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C'est La Tea By andie tappenden

On Sundays the manager teaches yoga, in the courtyard around the corner. Normally, the international influence of TeaSpressa is palpable — with teas from China, Japan, South Africa, and Germany, and having been originally founded hundreds of miles outside of Michigan. But Sundays at 8 am, just after the sun has risen over downtown Ann Arbor, it’s only locals, and yoga, and tea.

TeaSpressa is a modern blend of an ancient brew. Like “The Importance of Being Earnest” pulled into the 21st century — friends all gathering to work or gossip around a pot of tea — where instead of hand-written letters and cucumber sandwiches, there’s g-mail and TeaSpressa’s homemade “tea toast,” with avocado, beet cream-cheese, honey, lime and rose petals.

There’s something classic about the idea of a tea shop, but TeaSpressa is anything but dated. Their founder, Allison DeVane, described that part of their appeal is their similitude to a simple coffee shop. “Tea can be very complex,” DeVane explained. Often, tea shops offer a myriad of different teas, blends, strains, etc. TeaSpressa has just four foundational blends to choose from: a red herbal tea called “Cape Cod,” a Earl Grey brew called “Charles Grey,” a green matcha tea called “Green Gold,” and a black tea — which they describe as being closest to standard dark-roasted coffee — called “Manhattan Black.”

In fact, Devane really considers herself as more of a coffee person. Traditional tea, in her opinion, is “quite honestly pretty boring.” But TeaSpressa is not traditional tea.

TeaSpressa tea is condensed and brewed like espresso, and has the same caffeine content as a cup of coffee. According to DeVane, their tea “holds its own like coffee,” with a similar body and bold flavor. Like coffee, it can be brewed into an iced latte or foamy cappuccino; these deviations from typical tea forms make TeaSpressa “more exciting [than] having a tea bag in your drink.”

But the brand is more than an artistic presentation and unique flavor. DeVane initially focused on tea as a way to make her company stand out, and in the process has rejuvenated the novelty of tea.

“Our brand is more about the experience and the lifestyle of it,” said Devane, “so it goes past the product.”

Even the phrase “C’est La Tea” — one of many mantras associated with TeaSpressa — carries a meaning deeper than just a clever saying. It references DeVane’s goals to make her company a global brand, as well as the already present “international inspirations” that lie in their design and teas. More than anything, it represents a simple, exuberance of tea. It’s like “c’est la vie,” but this is the life of tea.

This dedication to the make every aspect of her brand reach the “best degree” has been paying off, even early on in the business. Just nine months after founding TeaSpressa, Allison DeVane the was featured on Shark Tank, an experience she described as “fun and overwhelming.”

Being on Shark Tank helped DeVane establish more of a direction for her business, since she had only just started out. After that she asked herself, “what do I really want to do?”

Their Ann Arbor store opened in June, 2018, and is one of three locations to open up this year. Notably, it is their only café outside of Arizona. Why?

An old friend of DeVane’s from college had the property on Main St., and approached her about using the space to open up a new café. DeVane flew out and took an immediate liking to the vibrancy of the space and the many other local businesses nearby. She like that Ann Arbor seemed to be “community-driven.”

DeVane plans to open more shops around the country, but for now the Ann Arbor location is unique to be the only TeaSpressa café not surrounded by desert.

From Main St., TeaSpressa is somewhat inconspicuous, hidden in its dark wood paneling and big windowed exterior.

Inside, a pink neon sign curls into thin cursive and sheds light that mixes with the natural sun rays poured from the windows. The unusual combination creates a warm glow reminiscent of the popular art installation of UMMA.

“I just think the more we’re here and get to know the community,” said Maureen Harrison, manager of the Ann Arbor location, “we just become Ann Arbor more.”

Photos courtesy of TeaSpressa.

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