A Sip and Sit Down with Brooklyn Tea
By Maleah Guilbaud
May 19, 2022
Couple Alfonso “Ali” and Jamila Wright have many things in common, but Brooklyn, their love for tea, and its culture are three things for sure. Introduced through mutual friends, the Wrights quickly connected on all things Black history when they met during a dinner party, and their connection has thrived ever since. “We met in Atlantic City, where true love is found,” Jamila said. “We made out that night and have been together ever since.”
The two elaborated on their passion for the business world and became the founders of their company, Brooklyn Tea. Created for tea enthusiasts, Brooklyn Tea offers loose-leaf, all-natural, iced, and hot teas in more than 50 varieties for in-store and online purchase. It’s centered around “edutainment”—steeped in the rich culture of lo-fi hip-hop, jazz, and the Black Renaissance movement. It strives to be a place, both virtually and physically, where people feel the communal nature of tea culture—seen, dignified: and embraced.
“From naming our tea ‘Well-Kanda,’ to rotating local artists in our shops, to naming our sandwiches after legends such as Biggie Smalls, Juicy, and Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, we’re a product of the fantastic black culture that we were privileged to grow up in,” Jamila said.
Besides great effort and dedication, the couples’ success is accompanied by their devotion to being Black business owners. “In general, it’s important for Black people to be business owners because we’re more likely to employ from within the surrounding neighborhood,” Jamila said. “We employ a higher percentage of black staff, we are quicker to promote them, and we are more likely to circulate the dollar within the same neighborhood instead of outside. In the tea industry, it’s not a secret that the largest suppliers and retailers of tea are primarily white, male-dominated corporations, which is a stark contrast to the Brown and Black hands that typically pick the leaves.”
And like all businesses, the Wrights have seen their common and racial challenges with Brooklyn Tea. “When we first began, we struggled with financing. I recall being in a business plan competition and noticing how some judges, who were white bankers, had a more understanding tone and exhibited open body language when addressing my white male counterparts,” Ali said. “There are some subtle biases that always seem to creep their way into our progress, but we’re lucky to have a strong foundation of family, friends, and now fans that support us in every way possible.”
Brooklyn Tea currently has two locations—one in Brooklyn and one in Atlanta—with plans to open another location in Brooklyn. Connoisseurs can look forward to their flavorful options like their top-selling Cream Earl Grey, a beautiful atmosphere, and amazing vibes. Not in either city? Check Brooklyn Tea out online at brooklyntea.com.
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