Calabash Tea & Tonic Sets Table for Expansion

Black Business

by: Lenore T. Adkins Special to the AFRO
/ (Courtesy Photos) /

“Hard earned and hard won” is a phrase D.C. herbalist Sunyatta Amen often uses to describe how she found success at Calabash Tea & Tonic, a sanctuary offering dozens of teas and tonic shots purporting to boost sexual performance, make you fall in love, ease anxiety and more.

Sunyatta Amen is founder and owner of Calabash Tea & Tonic in Shaw area and is preparing to open a new location in Brookland.

After nearly three years of tending to Shaw’s needs at 1847 7th Street NW, the fifth-generation herbalist is opening a second teashop in Brookland, hopefully by May 8, a day marking her birthday and the Shaw shop’s third anniversary.

Amen sees herself as offering a third option to people who consume legal addictive stimulants in the morning and legal addictive depressants at night.

“So it’s coffee in the morning, liquor at night,” said Amen, who lives in Brookland. “And we want to be that alternative, that third answer. It’s not A or B, it’s the third answer sometimes.”

As the Northeast D.C. neighborhood continues to transition, Amen is getting into Brookland to offer the same programs to residents before the gentrification really ramps up.

The site of the future Calabash Tea & Tonic opening in Brookland.

“What you have to do is install those beacons of light for people where they can come and decompress, where everyone is welcome, where people can pop in and feel better about their job, their mission, their life, take a breath,” Amen said. “We’ve had people come in (the Shaw shop) for their first dates and we’ve had people come in here after their houses have burned down.”

The new space is 900 square feet, just 50 square feet larger than her Shaw location. But her Brookland digs will include a patio with a garden of medicinal plants and culinary herbs.

Amen said she’ll continue developing her partnership with Cultivate the City, an organization that teaches kids how to grow herbs. She said she envisions children building planter boxes and inviting the community to a sip and plant. She expects to hire eight employees, the same number of people working in her Shaw location. Amen said she will continue her commitment to hiring single moms, veterans and returning citizens.

Amen will serve the Brookland community through programming that encourages women in shelters to take classes on tea, herb blending, natural skin and body care — a program she’ll continue maintaining at her Shaw location. Amen aims to reconnect people to their community and turn them into healers.

“This is a thinly disguised apothecary in a community space,” Amen said of her business. “We want them to know that this is their neighborhood and that they belong here.”

Amen’s tea blends are organic and rooted in her Cuban-Jamaican great-grandmother’s formulas. Her parents ran a store similar to her tonic shop near the world-famous Apollo Theater in Harlem —her shop in Shaw is just blocks away from the Howard Theater.

The Brookland teahouse will be located at 2701 12th Street NE and it’ll be open from 9am to 8pm. Like the location in Shaw, it will offer coffee, baked goods, pastries and other small things to savor.