Years ago, Baltimore residents Eric and Lynnette Dodson were thinking of new business concepts when they settled on the idea of opening a teahouse. “We had switched to tea as a lifestyle choice,” says Eric, who is also the manager of Baltimore County Public Schools television. “We were looking for ways to cut out the sugary beverages, the juices and the carbonated beverages.”
After learning that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, the couple was sold on the idea. “We thought, ‘How cool would it be if we brought this to our community?’” says Eric.
In 2015, the cleverly named Cuples Tea was born as an online teahouse and wholesaler selling tea to the likes of local spots such as Harmony Bakery and Fishnet. Last November, they opened a bricks-and-mortar location alongside several other health-oriented businesses on the same block of Howard Street.
“It’s important for us to be here as a Black-owned business,” says Lynnette. “Howard Street used to be a great place for shopping and that went away for a long time. We’re happy this block of Howard Street is leading the charge.”
“We like to rave about the health benefits of tea,” says Eric. “We just want to share that with as many people in the Black community as possible, to help cut down on the disparity of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease—so many in our community are drinking our calories and that’s fueling those issues. We said, ‘Let’s educate people about tea and all of the medicinal benefits that come along with drinking it.’”
Tell me about your teas.
“We have somewhere around 56 types of tea,” says Lynnette. “We now have nine teas that are blended in-house. The others are sourced. We have teas from Taiwan, India, South Africa, China, Japan, and Sri Lanka, literally all over the world.”
Why did you want to open in downtown Baltimore?
“It was important for us to open in the city. We have food deserts and convenience stores on every other corner,” says Eric. “We wanted to drop a teahouse in the middle of Baltimore City and say, ‘Come on in and try this tea.’”
What does your tagline “the Urban Tea Experience” mean?
“You have traditional elements of tea that people relate tea back to—the lace, the doilies, the gloves, the hats,” says Lynnette, “but we want to present it in a way that is not intimidating.” Adds Eric, “It’s such a cultural beverage, but it’s also communal. It forces you to slow down—you have to wait for the water to boil, the tea to steep, then cool. In those moments that’s where you make the connection with someone—that was always the goal of the physical space, to experience some good music, some cultural vibes, and some tea.”