Posted on April 30, 2015
By DONATELA VACCA
Freshly brewed Darjeeling tea, sweet scones, pastel colors and fancy British china right in the heart of Miami seem like an impossible scenario. However, a growing unlikely trend is allowing for this to happen across South Florida.
Miami is well known for its sunshine, beautiful beaches, extravagant clubs and exotic drinks. But, as the city slowly develops into a more cultured area with art galleries, museums and exquisite cuisine, it seems like cocktails, coffee, beaches and pools are not the only option when it comes to leisure time and culinary exploration.
The highly posh culture of teatime has become a surprisingly new trend emerging all over Miami, allowing visitors and residents to taste Britain’s finest flavors without actually having to cross the pond.
The idea is simple: tea is in, coffee is out.
The tea culture dates all the way back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Tea drinking started as a medicinal tradition during the Shang Dynasty in China, and then it was spread by merchants to Great Britain, where it became a social gathering and a synonym of high class.
Although the tea ceremony is very different in each culture, having adapted itself to each country, the idea is the same: enjoying a healthy drink good for the soul.
In Great Britain, a traditional tea party would be one full of guests and accompanied by extravagant scones, jams and pastries. However, the Asian tea ceremony is more like a sacred ritual, where one connects with oneself while enjoying the beauty, quietude, and politeness of brewing tea.
Lately, the tea culture has been spreading all over the world transforming the original meaning of tea brewing into a much contemporary tradition. Nowadays, it is not just about the act of brewing tea or savoring exotic flavors, but also about enjoying a good time with friends within a welcoming and relaxing environment, either if it is in a classic British tea cottage, or a high-end tea bar.
For the entire past year, teahouses have become the “it” places to chill, socialize and catch a mid-afternoon break in the company of various types of invigorating teas. Popular places like Ticety Iced Tea Bar, Small Tea and Madi’s Tea Garden appeared out of nowhere, offering an alternative drink for caffeine lovers.
Located around Kendall and Coral Gables and inaugurated more than a year ago, these exceptional places are the perfect spot to give ourselves a healthy break.
Each of these teahouses are relaxing, attractive and worthy of a visit. However, just like with every type of culinary experience, some stand out more than the others.
Managed by European owners, Ticety Iced Tea Bar opened in 2014 with the idea of becoming the next best tea lounge. Its mission was to bring the beloved and cooling iced tea into somewhere really hot.
Offering no other drink rather than natural infusions, Ticety Iced Tea Bar intends to show costumers how healthy and easy adopting the tea habit is, while putting an end to the to-go cup.
With a much modern approach and innovative architecture, Ticety Iced Tea Bar is a very pleasant place.
Soothing earthly colors, wooden ceilings and floors and a revitalizing “green wall,” which grows vine-like plants, make for a very relaxing and refreshing atmosphere.
The tranquil Zen and jazzy music are the key. Contrary to popular coffee houses with irritating ambient music, this teahouse is everything but annoying, while gracefully embracing what brewing a tea truly means: peace, patience and serenity.
House-made salads, sandwiches and pastries are offered daily as a way avoiding an empty stomach. Although delicious and of great quality, the sizes are too small and prices are quite high, leaving customers with infinite cravings and empty wallets. No one ever said posh was cheap.
For French pastry lovers, the almond croissants and fresh macaroons are a must. For those who prefer salty goods, the black and white quinoa salad or the cucumber sandwich are definitely worth a try.
Although they sound weird, the most popular iced teas are peach and Sunshine Citron, which has a strong but refreshing aftertaste. Hot tea musts? Impossible to say since there is a huge array.
The most interesting, unique and fun aspect is not the fact that the tea blends come from all around the world, but instead, that the iced tea is fashionably served in glass pitchers and wine glasses, taking posh and classy to a whole another level.
Although servers are scarce, the attention is pristine. The staff is extremely nice, welcoming and attentive, tempting costumers into transforming teatime into dinner, breakfast and lunch in order to stay in such pleasant environment.
Another teahouse with a similar concept is Small Tea, one of the newest and prettiest additions that debuted with a roar in 2015. Offering more than 80 different teas from all around the world, it has certainly become the best place in terms of quality and quantity.
Known as a modern sanctuary instead of a store, Small Tea offers a large tea menu as well as a food menu to satisfy impromptu sweet and salty cravings.
Just like Ticety Iced Tea Bar, Small Tea has a very sophisticated look. A contemporary interior entirely made up of shiny wood, gives this lounge a very serene ambient with chic and modern surroundings, à la New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Even though the colors are soothing and the architecture very relaxing, the music is not so much.
Not entirely clear if it is done on purpose or not, the melodies don’t really match up with the calm ideology behind tea brewing and tea drinking. A little bit too loud, the music makes it hard to relax not allowing full submersion into the tea culture.
However, the tea selection is beyond amazing. Ranging between ayurvedic, black, chai, green, herbal, rooibos, white and many others, Small Tea offers a unique selection. In fact, to most customers’ surprise, this lounge is the first one ever to introduce the bittersweet máte tea, a typical South American tradition that until now could only be consumed in Argentina, Peru, Uruguay or Paraguay.
The top items and most exquisite ones on the tea menu are the Mega Rich Máte, the Fujian Pearl, the White Peony and the Pico Fuego, unique and rare flavors for brave tea drinkers.
The food is not as delicate as in Ticety Iced Tea Bar, but it is surely something worth savoring.
Serving a wide array of options that include breakfast, sandwiches, wraps, salads and snacks, the menu lacks sweet options, something quite strange considering teatime is all about scones and jams.
The sandwiches and breakfast might seem like the best options, but in reality the most delicious dishes are within the salads and snacks, like the exquisite Bruschetta Trio, the Brie and Green Apple salad and the Jasmine Tea Smoked Chicken Salad.
Unfortunately, the service is quite poor, with inexperienced servers who seem to either be unqualified, uninterested or inattentive. It is true that this might be due to the fact that the management is still quite new, but it is still not an excuse. Give it some time, and it will probably improve.
However, the most important thing in this type of tea lounge is the baristas, or in this case, tea brewers that truly exceed all types of expectations. With evident passion, patience and dedication, they seem to perfectly know what they are doing, brewing immaculate cuppas delivered to perfection.
What makes Small Tea even more unique is the fact that for this company, brewing tea is almost like a ritual, with passionate baristas maneuvering crystal instruments that seem taken out of a private collection.
The brewing bar, the smelling station, where guests can enjoy a unique sensory experience, and the relatively affordable price make Small Tea the perfect hangout for tea lovers and explorers.
Since both tea lounges offer gourmet dishes and rare teas along with tranquil environments, there are no age restrictions.
However, taking young kids is not recommended. Adults and teenagers are happily welcomed.
Beautifully lacking all the glamour and sophistication that Ticety Iced Tea Bar and Small Tea have, Madi’s Tea Garden is the most authentic British tea culture representation Miami will ever witness.
A hidden treasure located near Kendall, this mesmerizing tea saloon seems taken out of a scene from Alice In Wonderland. Pastels, vintage china, tea hats, cakes and scones are just one of the few things that make this place truly British.
Known to have shabby-chic style, Madi’s Tea Garden pays a very accurate homage to the royal tea tradition, offering themed tea parties and costumes too. Emulating a small cozy cottage, this teahouse is more than just a place to drink tea. It is an attraction indeed.
Personally attended by the owner and her friendly associates, this lounge offers traditional British teatime food like cucumber sandwiches, pepper jelly spread and crackers, soups and all types of scones.
The pecan scones with clotted cream and the Poppy Seed Salad are great classics. However, the special tea combos that come with an endless pot of tea are quite delicious and affordable too, combining scones, preserves, sandwiches and soups in one fancy dish.
Ranging between $6 and $15, everything seems more affordable than in the other high-end tea lounges.
The friendly staff, homey atmosphere and beautiful décor make Madi’s Tea Garden the perfect place for all ages, including young kids, teenagers, mothers and grandmothers.
Although the options have quite different approaches, including upscale chic tea lounges or classic cozy British cottages, Miami has been able to launch an unusual but catchy trend that will surely become as big as the already existing coffee culture.
Either for a one-time visit or a regular routine, trying out Ticety Iced Tea Bar, Small Tea or Madi’s Tea Garden is a great way of healing our bodies by replacing coffee with a much healthier and natural drink now available in various areas of greater Miami.
It is not easy to say if the tea trend is here to stay, since Miami is a fast-paced city with evolving trends. As long as this tea frenzy keeps its charm by staying small and reserved, the trend will surely survive. After all, the city is full of curious visitors and bored coffee drinkers looking for interesting alternatives.
Madi’s Tea Garden
- Location: 4009 SW 152nd Ave., Miami, Fla. 33185
- Phone number: 786-801-0668
- Hours of operation: Tuesdays through Fridays, 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Mondays and Sundays.
- Website: http://madisteagarden.com
- Payment: credit cards and cash.
- Parking: self-parking private lot.
- Wi-Fi: no
- Wheelchair: accessible
- Price range: $-$$
- Personal rating: 5 stars out of 5.
- Location: 205 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, Fla. 33134
- Phone number: 786-708-2703
- Hours of operation: Mondays through Fridays, 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Sundays, 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
- Website: http://smallteaco.com
- Payment: credit cards and cash
- Wi-Fi: yes
- Wheelchair: accessible
- Parking: self-parking private lot
- Price range: $$-$$$
- Personal rating: 3 stars out of 5
Ticety Iced Tea Bar
- Location: 206 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, Fla. 33134
- Phone number: 305-549-8488
- Website: under construction
- Hours of operation: Sundays through Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Payment: credit cards and cash
- Reservations: no
- Take-out: yes
- Parking: valet, garage and street
- Wi-Fi: yes
- Wheelchair: accessible
- Price range: $$$
- Personal rating: 4 stars out of 5