Loudoun County’s reputation as a winery, brewery or distilling destination has shared space in recent years with its plethora of coffee shop options and local roasters. But make way for tea, as several shops have opened up, or are eying opportunities, in the county.
11 W. Market St., Leesburg
Owner JR Rena credits his family for being the driving force behind his first tea café in the heart of Leesburg. The COVID-19 pandemic stopped Rena from doing what he loved most, working in the restaurant industry in a host of different roles, from chef to beverage director. He moved back to the Leesburg area to be closer to his family, and to chart his next course.
“I really wanted to get back into serving people,” he said. “My family has been really supportive. They said, ‘you should open your own place here.’ I think they also said that so I wouldn’t actually leave.”
The tea drinker looked to his own preference for drinking teas, versus his mother’s, and found the inspiration for UniTea Café.
“My mom loves bobas and fruit drinks and all those contemporary ways of drinking teas, where I’m very much about the old way of drinking teas which is loose leaf teas. I love teas that are sourced from smaller estates around the world,” he said.
“I think the business idea sort of just evolved from me walking around Leesburg around the end of the March to signing a lease in April to really creating a menu that would really unite all of our family members in the form of tea,” Rena said. “Uniting the different ways of drinking tea whether it’s the old way or the new way and still making it exciting.”
The diverse tea menu at UniTea is complemented with an equally diverse menu of sandwiches, small bites, pastries and desserts. Included in the menu are a Cuban sandwich, banh mi sandwich and avocado toast. For those with a sweet tooth, try the sponge cake ube with flan. As business gets rolling, Rena is hoping to eventually add an opportunity for afternoon tea for his customers.
UniTea Café will celebrate its grand opening Thursday, July 8. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
TeaDM Lounge (coming late 2021/early 2022)
46515 Harry Byrd Highway, Sterling
TeaDM Lounge is looking to bring its bright lights to Sterling by the end of this year, or early next year, following the success of its Falls Church predecessor.
TeaDM, which resembles more of a traditional dance club atmosphere than your run-of-the-mill tea shop, features a menu that includes traditional brews and coffees, with its signature sea salt coffee a particular crowd pleaser. Fresh fruit smoothies and teas are also available.
When the sun sets, TeaDM offers a selection of late night bubble teas, with boba pearls served with alcohol, said owner Jay Tran. Menu selections include lunch and dinner plates and Vietnamese cuisine, along with ice cream.
“We don’t have that kind of concept here,” said Tran of TeaDM. “Hopefully that will work well.”
The Empress Pearl Tea
737 E. Main St., Purcellville
Empress Pearl Tea recently opened in the bustling Shoppes at Main & Maple center, and has given western Loudouners a trendy tea shop with an assortment of bubble tea and tea selections. The Taiwanese tea shop’s menu includes an assortment of the traditional milk teas, from green jasmine to black oolong and chai, to the specialty—cookies + cream milk tea and tiger sugar milk tea. Fruit teas can be mixed with a base of black tea, green tea or lemonade, or choose from one of the specialty selections, like dragon fruit mango green tea or the tiki tea, which includes guava, passion fruit and mango. To help with the summer heat, creamy frappes and fruit slushes are also available. Toppings including cotton candy, tapioca pearls, both big and mini, and flavored jellies are available.
It was the pandemic that prompted Elena Lozina to put her marketing brains to work and create a product-based business to compete in the matcha business. The company that Lozina bought her matcha from went under, and the marketing business owner saw the opportunity.
“I was trying to figure out a way to get it, so I thought I would try and do it myself. I love doing branding. I decided to brand the whole thing myself, design all the products, jump off the deep end,” she said.
Matcha is a finely ground powder of specialty grown and processed green tea leaves that is sourced from Uji, Japan, the matcha tea capital. Lozina envisions that Kensho Tea will offer customers a space to both buy matcha tea products and paraphernalia, and a bar to make all kinds of made-to-order drinks, as well as offer snacks and desserts.
She said she is actively looking for space in Leesburg, where she has lived for the past year. Lozina said she instantly fell in love with the town. “It really speaks to my soul,” she said.Until she has brick and mortar space, Lozina is taking Kensho Tea on the road, and hosting a series of pop-ups at local businesses. The next one is set for Saturday, July 18, at Muz & Rose at 3 Loudoun St. in downtown Leesburg. Tea drinks, iced lattes, summer lemonade and macarons will be available for purchase.