After a year of planting the seeds for a Detroit-based tea company that could lead Detroit -- and America -- to carve out its own distinctive tea culture, the founder of Eli Tea is opening the start-up's first tea bar in downtown Birmingham.
The 25-year-old company founder, Elias Majid, started Eli Tea
with the help of a grant and advice from Wayne State University's Blackstone Launchpad. Eli Tea incubated and grew from Eastern Market Corp.'s Detroit Kitchen Connect, which pairs food start-ups with commercial kitchen space.
"I wanted to open up my own store to further the tea culture," he says. "Detroit is behind on the tea trend. There are tea shops on every corner in Chicago, D.C., Boston.
"It's a good market to be in for me…It attracts a health-conscious crowd, cultural creatives and everyone who wants something that's good for you and tastes good too."
The company philosophy is based on selling only natural teas, blended on site and never using syrups or artificial flavors.
During his start-up phase, Eli Teas moved into 20 metro Detroit shops and restaurants while Majid scouted a location of what he hopes will be the first of many Eli Tea's tea bars.
Majid picked a former Cold Stone Creamery on Woodward Avenue in downtown Birmingham for the first location and he expects to be fully open by Nov. 1.
"My competitors try to make English tea rooms or Chinese tea rooms," he says. "I really want to make an American tea room. I don't think that's been done yet."
He is transforming the 1000-square-foot space at 108 S. Old Woodward into a "sophisticated tea bar with an homage to Michigan, but without trying too hard," he says.
There will be a countertop made of pennies, a birch-tree stenciled wall, carved copper ceiling tiles and a tea wall featuring containers of loose leaf teas. The new store goes hand in hand with an overall expansion of Eli Tea products from 30 to 80.
"I'm trying to move past the doily culture," he says. "I want to see education, interaction with customers, and see people appreciating and loving tea the way I do."
Owning a tea company, "is no one's dream as a kid," he says, but he realized while studying and working with plants in a lab that a career in something like tea "was a way for me to interface with the public about plants and health…I'm going from laboratory to retail, and I'm able to give that unique point of view to the customers."
Source: Elias Majid, founder, Eli Tea
Writer: Kim North Shine