Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 10/18/16
Although many of us in New Jersey chug down cup after cup of coffee to get through the day, in other countries, busy people go for coffee’s much more healthful sibling — tea.
Stephen Bonsu of Hillsborough has always been one of those people.
“I became a tea drinker long ago because coffee has a negative effect on my system — I’m energetic and I crash quickly,” he said. “I was always looking for a place to go that was tea-focused, since tea people have always been subject to coffeehouses which usually only have three or four types of tea and it isn’t good quality.”
Bonsu shied away from many of the typical Victorian-style tea houses because he found them to be too formal and dated. Instead, he searched for a place that would be more modern and relaxing. He found it — by opening his own shop, Teylev Café and Lounge, at 37 W. Main St. on the corner of Division Street.
The tea lounge, which opened on Oct. 2, offers about 30 types of tea, including some from China, Japan, Taiwan, India, Ethiopia, South Africa and the Caribbean islands with teas such as black tea, oolong tea, green tea, white tea, herbal tea and dark tea. Prices range from $3.38 for an eight-ounce cup to $4.15 for a 16-ounce cup, while loose-leaf teas range from $7 to over $30, depending on weight and type.
Teylev will also be offering seasonal teas, such as its current candy apple.
“Teas that you get from the supermarket are old, and really, it’s the loose-leaf tea that has the rich content of amino acids and antioxidants that your body needs,” said Bonsu. “This kind of tea can help your body fight diseases, regulate your heart rate and keep you alert but relaxed, unlike coffee.”
Bonsu said that within the last few years, he has seen tea grow in popularity because people are becoming more health conscious. Plus, according to Beth Anne Macdonald, executive director of the Downtown Somerville Alliance, Teylev’s addition to the borough — its first tea-specific shop — is part of a new trend of artisanal stores.
“What we are seeing is the growth of the authentic experience which is part of the transformation in Somerville,” she said. “There is a very particular aesthetic that can be found in local shops such as Three Hearts Home, Shades of Somerville and more. People are looking for something unique as well as products that are more fresh and local.”
Bonsu said that he chose to open his shop in Somerville because it is the “center of Central Jersey,” and since he has lived in the area for over 10 years, he has seen it transform while maintaining diversity and a mix of cultures, which is what he wants to see in his shop.
Teylev Café and Lounge, which is housed inside what was previously Tino’s Hair Salon, will be holding its grand-opening celebration in early November. So far, Bonsu has been happy with the response — he said that he has been getting five-star reviews online and has heard that people like the welcoming atmosphere and, of course, his tea selection.
“This has been a really exciting transformation to watch,” said Macdonald. “Tea is becoming very popular with both baby boomers and millennials, so I think that this speaks tremendously to Stephen’s vision.”
Teylev Cafe and Lounge
Where: 37 W. Main St. (on the corner of West Main and Division Street)
Contact: 908-864-4242, teylev.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday