Looking for a new spot to grab your morning coffee or tea, grab a bite ot get some work done?
Urbal Tea Co. Cafe, which opened in late July at 3060 S. 13th St., offers a zen-like setting that’s perfect for perusing the morning paper, hosting a meeting or gathering with friends thanks to its beautiful environs, extensive tea menu and small cafe menu.
The cafe, located in the Crystal Corridor (long known as the Paloma neighborhood) not only fills a void in the South Side market, but hopes to draw new customers to the area.
Cafe & retail shop
“It’s great to have a space where people can come in, visit, sit down and enjoy our tea, as well as stop in and buy from our retail shop,” says Nick Nowaczyk, who began blending herbal tisanes and selling them through small local shops in 2012.
He started the business, he says, after realizing that there was plenty of room for improvement in the herbal tea products currently in the market.
“Most herbal teas are virtually flavorless,” he says. “They’re in bags and the herbs are often lower quality. We wanted to create teas that were not only more flavorful, but also higher quality.”
Nowaczyk’s blends, which run the gamut from caffeine-free antioxidant rich selections like vanilla rooibos and lemon mango to wellness blends (Herbal Cold Care, Brain Booster) and apothecary blends (Skin Deep, Stress Out), which support overall health with targeted herbal formulas, took off. By 2014, he established a larger commercial kitchen in West Allis, allowing him to increase production and expand his offerings.
But the new cafe represents a milestone for the business, which combines a tea production facility with a public facing cafe and retail shop where customers can both purchase and enjoy Urbal Tea.
Find your zen
The building, which was formerly a vacant city-owned property, was restored with help from Ryan Patee of Patee Group and transformed into a bright welcoming cafe with bright West-facing windows and varied plant-filled seating areas.
In the cafe, guests can sample any number of Urbal Tea Co.’s 25 botanical blends (which range from light and fruity to fuller bodied and spicy) that range from fruity to spicy. All include high quality, fresh seasonal herbs, some of which are sourced locally. The lion’s share are also caffeine free, with the exception of items like sport tea and yerba-based blends. They are also available packaged as loose tea or (new for Urbal) in packs of plant-based compostable tea bags.
Popular blends include selections like Brain booster (blueberry, mint, sage) and Stress Out (a calming tisane of ginger, vanilla, turmeric). But guests will also find newer offerings in the shop, including Milworks Spice, a drinkable blend of mulling spices that can also be used to flavor cider or wine, along with mugs and a variety of tea-brewing equipment.
“We all need to drink liquids, so you might as well drink something with health benefits,” notes Nowaczyk. “And teas are a a great way to get antioxidants, trace minerals and other beneficial nutrients.”
In tandem, the cafe menu features a wide range of teas, from traditional black, green and white varieties to single botanical and blended herbal teas along with specialty drinks which run the gamut from standards like turmeric chai lattes to lattes made with nettles or mushrooms. Coffee and coffee drinks (with beans sourced from Big Shoulder Coffee in Chicago and Lake Geneva Coffee Roasters) are also available, along with healthy booster shots including ginger, Wisconsin ginseng, elderberry, astragalus root and matcha.
Guests can also choose from a menu of breakfast pastries (cinnamon rolls, scones and muffins) and bagels, along with housemade breakfast burrito and quesadillas. Moving forward, Nowaczyk says they will be adding items like seasonal soups, sandwiches and salads.
There’s even a kids’ corner where the younger set can entertain themselves with puzzles or host make believe tea parties.
“Opening the cafe has been really exciting for us,” says Nowaczyk. “It’s a new turn on our journey, and it’s felt really great to welcome people into our space.”
And Nowaczyk says they will be rolling out even more ways for guests to enjoy the cafe, including live music and arts programming. Moving forward, he plans to extend the cafe's hours to accommodate happy hour a couple of nights a week. The Urbal Tea Cafe space is also open to be rented for events (currently, the space is on offer to groups for free).
Urbal Tea Co. Cafe is currently 9 a.m. to 3 p.m seven days a week.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.