Cafe Aiello and Zoka Tea

It's always great to read reviews about our customers, and their experience with Zoka's coffee and tea. Katrina at The Tea Pages sent us this great review of one of our customers, Cafe Aiello, who serves Zoka Coffee and Tea. If you have the chance, check out the blog or visit Teapages.net and gain some wonderful knowledge. Congratulations to Cafe Aiello, and thank you Katrina! Katrinas post starts here: What a find. I am always thrilled to find new tea locations that aren't too far from home. I've driven by Cafe Aiello (30 Gorham Street, Lowell), which opened in 2006, so many times and never stopped in. It's not in the easiest location - on a busy corner with very few parking spots. A local moms' group I occasionally attend had been going there over the winter so I'd been meaning to stop by. According to the press release, the two owners are former Starbucks managers who sought to open a coffee house that uses hand roasted beans and shuns automatic coffee machines. From the outside I would have thought that it was a little hole in the wall kind of place. I couldn't have been more wrong. The front room is large and airy with big windows and comfortably spaced tables. There was a mix of upholstered furniture and black chairs and tables. (The press release from the "Lowell Sun" about its opening noted that the couch is called the "Chandler couch" after the character on "Friends.") The place felt cozy and warm even on a dreary, rainy day. There were mostly 4-top tables and one larger rectangular table that seemed popular for business meetings. Actually, the free WIFI has apparently made this a big spot for morning meetings, but it didn't feel stuffy or uncomfortable even with a toddler and an infant. The second room housed the food/beverage counter - a large, nicely done black bar, along with a couple of leather chairs. There was a nice selection of salads, sandwiches, panini, and more offered. For coffee and tea they use Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Co. out of Seattle. Cafe Aiello has sample jars of each of their teas so that you can view and smell the dry leaf to make your selection. A nice touch. Even nicer, there were 22 teas and tisanes on the menu. Hooray! The person at the counter was very friendly and offered to help out with suggestions if I needed. I ordered the Ti Quan Yin. You can order by cup (a variety of sizes available) or teapot. They use fillable tea bags so they add the appropriate amount of leaf to match your cup size. (Unlike many places that just use a standard size bag.) I felt they used a very generous amount of leaf for this cup. As usual, there was no clock here so I did have to guess on brewing time, but I've been getting better at that. This tea had a beautiful nutty/smoky aroma and flavor. It was an excellent oolong. My only complaint was that the tea bag was very tightly tied leaving very little room for expansion of the leaves. The bag looked like it was ready to burst when I took it out of the cup! I think they should put the knot much higher up to make it roomier for those poor little tea leaves. But all in all it was a great tea. I only wish I had had time to stay for another infusion. At the end of my visit I had a few minutes to talk with the owner, Aaron Dettori. He couldn't have been friendlier. He talked to me about the shop and about Zoka. He told me that he's hoping to have some tea tastings in the future so I'll look forward to that. He also gave me a list of all the teas that are available at the shop and said he sold loose leaf and could special order as well. I highly recommend Cafe Aiello if you're in the area. If you can't get a space in the lot, there are meters on the street. (At 25 cents/half hour it's a bargain.) Definitely worth a visit. Teas available at Cafe Aiello: Black - Assam Satrupa TGFOP, Darjeeling Tiger Hill TGFOP, Lychee, Irish Breakfast, Keemun, Sri Lanka Ruhuna OP, Earl Grey, and English Breakfast. Green, Japanese - Genmaicha, Kyoto Sencha Green, China - Jasmine Green, Lung Ching (Dragon Well) Green, Indian - Darjeeling Ambootia Green Oolong - Oolong Standard, Ti Quan Yin Tisanes - Chamomile, Haiku 575 Blend, Lavender Blend, Peppermint, Rooibos, Zoka Chai (rooibos), Zoka Way