By Katie Byard Akron Beacon Journal
Originally Posted Wednesday, 10 March 2021 via Akron Beacon Journal
Photo: Mike Cardew, Akron Beacon Journal
This tiny shop was born of the pandemic and love of tea.
Jeewaka Costa opened the Mani-Kitchen Tea Shop 2Health 4Life, offering 120 varieties of its own brand of loose tea — last fall at 978 Kenmore Boulevard in Akron’s Kenmore neighborhood.
The shop offers a dizzying array of tea types and flavors — from the traditional English Breakfast to Lemon Meringue herbal tea to Toasted Hazelnut Crunch black tea.
There are more than a dozen flavored green teas, including Lavender Clouds Over Ohio.
The shop also sells custom made glass tea cups and tea pots with the ManiKitchen logo on them, as well as spoon tea infusers and other tea ware.
The shop does not offer prepared tea.
Tea fan Costa, who is from Sri Lanka, a top-producer of tea, was laid off from his aircraft maintenance job last spring amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that hit the airline industry hard.
Months later in September, Costa and his wife, Pradeepa — both of whom grew up drinking tea in Sri Lanka — opened the shop.
“Without COVID, we never would have thought of having this shop,” said Jeewaka’s 13-year-old son, Suvik Costa, at the shop one recent afternoon.
During the ongoing pandemic, he and his sister, Sadali, 12, have been attending school remotely, often logging on to their computers at the ManiKitchen Tea Shop.
They set up in a small space behind the ManiKitchen counter.
The couple’s daughter Sithu, 4, attends pre-school.
“COVID has brought us together,”
Jeewaka Costa said. He noted that he previously commuted to Indiana from the family’s home in Stow to work in aircraft maintenance.
He has a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics from Kent State University. Pradeepa Costa also received her bachelor’s degree — in education — from Kent State. She also has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Akron. The ManiKitchen name is a riff on her nickname, Manik.
Jeewaka Costa owns the shop space, having bought the property in 2016. He had leased it out for a time, but it has been vacant for several months.
Cup of comfort
He had long wanted to do something entrepreneurial. Selling tea amid the pandemic made sense, he thought, what with people concerned about their health and wanting the comfort of a cup of tea.
The tea is produced offsite, with Jeewaka Costa working with a friend of his father’s who has experience in the tea industry.
Photo: Mike Cardew, Akron Beacon Journal
Costa, like many other tea lovers, praises the potential health benefits of tea. Researchers say tea may offer some health benefits, including fighting depression and inflammation, as well as offering potential immune boosting properties. A review of studies published last year in the Advances in Nutrition Journal said drinking tea daily may be associated with lower cardiovascular disease. Costa said his family members have for years combined Sri Lankan herbal medicine with Ceylon teas made famous by the British Empire. Ceylon — now called Sri Lanka — gained its independence from British rule in 1948.
Many types of teas
The ManiKitchen Tea Shop is steeped in tea.
Dozens of varieties of loose tea — packaged in 4-ounce sealed containers — fill shelves that line the hop’s two side walls, as well as shelves running through the middle of the room.
The teas are organized by type — green, chai, rooibos (a red tea popularized in South Africa), white, purple (very low in caffeine), herbal and others.
Among black teas, there are traditional blends, such as Earl Grey (Mani-Kitchen calls its version Earl Grey Supreme), English Breakfast and Russian Caravan (a blend of oolong tea — a Chinese tea baked in the sun) and other teas.
There also are 20 flavored black teas, including Amaretto, Belgian Chocolate, Pomegranate, Ginger Peach and Mango Ceylon.
Next to the tins of each kind of tea is a small glass jar with a flip lid that contains a small amount of the tea. This way, customers can smell before buying.
A spot of tea trivia: Black tea, green tea, oolong tea and white teas are all made from the cured or fresh leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Tea producers control the level of oxidation in processing the leaves; green tea is made from leaves that are not as oxidized as those used to make black tea. Oolong tea is somewhere between green and black teas in oxidation.
Herbal tea is technically not tea, but rather a concoction of fruit, flowers, spices or leaves steeped in water. The popular chamomile tea is made with flowers from the daisy-like chamomile plant.
Available online, at area businesses
All of ManiKitchen’s teas can be purchased online at www.manikitchen.com.
ManiKitchen teas also are available at Cafe O’Play in Stow, Olive My Heart in Hudson and Stahl’s Bakery in Kent.
Organizations such as sports teams and Scout troops also can sell the tea to raise funds, Jeewaka Costa said.
Soon, the Costas will introduce the makings for kola kenda at the shop. It’s a Sri Lankan herbal leaf porridge (which includes rice and coconut) that some people say has healing properties. It also will be sold in a 4-ounce tin.
Jeewaka Costa hopes to land another job in airline maintenance. He would keep the tea shop and employ someone to oversee the shop.
He thinks fate led him to opening the place and introducing people to tea.
“God has not given us a bad situation,” he said. “Everything happens for a perfectly good reason.”
The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Sometime in April, the hours will change to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.