When Tama Tea founders Rocco Quaranto and Kelly and Wells Struble opened their first location in The Forum in early 2016, they set out to operate a retail tea shop with a small area to enjoy their signature beverages. Although they had a small menu of tartines and baked goods, the primary focus was on the tea.
But as time went on, the owners began to observe that customers were brining in food from other restaurants to eat while they enjoyed their tea at lunchtime. It was at that point that they decided it was time to expand their menu and shift their focus to operating as a cafe.
Fortunately they were able to call on Lawrence Perkins, manager of Tama Tea in Chapel Hill (and the soon-to-open Raleigh location), to help develop the menu. Perkins is a culinary school graduate and was one of the original partners in the Asheville Sandwich Company in 2012.
“All of Lawrence’s sandwiches are both unique and delicious,” Rocco Quaranto said.
Two of the sandwiches Quaranto said have been most popular so far are the Himalayan chicken with fire-roasted chicken, basil pesto, pickled onions and lime crema, and the Masala pork with smoked pork, hummus, roasted red peppers and cilantro.
Quaranto said that Perkins has also expanded the breakfast selections to include items such as banana cakes with homemade blueberry syrup and a sunrise sandwich with egg, roasted red pepper, tomato, spinach and sunflower spread on ciabatta.
With the shift in focus, Quaranto and the Strubles felt it was appropriate to change the name to Tama Cafe. While they will still carry 90 percent of the loose-leaf teas they started out with, as well as their signature hot and cold beverages, Quaranto said the new name indicates that they are more than just a tea shop.
“It’s really our customers who have really led us in this direction and we’ve done our very best to respond to that,” Quaranto said.
With the expanded menu, Tama Cafe now offers catering as well as dine-in and carryout service.
Tama Tea is open 8 a.m.to 8 p.m. daily and is located in The Forum at 1127 Military Cutoff Road, Suite C.
Have a tip for Restaurant Roundup? Email [email protected].