You wouldn’t think tea would be served from a martini shaker. So watching Carolyn Poncato vigorous shakes the silver metal capsule, before pouring a cold mixture —ice cold organic pomegranete rasberry tea — into your shot glass may throw you off.
Whether brewing red tea infused with fresh lemongrass or green tea with toasted brown rice that tastes like popcorn, Poncato is brewing something big at her new cafe Vitale A Tea in downtown Riverhead.
The tea store on East Main Street will open Saturday, though it will only provide samples during its first weekend. Based on the concept of a wine tasting bar, the cafe offers seating where customers can enjoy a pot of hot fresh brewed tea, sip cold iced teas or try flights of different teas.
“Everybody comes out here for wine tastings, but there’s a lot of us that don’t drink,” she said. “So why not be able to come out and do something that’s relaxing and peaceful and you can leave and not worry about the police?”
Vitale A Tea is the final destination of a long, difficult journey that Poncato, a former property manager from Jamesport, has been on for the last few years.
After the death of her mother, Poncato went through a divorce before being diagnosed with breast cancer. Dealing with the pain and grief of her mother’s death was the first step in a new direction, she said.
“I couldn’t get off the couch for weeks, then a friend gave me a red tea,” Poncato said. “Red tea is high in anti-oxidants. She also gave me silver needles tea for wrinkles, because I was stressed out and rose hips for vitamin C, because I kept feeling sick.”
Poncato said over time, the teas helped her feel better and helped her deal with her depression and sadness, without drugs. “I was able to feel with clarity because red tea is very mentally supportive.”
She’s now a yoga instructor and follower of Ayurveda, which she describes as holistic healing through the five senses. Poncato wants to bring that awareness to Vital A Tea.
“In Ayurveda, we try to keep ourselves connected and enjoy the experience,” she said.
Vitale A Tea will offer several flights of teas. There will be a bakery flight that includes four different pots of teas served with baked goods by Junda’s Pastry Crust and Crumbs. A chocolate flight will incorporate different chocolate bars with the teas. The diversity flight will let customers compare hot and cold versions of several teas.
“People sit down and get little saki cups and get hot and cold tea tastings, which includes a cold shot glass, shaken, not stirred,” Poncato said.
With 30 teas available, loose teas and mixes made to order will be sold, priced per quarter pound.
“There’s all different mixtures and proportions to enhance your mental well being and your connection with yourself. I want children to feel comfortable here and go home with an infuser and incorporate it in their life. Tea is a plant and this is a better activity for teenagers coming home from school, then Starbucks, which is based on sugar and caffeine. While we do have caffeinated teas, we also have non-caffeinated, medicinal and herbal teas.”
Poncato is very passionate about what she is doing and wants to share it.
“I love to meet people,” she said. “I don’t see this as work, I see this as total fun … I’m going to be 52 this year, but I feel like I’m 18. It’s everything, healing through five senses, being connected all around, waking up everyday and saying, ‘OK, I’m here.’ ”
Vitale A Tea is located at 49 East Main Street in Riverhead and will 10:00 am on Saturday and Sunday, serving samples of hot and cold teas. Weekday hours are from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.