Local friends bring their love of tea to the community.
It’s not often that a trip to the dentist can bring about an epiphany. But for Norma Jean Abraham and Iliana Garcia, the dentist was key to their destiny.
After scouring Miami for a location for their dream tea house, they became frustrated by sky-high prices and questionable spaces, holding out for a prime spot. It wasn’t until Abraham left a dental appointment that she noticed a small space for rent in the same shopping center. Though that space ended up being too small to accommodate their vision, another one in the same location soon came available and Serendip-A-Tea found a home.
“I handpicked every chair in the place,” says Garcia, who met Abraham through her cousin more than 20 years ago. “I found them, I refinished them. I saw it all in my head.”
The “shabby chic” decor was the final step for the two friends, who say the idea took more than a year to come to fruition after Garcia left her music industry job. When Abraham asked her what she wanted to do next, Garcia says the answer was clear. “I wanted to do something for me,” she said. “I said ‘I’d love to have a tea room.’”
Garcia’s love of tea began during her time living in San Francisco, where she says tea rooms are a common sight. “I fell in love with the whole ritual of the tea service,” said Garcia. “You have to sit and relax and wait for your tea. It’s an opportunity to chat with a friend or just a take a minute for yourself. For the last 10 years this has been dwelling in my mind.” Abraham, too, fell in love with the idea. “So many teahouses I’ve seen are dark and dreary, we wanted to create a whimsical, fun space. A teahouse with a twist,” she said.
Launching with 23 varieties of tea (including green, white, black and oolong) and growing, the shop not only sells tea and “eclectic” accessories (think etiquette books, vintage-inspired jewelry and a carefully-curated selection of teapots) but serves light food and refreshments sourced from local artisans. Even the decor has personal, local ties, with a whimsical mural painted by Garcia’s brother, Luis Garcia-Nerey and “Adam and Eve” doors created by another friend, local artist Carlos Navarro. Another theme close to the pair’s heart are the owls that dot their menus, signs and space – a nod to Garcia’s grandmother’s collection of owls that inspired the friends to start collecting as well. “It all fell into place the way I had envisioned it,” Garcia said.
In addition to the tea room and retail aspect, the shop is putting a year of catering service to work by hosting events in the space that range from a 91-year-old’s tea party to a 6-year-old’s birthday party. A kids table complete with art projects and chalkboard decorations sits in one corner while a simple and clean “guy’s table” takes space among the tableclothes and vintage china.
When the shop opens April 1 the two friends say they will be side-by-side in their respective positions: Garcia as “tea mistress” running the daily operations and Abraham, the “promo queen” out promoting the store in the community. “We each have our forte and we each work at making it what we focus on,” said Garcia of the partnership. Abraham, for her part, hopes to bring awareness to the neighborhood (just past Dadeland in the King’s Creek shopping center) by hosting monthly events that will raise money for various causes and by working with other shops in the area to increase activities. Abraham also hopes for a large contingent of children’s events and parties to go along with her longtime charity work with children’s causes and organizations. “I want to bring what I do out in the community into the teahouse,” she said.
For now the friends are moving slowly, planning for an April 1 launch party and planning dairy- and gluten-free menu options to please visitors. “We’re willing to learn from our guests,” said Abraham of the evolution. But in the end, the main focus will stay the same. Great tea. So what’s the “tea mistress” pick these days? “I’m seasonal,” Garcia said with a laugh. “Right now I’m hooked on Raspberry Rosepetal herbal tea. It smells delicious and tastes fantastic iced or hot. But I’m always trying new ones. I can’t pick just one, I feel too guilty!”
Serendip-A-Tea is located in the Kings Creek Mall at 8004 SW 81st Drive, Miami, FL 33143. For more information, please call 305.333.2258 or visit www.serendipatea.net.