1. The story: TeaLee’s teahouse opened Saturday at 611 22nd Street in Five Points. The opening for Rise Jones and her husband Louis Freeman comes after five years of business planning, permitting, and fundraising. And for two years before this drawn-out process, Jones also battled a rare form of leukemia. Her husband asked her towards the end of her treatment: “What do you really want to do with your life?” She answered: “I want a teahouse.”
2. The community: But Jones wanted to do something larger with her life than just open a tea shop. “What I really meant … that is, what I clearly understood was my intention to create a black-owned (and managed) business so that we could trade with each other while spending our dollars multiple times with our neighbors,” she writes on the company’s website. At TeaLee’s, Jones plans to provide employment to workers in the Five Points urban economic enterprise zone. She has created an “afro-centric atmosphere” at the teahouse, where customers can feel “safe, congenial, and relaxed.”
3. The cafe: “We move to the Rhythm of Tea,” Jones writes on the website. TeaLee’s combines a relaxed cafe and bookstore with titles focused on African American literature. The menu combines cups of loose-leaf and specialty teas with high-tea service and afternoon trays. For the latter, bottomless pots, tea sandwiches, scones, and pastries are served. Coffee and chocolate drinks round out the beverages, and all-day fare from soups, salads, and quiches, to charcuterie and toasties (sandwiches) complement the drinks list.
4. The love: TeaLee’s is named for Jones’s grandmother, whose nickname was “Tee-Lee.” Going to Mrs. Evelyn Jones’ home “embodied what was simple and good about life — good food, drink, wisdom, comfort, protection, love and conversation,” Rise says. Now at TeaLee’s, she plans to host events “in rhythm with the cultural pulse of Five Points.” And from one generation to the next, Jones also hopes to host youth tea parties for “the young Ladies & Lords” to celebrate birthdays and graduations.
Status: TeaLee’s is now open at 611 22nd Street. Check the website for hours and menu updates.