Ten years ago, Stacie Cates gave up her almost-daily cups of Starbucks coffee and decided to just have tea.
Cates said she became hooked on black dragon pearl tea because of the smoothness of its flavor.
“I will just add milk and a little bit of honey,” Cates said. “It has a great color, taste and smell.”
Six weeks ago, Cates brought her love of tea to Denton and opened Amitea, pronounced “amity,” intended to suggest “a place to nourish friendships over tea.”
“My father was a business owner and I always thought I would be, too, but I thought it was just a dream,” said Cates, 48, a first-time entrepreneur, wife and parent of three children.
Cates said her 984-square-foot location — the previous home of Exclusive Hair Design salon on Locust Street — was the right place to build her tea emporium.
In addition to a diverse variety of black, green, herbal and mate teas, Cates offers Teaccinos, an Amitea special blend of cream, sugar and ice. She also sells teapots, treats and accessories such as tea presses and tea makers. The idea is not only to experience tea at her shop, but also learn how to make it properly.
“Tea cannot be made fast. For example, green tea needs to be steeped for three minutes, black tea for five minutes and herbal tea for seven to 10 minutes,” Cates said. “If you steep it longer, it will not taste good.”
Also important is steeping tea at the right temperature. Of course, Cates said, that depends on the tea being used.
Cates swears by the health benefits of tea, especially green tea, which she said helped her 15-year-old son improve his upper respiratory system by drinking just a cup per day.
Tea is helpful for the immune system, and it also helps reduce cardiovascular diseases, instances of heart attacks and stroke and can also impact blood-vessel function and help reduce cholesterol, according to the Tea Association of the USA, a New York-based nonprofit that lists the health benefits of tea on its website.
Cates’ husband, Scott, said his wife spent a lot of time doing research about tea and tea shops, selecting the kinds of accessories she could use for her shop and also negotiating deals with suppliers.
He described his wife as naturally optimistic and with a personality fit for a tea-themed business.
“She is a people person, a natural host and very creative,” he said.
Part of the research Stacie Cates conducted also included tea tasting.
Janet Spector, Stacie Cates’ sister-in-law, said the entire family was called to offer their suggestions on the best blends.
“She would have trial runs and have us come in and try them,” Spector said.
Cates also called on family and friends to help create the shop’s flooring, made of more than 200 puzzles — an idea inspired by finding puzzles put together by her father, David Spector.
“My father passed away in October and he was a puzzle-doer. He had three puzzles he had already put together [before he passed], so we used those to start our floor,” Cates said.
Cates also found another 50 puzzles inside a closet of her dad’s home. And to honor him, the puzzles would become part of her business.
“But when it was time to put the puzzles on the floor, she realized she did not have enough,” said Pam Norman, Cates’ best friend for more than 10 years.
Cates went to Target, Hobby Lobby and other stores to get more puzzles. She found bigger puzzle pieces, enough to complete the back-end floor of the business. Then she asked family and friends to help her put them together through “puzzle parties.”
The Amitea floor contains puzzle images of the Denton Courthouse, The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy Gale, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang, Disney princesses, the Statue of Liberty and even the Roman Coliseum.
Cates’ favorite puzzle is a vintage Snoopy, located near the center of the tea shop. It was a puzzle she used to play with as a kid, she said. Another is of Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for the castle at Disneyland, located at the front entrance.
“It is a 2,000-piece puzzle. My dear friend Elizabeth did this all on her own,” Cates said.
The puzzle floor, containing four layers of epoxy coating and a coat of wax, took two months to put together, mostly because the epoxy coating placed over the puzzles needed 24 hours to dry.
“That was our biggest struggle. It was getting the contractors out here each time to come and put the epoxy on,” Cates said.
In addition to selling tea and tea-themed items, Amitea also features local art and local products such as raw honey.
Norman said after listening to her friend dream of opening a shop for years, it was exciting to see it become a reality.
“She has a passion for it,” Norman said. “She wanted to build a place where people can come in and relax, and where she can chat with them and could get to know them.”
Karina Ramírez can be reached at 940-566-6878. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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■ 708 N. Locust St.