Did you know that January is Hot Tea Month? We sat down with Daniel Benoudiz, founder of Small Tea in Coral Gables, Florida. Sipping some of his favorite teas from all corners of the earth, we learned about his entrepreneurial journey and what inspires his mission to create a modern sanctuary for customers.
An entrepreneur at heart, Daniel came from his native Venezuela 10 years ago and first launched a technology-driven company with his brother to help match services with employees. After the company took its course, he followed his true passion and created his tea shop and restaurant, which now celebrates five successful years.
“It’s you against yourself to fulfill your passion. I’m inspired by Lin Yutang: There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”Daniel Benoudiz, Founder, Small Tea
Daniel set out to create an elegant and humble place and did just that with Small Tea; not small in size or ideations, but defined by small humanizing gestures.
What inspired you to create Small Tea?
Simply put, I’ve just always loved tea. I wanted to take my business experience into something that was true to me and my passion. To that end, Small Tea represents the idea of slowing down from high performance lives. In other words, a place to disconnect in order to reconnect. Its a place coupled with the tea and menu complements, and an environment that creates a space where the mind can wander, rather than march. Because of my travels throughout the world, it inspired me to bring this global tea culture right here to Coral Gables.
You curate everything from your teas to the food to the music playing. Can you tell us about your experiences?
At Small Tea, we bring the world to our customers. My experiences become their own individual experience from the moment a customer walks in, be it a work break, after the gym or coming from the theater. Everything here is developed with mindfulness, including where and how we place an item within the overall architecture of the restaurant and tea store. Most important, I believe in always learning and incorporating these learnings because this ensures that we are always evolving. Our customers certainly appreciate that.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to open a restaurant/store?
At Small Tea we offer 120 teas, each with its own unique characteristic. Customers many times can find this overwhelming, however, we help guide their selection through a series of questions to select their tea choice. Meanwhile, this allows for conversation and personal connections, which is consistent with our concept. We are more about the human-factor than automation. But the most important thing is to have consistency, whatever your restaurant or store may be.
What has been one of your proudest moments?
I am most proud and appreciative of the people I’ve met along the way, for instance partners that helped bring my vision for Small Tea to life. It’s amazing to me the people I’ve connected with, friends I’ve made and love found. In fact, many couples I know have met or had first dates here, including me and my girlfriend.
What is your personal or professional motto?
It’s you against yourself to fulfill your passion. I’m especially inspired by the Chinese inventor and philosopher, Lin Yutang. He shared, “There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”
What is your personal favorite tea and why?
I don’t have a favorite, I love them all because of their own individuality of aromas and flavors. It really depends on my mood. For instance, right now we are enjoying a Jin Jun Mei from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Province, China. This tea is one of the most labor intensive and demanding to produce. It has a thick full texture and a beautiful elegance. At Small Tea, all our teas transport you to be gloriously unproductive and unapologetically alive.