Growing up in Jamaica, I would always hear my mom or grandmother suggest tea as a remedy when I wasn’t feeling well. In our household the teas of choice were either cerasee tea, mint tea or ginger tea. I hated all of them. I just thought that tea was a punishment and wanted nothing to do with it. I remember once being at a friend’s house and being very sick and his grandmother saying “mek di bwoy some ganja tea, im will feel betta”. I definitely felt better and probably a little high on life, but still hated tea.
The fact is, natural tea has many proven health benefits from lowering sugar levels for diabetics, reducing migraine headaches, settling an upset stomach and even managing anxiety. For centuries people have been drinking tea all over the world. Whether you are in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean or the Americas, you are bound to hear stories of tea remedies recommended by someone’s mother or grandmother. As I grew older, I started to open my mind a bit more to the benefits of tea and would sometimes drink peppermint tea with honey and lime. I even experimented with other teas like chamomile and ginger tea, which was a big deal for me, as I can get set in my ways at times.
It was in January of 2019 that a friend suggested we visit a Black-owned tea spot in Bed Stuy Brooklyn. Since my girlfriend and I were in the habit of supporting Black-owned businesses, the idea of a tearoom was very interesting. It was still pretty cold, so we welcomed a cup of hot tea to warm our bones. When we walked through the doors, we were greeted with warm smiles and an atmosphere that was very relaxed and community oriented. The owners, who we didn’t know at that time, gave us a rundown of the options available and walked us over to a wall with shelves filled with a variety of tea from all over the world. There we stood, picking up labeled jars with tea leaves like vanilla rooibos, chocolate mint, moringa, masala chai, jasmine dragon pearls, ginger turmeric and the list goes on.
The experience was almost overwhelming as I spent 10 minutes trying to decide which one to try. I eventually landed on vanilla rooibos, my favorite to this day. It’s not just the tea that makes this place great, it’s the energy you feel walking into the tearoom. The owners, an amazing husband and wife team, Ali & Jamila Wright are a perfect combination. Ali, a veritable Tea Master, can enlighten you on the benefits of tea drinking, guide you to the tea that might best suit your needs at that time and leave you intrigued with stories of his travels around the globe in search of tea. Jamila, the queen of charm, strategist and chief happiness officer, among other things makes you want to come back day after day to purchase another cup of joy. Together, this dynamic duo, along with their amazing staff, has grown Brooklyn Tea into a highly respected brand that doesn’t just serve tea. They serve “community”.
When I was diagnosed with stage III appendiceal cancer in 2021, I remember speaking with Ali and another Brooklyn Tea supporter about my experience and in the midst of my discussion, Ali stepped away, only to return a few minutes later with a powerful care package of tea, which he then gifted me. In that moment, I was moved beyond words. I remembered the child who thought that drinking tea was a form of punishment, and I became overwhelmed with gratitude that I have the chance to experience what tea can truly do. Drinking tea has served to manage the nausea I experienced while undergoing chemotherapy, helped soothe my headaches, aided in my sometimes-restless nights, and helps me to relax, especially after challenging days.
Today, Brooklyn Tea continues to be a home for artists, community gatherings, book launches, and so much more. They have supported and continue to support the dreams of others through employment, sponsorship of local events, providing a space for people to commune and educating the community on the benefits and importance of tea in our daily lives.
The staff at Brooklyn Tea embodies the spirit of the tearoom and its owners. They are warm, welcoming and patient and make a damn good cup of whatever tea your heart desires. So, take a break from the norm and experience something different. Make your way over to Brooklyn Tea. You won’t be disappointed. And oh yeah, they have some great desserts and breakfast bites available too. Are you there yet?
Brooklyn Tea is located at 411 Lewis Ave., at the corner of Decatur Street in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. You can visit them online at brooklyntea.com.