Miami may be a coffee town but if Michael “Jojo” Ortiz has his way, we will soon be drinking a lot more tea. The tea enthusiast started his company Jojo Tea a year ago, mostly selling to area restaurants after teaching staff how to correctly brew the tea blends he buys from importers who visit the tea estates of China, Taiwan, Japan and India.
Michael got his nickname from his nephew when he was a baby. Jojo happens to mean “uncle” in Mandarin, making an auspicious name for his company. He studied theater at New York University but returned to Miami when his father had a heart attack. He became a volunteer at the Zen Village Buddhist Center in Coconut Grove and after brewing thousands of pots of tea for yoga students, found he had a real knack for blending tea. His mission is to enlighten people to the joys of good tea made from buds, tips and whole leaves, not ground dust.
There are three main types of tea, all from the plant camellia sinensis. Different processes applied to leaves results in three main types: unfermented green, semi-fermented oolong and fully fermented black. Jojo offers green gunpowder tea scented with jasmine rolled into pearls that explode in hot water, as well as green genmai cha with toasted brown rice and pan-fired quinming spring harvest with a sweet taste. There is also a blend called cheung feng with jasmine and honey crisp apple that is best cold brewed, and gyokuro reserve green that has a buttery spinach flavor. Oolongs are complex and include bai hao (white tip), slightly smoky ti- kuan yin and da hong pao made from roasted whole leaves with hazelnut notes. Blacks include Nilgiri, best made into peachy ice tea, sweet-roasted Yunnan gold tip, Assam chai with spices and reserve flush Darjeeling. If coffee is for waking up, tea is for contemplating a moment.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami food writer and personal chef who blogs at FoodIndiaCook.com.