Located in the heart of University Boulevard, the Scented Leaf Tea House & Lounge has kept the tea flowing for students since July 2012.
The Scented Leaf, which will be having its eight year anniversary in July, is owned by Shane and Adrienne Barela.
Shane Barela started off with a store on University Boulevard and Euclid Avenue called University Perfumes. He had this shop for about two years, and said he soon noticed that this shop was “not the right fit for the demographics.”
On a trip with his wife to Granada, Spain, Barela came across his saving grace. While walking through a tourist area, he said he had a “gut feeling” to take a certain path.
“In the distance, I could smell something really awesome, I walked over and there were all these crates of loose-leaf tea, herbs and spices,” Barela said. “When I saw the loose-leaf tea, I felt like destiny and the universe was giving me a path.”
Barela said that after speaking to the worker at the small shop, he learned that loose leaf tea is tea in its natural form. The worker also told him that bag tea, which is the most typical tea form in the U.S., has a very small amount of leaves in it.
He began to sell the tea at his perfume shop, and people began going into the store to buy the tea rather than the perfume. Barela said that it created a following, and people began wanting more.
When Red Velvet Cupcakes left the space that Scented Leaf is in now, Barela took the opportunity to move there and make his new idea of a tea house a reality. He said that in the beginning, he had no idea how to make tea or how it worked. However, after a lot of research and trial and error, he became a self-taught “tearista.”
Barista and shift manager Elisabeth Kittrell, who has worked at Scented Leaf for about three years, said that her favorite part of the job is testing her creativity with all the different drink options.
“We have a lot of different options that accommodate different groups of people, whereas chain drink places you just have what they make and that’s that,” Kittrell said. “We’re different — there’s nothing like us out there.”
Barela said that he always knew he wanted to have his own business. As a small child, he had lemonade stands and also sold candy and fireworks to his friends. He has great experience in the customer service business from being in positions such as a server, a restaurant manager and a real estate agent.
“I think that our service is gonna be different than 95% of stores out there; we’re more of a personalized service,” Barela said. “Everything is so easy for people nowadays that I think they forget about the personalized service and people asking them what they actually want.”
Scented Leaf employee Hanaã Obeidat has been working at the store for a little over four years now. Obeidat said that when she first applied to the job her freshman year, she thought that it would just be like any other job. However, she said she “ended up finding a home” alongside a place to work.
“My coworkers and my boss, Shane, have really become a second family to me and everyday at work feels like hanging out with your closest friends,” Obeidat said through text. “I love the leaf and everyone who comes in.”
Scented Leaf sells tea, coffee, loose leaf tea pouches, accessories, baked goods and CBD products. Its loose leaf tea comes from places all around the world.
Jessica Muiseke-Wilkison, a barista and tea alchemist at Scented Leaf, has been working there the longest of all the baristas. She said next month will be her six year anniversary working there. Muiseke-Wilkison said that she started going to Scented Leaf as a freshman and soon became a regular because she loved the positive energy in the store.
“When I got hired, I remembered how many times this place made me happy, and I try to give that happiness and safe place to anyone that comes in,” Muiseke-Wilkison said.
Barela said that he feels like the store is now an “extension of the college.” He said people can go there to study, to make friends, to improve health and to be in a safe place. He said that Scented Leaf is “a piece of himself that he is putting out there for others to experience.”
“If people haven’t experienced us, they should check us out,” Barela said. “Don’t be intimidated by the wall of tea. Watch what happens after this first experience — we listen.”
Scented Leaf has two locations, the first one on University Boulevard and the newest one on Congress Street. The University location is open Sunday through Monday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Sunday Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The downtown location is open all week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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