By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
While many couples go on dates to the movies or fancy restaurants, Baltimore natives Lynnette and Eric Dodson, dated over tea before they were married. Each time they got together, their dates consisted of hours of conversation over a cup of tea.
It was only natural for the couple to look into running a tea company as a means of earning residual income.
“As we got to know the tea business better, it became for so many other reasons like for health disparities and food deserts. There were so many things that contributed to the decision to do tea,” said Lynnette.
In 2015, Lynnette and Eric opened Cuples Tea House as a mobile and online tea company. Throughout the years, they would attend pop-up shops and farmers markets to sell their loose leaf tea and teaware, while maintaining an online presence to ship their products to customers.
Recently, the Dodsons opened Cuples Tea House’s first brick-and-mortar establishment on Howard Street in Baltimore’s Bromo Arts District. The couple felt ready for the expansion after years of building up their brand and gaining a following.
They landed on this property after winning the Howard Row Small Business Storefront Competition, spearheaded by developer Poverni Sheikh Group and the Market Center Merchants Association, back in 2020. The prize included the storefront, free rent for one year and money toward the buildout.
Although COVID-19 caused delays to the project, the Dodsons persevered. Cuples Tea House offers over 50 different kinds of teas, as well as an array of tea accessories, like reusable tea bag infusers and insulated tumblers.
Cuples Tea House primarily depends on five companies for their tea collection, and the Dodsons have thoroughly vetted these businesses to ensure that they are ethically sourcing their ingredients and using fair trade practices.
“We have paid particular attention to how we’re bringing the teas to our community, so when we do our tastings, we make sure that people are tasting the teas without the sweetener and tasting the teas for what they are,” said Lynnette. “We’re educating people about what these teas can do for you spiritually, mentally and physically.”
Tea education is paramount to the Dodsons. Their mission has evolved into introducing alternatives to the sugary, carbonated beverages that many people tend to drink.
Depending on the type of tea, health benefits include lowering blood pressure, reducing menstrual pain, easing stress, weight loss, muscle recovery and headache relief.
Lynnette and Eric want Cuples Tea House to eventually become an employee-owned business so that it can continue to grow and build wealth for its staff.
At the center of Cuples Tea House is its community focus. The Dodsons want it to be a place where residents connect over tea, authors hold book signings and local politicians engage with the public.
“We want it to be a place where you can come and get inspired by the person sitting at the table next to you,” said Lynnette. “It’s all about the community.”
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