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 Venice-based mobile teahouse sells unique concoctions from its "tea trailer" and sells international loose leaf tea online (popular offerings include Sarasota Breakfast, Floridian Chai, Venice Sunrise and Siesta Sunset). Find the truck at local farmers markets or order tea online here.
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 popular breakfast and lunch spot offers nitro tea on tap as well as a selection of looseleaf teas from TeBella. Pair your cuppa with one of their scratch-made pastries for an excellent breakfast. 5520 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota
This longtime local tea purveyor has a robust online shop and has created specialty blends for a variety of local institutions—like Mable's Rose Rooibos for The Ringling, Mote Beach Tea for Mote Marine Lab and Aquarium, and Secret Garden Green Tea for Selby Gardens. Find where you can get a cup at a local restaurant here or order online at localteaco.com
The local outpost of this national chain has set up shop on St. Armands Circle, where it offers a variety of loose leaf teas as well as accessories—think kettles, teapots and mugs—and extras like infused sugars (butterscotch creme, anyone?) and honeys. 345 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota