This new Brooklyn tea brand wants everyone to slow down and sip some loose-leaf tea.

Brooklyn Tea builds a culture around loose leaf teas rather than the bagged teas most people are used to. Photo credit: Brooklyn Tea

This weekend, from March 10 – 11, coffee and tea enthusiasts from all over the world will gather at the Brooklyn EXPO Center for the much anticipated 13th Annual Coffee & Tea Festival NYC. Among the more than 75 exhibitors sharing their brews with the public, one business in particular will be repping Brooklyn: Brooklyn Tea, an aptly-named emerging tea brand that wants to draw new people into tea culture and away from sugary drinks.

Brooklyn Tea founder Alfonso Wright, 36, has been interested in tea since childhood, having been exposed to English tea culture by his Jamaican mother. Wright, therefore, sees a big difference between the bagged tea that most people are used to consuming and the loose-leaf teas that Brooklyn Tea specializes in.

Bagged tea, he said, is like hamburger meat. Similar to how ground beef often contains the lowest quality of cow meat, bagged tea often is made up of tea fannings, the lowest grade of tea leaves. To make matters worse, we then lose the tea’s potential benefits by placing it in boiling hot water which strips away some of the tea’s antioxidants.

Loose tea, on the other hand, “is more like a steak,” Wright explained. “It goes from rare to medium rare to well done pretty much with time and temperature…. It’s a better tea drinking experience.”

Alfonso Wright and Jamila McGill launched Brooklyn Tea in September 2017. Photo credit: Brooklyn Tea

Wright said that the loose-leaf tea drinking culture runs at a slower pace than most Americans are used to. “But once you get into that tea culture of slowing down and actually enjoying and sipping your tea, you actually get more nutrients out of each one of those leaves,” he said.

While Brooklyn Tea cannot yet offer a physical location for its customers to pass the time with a cup of tea, the young business is utilizing its online platform to introduce more people to tea culture. Its website uses symbols to tell buyers what flavors they should expect from their tea, and it also sends out a monthly newsletter that familiarizes people with the different aspects of tea culture. Wright said that he also plans on creating a series of YouTube videos that will break down the basics of tea and tea drinking.

While Wright, who operates Brooklyn Tea with his girlfriend Jamila McGill, has made a point to use Brooklyn Tea to bring new people into the loose-leaf tea culture, he emphasized that people in the tea industry are generally welcoming.

“The tea industry is different from most other industries,” Wright explained. “It’s not like a competition really. I think we’re such a minority as an industry that we kind of welcome everyone [and] educate everyone.”

“I believe people who get into selling loose-leaf tea, usually aren’t doing it just for the money,” he continued. “They just want to share the experience with other people, and they want to do it for a living.”

Brooklyn Tea will be an exhibitor at the Coffee and Tea Festival on March 10-11. Photo credit: Brooklyn Tea

Wright thinks that it is only a matter of time before more black entrepreneurs like himself enter the welcoming world of tea. “There’s not a lot of black people in this industry yet,” he said. “I say ‘yet’ though. Just like there’s starting to be more black-owned wineries and wine companies trickling in, I think, the tea industry will also see an influx of more diversity as it becomes more popular.”

Until then, Brooklyn Tea’s focus is encouraging new tea drinkers and building its brand. After promoting the business at this weekend’s Coffee & Tea Festival, Brooklyn Tea plans on hosting a pop-up event at the Richard Beavers Gallery in Bed-Stuy on April 14.

Ultimately, Brooklyn Tea also would like to open up a physical tea shop. Wright said that when they do, it will, of course, be in Brooklyn.


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Shiloh Frederick

Shiloh Frederick reports for BK Reader. She is a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke College, where she earned an undergraduate degree in history, with a minor in journalism. Shiloh is now dedicating her...

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