Minority-owned businesses have been hit hard over the past year, so this Black History Month, Alumni is going to highlight local Black-owned businesses that you should support if you can.
During the month of February, Alumni is also donating half of the proceeds from our in-house collection of apparel and accessories to Building Black Bed Stuy. The other half of the proceeds will be donated to Welcome to Chinatown's Longevity Fund in observation of Lunar New Year and to alleviate some the tremendous stress Chinese businesses have endured.
Jamila McGill and Alfonso Wright opened Brooklyn Tea in September 2017, welcoming Bed Stuy to try their amazing variety of loose leaf, minimally processed tea. We were able to talk to them about their passion for tea, for hospitality, and opening a tea shop in a city famous for coffee drinkers.
What should people expect when they visit Brooklyn Tea?
People should expect to be greeted into a space where you feel like you already know the person behind the bar. Come more than twice and expect to be remembered by our staff in some form or fashion. Here we aren’t perfect but we are family.
What teas are you most excited about serving this season?
We are most excited to serve our Irish Moss as a delicious tea latte topped with cinnamon, which was an experiment from a Brooklyn Tea staff member. Irish Moss has a laundry list of health benefits and the latte approach makes it as tasty as it is good for you.
You both have spoken about how tea is a central part of your life, whether that is being immersed in Jamaican tea culture or finding tea later in life. What has it been like to share this love of tea with your customers?
Sharing our love of tea with others has exceeded our wildest dreams. One could be led to believe that tea had no special place in Central Brooklyn and only coffee was king. We can to learn quickly that our customers came with a wealth of knowledge and we grew from 50 teas to over 100 largely due to their request and inquiries about teas we didn’t have. There are also folks that we have gently nudged into tea fanatics. Sometimes a “non-tea drinker” would come in with a friend and after some quick banter and a sample we found the tea to hook them.
“Support Black Businesses” has become a popular slogan. What does it mean to you beyond a saying or hashtag?
The slogan is surely energizing and for us it has meant access into conversations with influencers, corporations, and industries that wouldn’t have been possible without the call to action. We just hope that the commitment continues to remain true and consistent so we can release that small lingering fear that the slogan will wear off.
What would you say to someone who wanted to start a tea business of their own?
If you want to start a tea business of your own then make sure to drink as much tea a day from as many places a day you can handle. Learning who and what is out there will help you learn more about how to shape your business.