind of what we’re doing here. Emptying your cup, and giving you a new cup of life.”
Customers can order a variety of different teas, each blended for a healing purpose, Recsnik said.
For example, the Full Moon blend is meant to help relax and calm the body because of its mix of chamomile and lavender, he said. Teas containing ginger can help ease digestion or a low appetite, he added.
“We think of the body as a garden, and when you tend a garden, you have to take into account many different factors, not just one,” Recsnik said. “Tea drinking … helps restore balance to the body.”
As the center and tea lounge expand their presence in the Westwood and UCLA communities, they hope to bring speakers from the UCLA medical center into the tea lounge to give lectures on integrative medicine.
In addition to having a tea bar where professional tea-makers mix herbal brews, Nirvana Tea Lounge hosts weekly events to promote natural medicine and relaxation.
During the Tuesday night Tea and Treatment program, the tables and chairs are replaced with recliners so customers can experience acupuncture. Bands can also showcase their music on Friday nights to provide an alternative to the bar scene, Recsnik said.
Recsnik said he wanted to create a place where students could enjoy time out with friends without alcohol involved. He hopes the tea lounge will continue to adapt to the community’s needs and plan regular events, he added.
Katherine Diep, a fourth-year physiological science student and president of Students for Integrative Medicine, said she thinks the tea lounge will be a good resource to help students escape from the chaos of everyday life.
“Living in L.A. can get chaotic, but I think that if students are given the right environment, they can experience the calming benefits of tea and find a small oasis,” Diep said.