A frequent complaint of Cuenca tourists and expats is that they can’t find the tea they were accustomed to back home. Although Ecuadorians have a long tradition as tea drinkers, most of the local brews come from native plants of the Andes and surrounding lowlands.
Mónica Malo, owner of the new Amatea tea shop in Millenium Plaza, aims to satisfy the unserved market for foreign, primarily Asian, teas that are popular in Europe, the UK and North America. “The indigenous teas are wonderful and foreigners enjoy many of them,” she says. “On the other hand people from outside of Ecuador, and some Ecuadorians too, have a preference for teas popular in other parts of the world.”
The Cuenca Amatea store, the fourth franchise of the Quito-based company of the same name, offers 85 varieties of imported teas including Assam Morning, Earl Grey, Darjeeling Himilaya, Ceylon Op, Chai Naranja and Darjeeling Margaret Hope.
Malo understands that her venture has risks, considering the tastes of the local population. “I know that the demand may be low now, but I believe it is growing and that foreigners will be especially interested in the new tea choices,” she says. She also believes that many of the Ecuadorians who have lived overseas and returned home to Cuenca will appreciate the access to new flavors.
“I also have an interest in the worldwide trend toward well-being and know there are many people interested in an alternative to coffee,” she says. “The caffeine and acids of coffee aren’t suitable to everyone.” She adds that for those who desire the “caffeine charge,” Amatea offers a number of high-octane teas as well. “We have teas for everyone,” she says.
Malo says she is working the community in hopes of placing her teas in local restaurants and well as with doctors and other health professionals who prescribe teas to patients.
Amatea, which also sells a full line of tea-making accessories, including Japanese tea sets, is located in Millenium Plaza, Av. Jose Peralto at Cornelio Merchan. Hours are Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.