New cafe: Brue Bar in downtown Honolulu

The first thing I notice about the recently opened Brue Bar on Merchant Street is the tea selection.

There were over a dozen at last count, a collection of loose leaf teas showcased in glass jars on the counter. Look carefully and you'll spot a colorful mix of single origin and blends, all supplied by TeaSource in Minneapolis. Purists will find satisfaction with a bold and brisk Ceylon Lumbini FBOP which brews up a deep copper liquor, while those looking for flavored teas might consider Lychee Black or Green Tea Mango  There's even a herbal selection—check out Evening in Missoula which couples chamomile with rosehips, blackberry leaf, spearmint, and star anise.

A coffee shop that gives tea equal focus? Now that's something I can get behind.

The coffee isn't shabby either. With beans from Verve Coffee, a boutique coffee roaster in Santa Cruz, a new Slayer espresso machine and talented baristas, you can't go wrong. The menu is short and well-edited—think espresso, americano, macchiato, lattes, and cappuccinos. You won't find any frou frou drinks, though the spicy chai latte (the chai base is from Portland-based Dragonfly Chai) will satisfy a sweet tooth.

And if you're feeling peckish, there are chocolate bars by TCHO and collection of baked goods from Agnes Portuguese Bake Shop in Kailua. Pick from fruit danishes and scones for breakfast, cookies and an assortment of loaf cakes (generous slices!) in the afternoon. Say yes to indulging if you spot a dark chocolate loaf studded with pecans.

Brue Bar is owned by the people behind Honblue, a print and design shop in town. Their Iwilei headquarters offers a public space for customers, an area for people gather and work while waiting for their prints, coffee included. Brue Bar is the natural downtown extension of this concept, and a way for the company to extend the personal experience. Honblue president Larry Heim says, "from artists, to designers and architects, Brue Bar a place to serve the creative community." 

Accordingly, there's ample seating, and it's an ideal place to meet with friends or get work done (I spotted more than a few laptops at the tables). 

Brue Bar, 119 Merchant St., 441-4470,