Yelp is all about connecting people with great local businesses, and we recognize that these businesses — led by artisans, doers and creators of all kinds — are the lifeblood of our communities. So we choose a few small biz badasses to spotlight and learn from.
Allow us to introduce: Niraj Lama with Leaf Tea Bar and Happy Earth Tea in Rochester, NY. Leaf Tea Bar and Happy Earth Tea provide a tea haven for the Rochester community and beyond. Niraj branded Happy Earth Tea first, and the opening of Leaf Tea Bar on South Avenue followed soon after.
Niraj and his team serve up both classic and atypical tea varietals, with a focus on authenticity, leaf origin and customer experience.
Where did the idea for Leaf Tea Bar and Happy Earth Tea come from?
“I hail from Darjeeling, India, which is known to connoisseurs as a tea mecca of sorts. Seven years ago, after my wife and I moved to Rochester, I saw the opportunity to share my knowledge of tea with the community.”
This cross cultural mentality and connection bred the name “Happy Earth Tea.” The rich historical background of the beverage, combined with its emotional ties, helps Niraj see unity not only in the Rochester community but also worldwide.
What inspires you?
“I put all of my business’ success back into my patrons and regulars. One day I was dealing with a broken kettle and a packed bar. Just as I was about to apologetically send everyone home, one of my regulars came back with his own teapot from his home.”
This kind of support and understanding keeps him inspired every day and reminds him why his business truly embodies all things “happy.”
When did you finally feel like you “made it”?
Leaf Tea Bar was featured on CNN’s “11 of the world’s best tea houses” list in February 2017. This national recognition boosted business and also gave Niraj access to a new customer base.
A wide range of people from across the state and region came out to have a cup of tea and experience the business for themselves. They were met by Niraj’s humble attitude and commitment to service, which keeps the business thriving.
What’s next for Leaf Tea Bar?
The possibilities are endless, but Niraj said he looks forward to expanding his retail offerings, looking into pop-ups and maybe even an additional storefront.
Leaf Tea Bar also took part in Yelp’s Autumn Adventures, which included tea tasting and tutorials on terroir and steeping techniques. Read more on that experience here.
By Megan Colombo, Yelp Rochester Marketing Assistant