Relaxing music and the scents of herbs and spices greet you as you enter Tea & Poets in Sunset Place. The combo tea room and marketplace offers a full-service tea bar and live performances by local musicians, poets and artists.
The market started out as a collaborative effort between best friends Joaquin Ortiz, Francisco Musalem and Henrik Telle. For Ortiz, a lifelong tea enthusiast and writer, Tea & Poets brought together all the things he loves under one building.
Ortiz acts as a personal tea guru for customers, guiding them through the different teas and herbs in order to make a personalized blend that fits their moods and tastes perfectly.
“We wanted to create a place that makes tea a unique and customized experience. Since each situation is different and each person is their own individual, we want to treat tea exactly like a chef would treat their dish or a bartender treats a cocktail,” Ortiz said.
The only menu they have is a specialty tea menu in which the alcohol in cocktails is replaced by a blend of tea, like the “Chocolate Mountain,” replacing Kahlúa for cocoa tea. Most drinks on the menu fall within the range of $3-5.
Ortiz keeps the 20 different tea leaves on the counter, so customers can smell and touch the individual leaves.
“We don’t have a full menu because we don’t want to dictate or restrict what you can choose … If you come in with a hangover, I want to make you a delicious, cool and calming tea to help. But if you come in stressed about an exam, I will make you a caffeine-riddled tea to help you study,” Ortiz said.
The displayed teas were collected by Ortiz from his travels around the world, including places like China, India, France and Argentina, to name a few. Some of the herbs are even grown in Ortiz’s garden. The syrups and matcha are made in-house. Local vendors display baked goods, art, jewelry and lotions for customers to browse.
“There are 14 vendors and they each rent space from us,” Ortiz said. “They are allowed to do anything with their space as long as it is approved by us. We want to keep a standard that makes it feel more like a department store and not so much like a flea market.”
Tea & Poets officially opened to the public on July 1. Already, there’s a strong sense of community.
“When I think of Tea & Poets, I think of a place where it’s safe to express yourself,” said Natalie Quiñones, a student at Miami Dade College. “We all support each other in any way possible. We’re a big happy Tea & Poets family.”
“I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this place,” said Camden Cook, a senior from Coral Gables Senior High. “I’ve made so many awesome connections and it’s a really welcoming environment where people are supportive of one another.”
Tea & Poets is also an arts and entertainment venue. The venue hosts open-mic nights every Wednesday. Throughout the week, there are events like book signings, yoga classes and live painting open to the entire community.
The UM Astonishing Idiots of Miami Theatre Company and musicians from the Frost School of Music have already performed at the venue.
Tea & Poets’ grand opening is 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5. There will be two live bands, fire-spinning performers and live painters. The Miami Brewing Company is providing handcrafted beer, The Salty Donut is bringing donut holes and Inner Fueled is supplying healthy hors d’oeuvres.
“The terms ‘tea and poets’ are both used technically and metaphorically,” Ortiz said about the venue’s name. “Tea meaning what is brewing in your life, what are you creating? And poetry means what is your art and what is your story, we want to know.”
All UM students and faculty get a 10-percent “family discount” on all tea purchases. Follow Tea & Poets on Facebook and Instagram, @teaandpoets.
If You Go:
Tea & Poets Grand Opening
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 5
Where: 5701 Sunset Drive #126, South Miami, Fla., 33143