JoJo Tea is on a mission to revive our love for an ancient drink

Michael Ortiz, founder of JoJo Tea, in the company's tasting room near Coral Gables. Photograph by Felipe Cuevas.
Michael Ortiz, founder of JoJo Tea, in the company's tasting room near Coral Gables. Photograph by Felipe Cuevas.

There’s a tea party happening in Miami, and it doesn’t involve tossing bundles of it into Biscayne Bay. Thanks to Michael Ortiz and Tico Aran, the local duo behind JoJo Tea, there’s never been a better time for a cup.

JoJo sources and sells single-origin teas and housemade blends from farms across China, India, Japan and beyond. The goal: to introduce South Florida to high-quality teas, from floral white and green teas to assertive oolong and black teas. Step aside, Lipton.

“The mission of the company is to establish a new American tea culture. This beverage has been around for 4,000 years,” Ortiz said. “There’s no reason we should be buying tea that’s been sprayed to taste like something else.”

Drink tea to find enlightenment

One of the best ways to get to know tea is to drink it. And the best way to taste JoJo’s teas is to visit the tasting room, located in an unassuming office building near Coral Gables.

At first, visitors may think they’re in the wrong place. But once inside JoJo’s aptly numbered Suite 305, perceptions change. The tasting room has no windows, yet it radiates a soft, calming light. With cave-like walls and a wooden communal table, the room is designed to make you focus on the tea. 

“We wanted it to be like going through a portal. The best tea experiences are like that,” Ortiz said. “You’re out in the mountains, sitting in clouds in a bamboo forest, drinking tea.”

JoJo Tea
JoJo Tea welcomes visitors to its tasting room and retail shop by appointment. Photograph by Felipe Cuevas.

Let JoJo guide you

JoJo offers guided tastings by appointment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and then DIY “freestyle” tastings on Saturdays. Guided tastings cover eight different kinds of tea, followed by an optional gongfu tea ceremony.

The tea ceremony — a meditative-like ritual — is what hooked Ortiz and led him to found JoJo in 2011. He discovered tea while working at a Buddhist temple in Coconut Grove, and began collecting and experimenting with different teas. Aran, a childhood buddy, saw JoJo’s potential and joined in 2012. The rest is written in the leaves.

“Tea is a moment of peace,” Ortiz said. “It should be simple.”

Where to sip 

At home: Buy JoJo Tea online or join the JoJo Club for speciality teas and limited releases. sipjojo.com.

Around town: The list of tea-enlightened local restaurants and hotels grows daily. Look for JoJo at 1 Hotel South Beach, Michael’s Genuine, Finka Table & Tap, Bulla, Pinch Kitchen, Alter and more. 

How to brew tea

Hot tea: Use one teaspoon high-quality, whole-leaf tea per cup. Add water heated to 185 degrees (simmering) for green or white teas, and to 212 degrees (boiling) for oolong or black teas. Steep three to five minutes. 

Iced tea: Put about a teaspoon of whole-leaf tea in a water bottle, fill with filtered water and refrigerate overnight.

Current obsession

Matcha: The powdered green tea is having a moment. JoJo’s Michael Ortiz describes his organic Japanese version as tasting of milk, vanilla and spinach. Try a soy matcha latte at Cafe Curuba in Coral Gables.