Tea is having a moment. Of course, tea has actually been a part of modern culture for thousands of years, from its origins as a medicinal drink during China’s Shang Dynasty more than 3,000 years ago to its surge in popularity in 17th-century Britain, which later introduced tea to India. In its simplest form, tea is made from pouring boiling water over the leaves of the tea plant and sweetening with milk and sugar, if desired.
Today tea is hot thanks to trends like matcha, tea cocktails and nitro tea, and cafés serving only tea, like San Francisco’s Samovar Tea Lounge, New York City’s Matcha Bar and Sarasota’s TeBella Tea Company.
Trends in Tea
Matcha, a caffeinated, high-quality tea, is made from finely ground green tea leaves; you consume the whole leaf when you drink it. It’s also full of antioxidants and the calming amino acid L-theanine. You can find ceremonial-grade matcha from Haraki-Gordon (which imports its matcha from centuries-old family tea plantations in Japan) at the Downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market. Most local coffee shops (like Buddy Brew and Kahwa) offer matcha drinks, too.
Beyond Hot Toddies
Alcohol-flavored teas—and tea cocktails—are all the rage. TeBella Tea Company offers a pu-erh (a type of fermented tea) flavored with whiskey and a bourbon breakfast blend. If you want to make your own tea cocktail, stir some gin and honey into your iced Earl Grey, or some tequila, lime juice and agave nectar into your hibiscus tea for a fun take on a margarita.
Nitro cold-brew coffee was at the forefront of the nitrogen-in-drinks trend (which has gone so mainstream that even Starbucks offers it). Now it’s tea’s turn. Adding nitrogen to cold tea creates an ultra-creamy, frothy, smooth drink—plus, it brings out tea’s natural color and reduces bitterness. Get your nitro fix at Buttermilk Handcrafted Food, which has nitro tea on tap, or DIY with your own nitro kit, which you can buy on Amazon for around $200.
Top Spots for Tea
This Tampa-based mini-chain and budding tea empire opened its first Sarasota location at the Mall at UTC last year. You’ll find loose-leaf tea, handcrafted tea beverages, tea accessories and more. 140 University Town Center Drive, #124, Sarasota, tebellatea.com
This unassuming little spot on Hillview Street is great for grabbing a cuppa. Tea, treats and board games abound; there are open mic nights and wine tastings, too. If you miss the coziness of the former Tea House, try this. 1926 Hillview St., Sarasota
This Instagram-worthy downtown Bradenton spot offers a sweet selection of teas, including rooibos, blackberry-jasmine and Moroccan mint. 540 13th St. W., Bradenton, oscuracafe.com
Three for Tea
Miri Hardy Pottery Mug
Made by hand by ceramicist Miri Hardy, this cream-colored honey bee mug—made with white stoneware clay and food-safe glaze—is perfect for your daily tea. $45, mirihardypottery.com
This genius steeper makes brewing hot and iced tea a snap. Just add your tea leaves, pour over hot water, steep and place over your mug (or a glass filled with ice). Voilà! The tea is immediately dispensed into your mug—no muss, no fuss. $22.95, amazon.com
This pastel-colored kettle has a midcentury vibe and comes in a rainbow of pastel colors, but with seven water temperature settings, it’s just as efficient at brewing tea as it is sitting pretty on your kitchen counter. $260, available at TeBella Tea Company, 140 University Town Center Drive, #124, Sarasota, tebellatea.com