When I went to check out Serengeti Teas, two unique things stood out to me before I even entered. One, a smiling and charismatic tea barista stood outside on the sidewalk offering pedestrians free fresh and hot tea samples.
|D. Gordon E. Robertson|
And two, the salon's beautiful entry door is an art piece. The wood and glass are designed in a pattern resembling the spots of a giraffe.
Once I entered the tea salon, a strong smell of fragrance greeted me. The salon is airy and bright with a glistening marble tea bar that gives the space a modern and sleek appearance. The artwork in the décor is evocative of Africa.
We sat at a beautiful long wooden communal table that we shared with other tea drinkers. For my seven year old daughter, the owner recommended the Bassa Blood Orange, a tea blend of rooibos, hibiscus, dried fruits and agave. My daughter took one sip, hummed "yumm!!" and kept drinking until the cup was empty. A few more child friendly elements such as booster seats or kid food items could make this salon appealing to children too.
While I was visiting, a trio of ladies and self-proclaimed tea divas were also on their first inspection of this tea salon. They were thrilled with the salon's décor as well as their tea. One diva, who claimed to be a snob from Brooklyn, said her visit to the Harlem tea salon was well worth the trip uptown.
The owner, Liberian born Doughba H. Caranda-Martin, clearly knows the business and benefits of tea. He can describe his teas – over 450 - based on their distinct flavors and he can expound upon the health benefits that the specific ingredients are reputed to have. He attributes much of his knowledge and love of ingredients to his holistic botanist grandmother. She was his inspiration when he started his organic African tea businesses, the tea sells on Amazon.com (affil.) as the Caranda Fine Foods Brand.
His teas are blended by hand in small batches. Caranda-Martin explains, that machine mixing typically breaks fragile botanicals and thus jeopardizes the zenith of their flavors.. Caranda-Martin creates his tea blends in what he refers to as an “atelier,” which is French for "an artist’s work shop." Which is no surprise because the owner is an accomplished visual artist. He is clearly an accomplished tea blender as well.
Japanese sencha tea drinkers beware! You may fall in love with the Toasted Kenyan Green Sencha – a blend mixed with lavender and cardamom.
 Interview with Doughba H. Caranda Martin, Founder, Caranda Fine Foods, Aired on August 16, 2010, CNN
 Doughba H. Caranda Martin, Dak’Art 2012