JoJo Tea's cofounder and creative director, Michael Ortiz, is passionate about tea, and he'll finally get the chance to share that passion — and his wealth of knowledge about the drink — with all of Miami when his company's tasting room opens at 951 S. LeJeune Rd. in Coral Gables at the end of May.
Many may already be familiar with JoJo's artisan teas through sipping them at Miami's best restaurants such as Michael's Genuine, Panther Coffee, Zuma, Eating House, and Alter. But Ortiz and JoJo cofounder and director of operations Tico Aran had always envisioned a place where people can experience a true tea service. "It's been a long time coming," Ortiz says.
The small, eight-seat tasting room will offer six seatings per evening Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, as well as Saturdays. Each tasting will take about 45 minutes. Prices start at $20 for the introductory tasting, which will offer one tea in each of several categories: green, white, oolong, and black. Along with the teas, roasted almonds with sea salt and dried figs will do double duty as both snack and palate-cleanser. The tasting room will also offer an informal adaptation of a Gonfu tea ceremony ($15 to $45 per tea) and will also have teas for sale, along with the proper equipment for homebrewing.
Ortiz explains that the tasting room is not a cafe. "The idea is that if you want to sit down and have a sandwich and a tea, there are lots of places to do that. We want the opportunity to talk to people who really want to learn about tea and have a moment that's a little more intentional than a traditional cafe."
The tea expert feels that, although Miami may be more of a coffee (or booze) city, people will embrace tea once they have a really good cup. He likens the experience between the tea you get at the market in boxes and his tea in identifiable terms. "It's the difference between a Smirnoff Ice and a really good bottle of wine that a sommelier has been collecting. It's an evolution of culture. It's literally 5,000 years of mindfulness, and breadth, and intimacy. If you look at the history of the world, there's no place where tea is introduced in a thoughtful way and not welcomed. When people know how to make the tea and serve it, they get it."
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There are also a myriad of health benefits to drinking JoJo teas. "Because it's a whole leaf tea, it contains essential oils that break down fat and stimulate your mind. This tea is more honest than some bottled, ready to drink variety."
There's also something way more relaxing about drinking a cup of tea than grabbing a coffee. Ortiz agrees. "If you drink it too quickly you burn your mouth, so already there's mindfulness layered into it. You can't separate it. Did you know that tea has not only caffeine but other chemicals that affect your beta brainwaves? The beta brainwaves, as i understand it, activate feelings of relaxation. So when you drink tea your body is relaxed, but your mind is experiencing an awakening."
With all of Miami's daily stress, a little beta brainwave action might be just what we all need. As for whether Miami can fall in love with tea as much as its daily cafecito fix? "People have been drinking tea for 5,000 years. There's got to be a reason for it."
Once open, the JoJo Tea Tasting Room will be open 4 to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Seating is by reservation only. To schedule a reservation, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.