Miami Gem: JoJo Tea Tasting Room
June 7, 2017Janel Allen
In a city where cafecito is almost as common as water, tea might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are looking for a warm beverage. To many, tea is what we drink when we feel a cold coming on or what we drink iced on a hot summer day. But there is more to tea than the occasional chai latte and Passion Tea Lemonade and Miami’s own JoJo Tea is telling that elaborate story with every single cup.
You have probably seen JoJo Tea listed on the menus of some of your favorite restaurants. But there is more to the company than its name. Since 2011 Michael Ortiz and Tico Aran, have been working to set the tone for the next step in American tea culture. You see, there is such a long history to tea harkening back to China over 4,000 years ago. And their mission is to educate us newbies on the proper and most enjoyable way to tea. Sourcing their tea from socially responsible farms that respect both tradition and innovation, they have become a reliable and informative source for the herbal beverage.
Unlike colonial times where exclusivity was the name of the game, those in the global tea biz are focused collaborating to ensure standards are maintained. And with 60 teas on the menu at any given time, JoJo Tea has used this network to bring teas from around the world to our doorsteps.
JoJo Tea sits in an unassuming office building on LeJeune. That is where all the magic goes down. From storage, to the tea room and even a pottery studio, it is a one stop shop for all things tea and the team of seven is moving full steam ahead to infuse Miami with that culture.
But why tea? Mike originally got into tea while working as a yoga teacher at a Buddhist temple where he was introduced to gongfu tee which is the means of measuring by hand, counting time by counting your breath, and evaluating the evolving character of tea as you brew the same leaves multiple times. What stood out to him was the moments that tea creates. Not only do you renew your attention with every breath, but intention is so clear. There is gravity to the process and the moment that results.
From there he started to make tea at home and do Chinese tea ceremonies for friends. After noticing the lack of quality tea, he decided that he would take it upon himself to find it. And the name JoJo tea? When his nephew was learning names of relatives, he ended up calling Mike “JoJo” and it stuck both as a nickname and a great name for a new tea brand. But what makes the name “JoJo” even more fortuitous is the fact that it just happens to mean “maternal uncle” in Chinese. Jackpot.
With the goal of spreading knowledge and true awareness of tea, they have worked with restaurants and local chefs to elevate tea culture. Expanding their impact with 170 vendors which are mostly in South Florida but span Atlanta, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and New York.
Since May 2016, JoJo Tea has been blessing Miami with a tasting room for a hands on approach to appreciating the art of tea. And the room is absolutely breathtaking. When you open the door you are immediately transported to another world. Trust us, there is nowhere like this in Miami. From its secret door, to the artfully layered walls, your senses are immediately awakened and you are ready to embark on an aromatic, taste-bud-tingling journey.
When we began our tasting, we had no idea just how much we didn’t know about tea and how to consume it. Firstly, we learned that the best way to fully enjoy tea is by spraying it onto the tongue and bringing in the aroma to maximize flavor and use of tastebuds. The big thing to note was that you can’t judge the quality of tea on the flavor while it is in your mouth but on how happy you are with the flavors and aromas on the breath once done. We were able to savor a green tea, an oolong tea, and a pu-erh tea. Each came with their own unique method of brewing and flavor.
Witnessing Mike brew these teas with such skill and intention was an experience that will stay with us for a long time. With every step in the process, both science and art came into play. All teas came with a story and listening the history and what has brought it to its current state was a lesson in itself. And we can’t forget the tea pet named Dr. Francisco who was showered with tea for good luck.
But the best part of tea and having a space to properly enjoy it is you are introduced to exactly what it feels like to pause. For the team at JoJo, what they want everyone to experience is the notion that a cup of tea and the process of brewing it is a mental beat. Every cup of tea is a moment of peace in your day and those beats of silence are so important. With their goal to revolutionize the tea industry and its reception, everything JoJo Tea is doing is to meet that end. From distribution, to subscription boxes, and a tasting room, they are working to be dealers of moments and understanding.
We now have a newfound respect and admiration for this ancient art form.
Looking to visit the tasting room? Reservations can be made for Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for a max of eight people. For $28 you can enjoy an hour and a half of education and enjoyment as you taste seven teas. And If you can’t regularly make the trip to the tasting room, you can create your own at home with their quarterly subscription boxes that offer seven seasonal teas, a piece of tea-ware a piece of artwork, and a free pass to the tasting room.
Photos by FujiFilmGirl