NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Sometimes, tea for two can turn into something much bigger.
Tea brought Alfonso Wright and Jamila McGill together.
“We started dating, and at that point, I didn’t know much about tea at all,” Jamila said.
Alfonso introduced her to fragrant teas steeped with cinnamon sticks and dried flowers.
“I was like, ‘Tea is magic! This is great! I’ll stay,'” she said.
Today, the couple co-owns Brooklyn Tea, a tranquil tea room beside a bustling intersection in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Alfonso’s tea journey began in childhood, when he served it each day to his Jamaican mother, Linda Wright.
“Tea is a big part of Jamaican culture—tea every morning, tea if you’re sick, tea if you sprain your ankle. Tea is everything,” he said.
Ultimately, it became his career. He trained to become a certified tea sommelier, learning tea fundamentals and pairings.
“There are thousands of varieties of tea. There’s even more of herbs. So this is something I can do forever and always walk in the door like, ‘I learned something new,'” he said.
Brooklyn Tea offers everything from rooibos with mango pieces from South Africa to peppermint tea from Washington state.
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Jamila and Alfonso take pride in initiating newcomers.
“Every day, we get to surprise someone,” Jamila said.
When a young non-tea drinker came in asking for chocolate milk, Jamila instead offered him a tea with chocolate pieces in it.
“He loved it, and he’s been coming back ever since,” Alfonso said. “The last time I came in, he was drinking a pot of cream earl grey with no sweetener. So that’s the transition.”
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#Repost @botanical_zelue ・・・ Attended the @blackvegfest today and my heart and belly was full ☺️❤️. So many great black vegan vendors from all over the country. I stumbled upon @brooklyntea and was ecstatic to buy their goods. ( I love a cup a coffee but I adore a good cup of tea) The owners are lovely and I’m sending good vibes for them to open their shop in BK soon 🌱✨🌿
The couple swears by tea’s ability to nurture the spirit.
“When you give someone a cup of tea, every time, it’s for their benefit,” Jamila said.
She says that tea is a ritual of patience and sensory awareness.
“I tell people all the time: We’re not trying to make you quit coffee. We just want to make you drink more tea,” she said.
Jamila and Alfonso say that community support has been instrumental. Devoted customers even offer to help wipe tables and wash dishes.
“It feels surreal the amount of love and energy and support we get,” Jamila said.
Each day, they welcome customers with a range of prepared teas for tasting.
“The sampling of the tea has been a big part of demystifying and debunking some ideas that people have about tea,” Jamila said. “Once you become more curious and open in one way, it extends and transcends to other parts of your life as well.”
524 Nostrand Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11216
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