As soon as Joelle Lee Silcox leaves Novel Tea, she’s already planning her next visit and the next thing she wants to order from the menu. “In the midst of busy and bustling Fort Lauderdale, Novel Tea stands out as a place to gather your thoughts, grab a quick delicious bite, and receive the best service in South Florida! Not only will you have a difficult time deciding which delectable to try, but once you taste the first bite of whatever you have painstakingly chosen, you will transcend into sheer bliss,” she wrote on Novel Tea’s Facebook page.
Opened in August of 2015 by Ray Delgado and Todd Bowe, Novel Tea, 2043 Wilton Drive, feels much like a traditional independent coffee shop. There are sacks of coffee beans on the floor, comfortable couches and seats, local art on the walls, and plenty of books on shelves and stacked on the floor, which can be read or borrowed.
Some of the books are even used to prop up one of the couches, in lieu of its lost leg – those are probably the only books customers can’t borrow. “It’s a very odd couch,” said Bowe with a laugh. The leg came off one day when the couch was being moved for a special event. “We got a couple books [under it] and called it a day,” said Delgado.
Novel Tea serves craft beer, wine, – “if you need to get your drink on,” said Bowe –
and coffee, including a special Cuban-style café con leche made by “true Cuban” Delgado. But, unlike a coffee house, tea is what Delgado and Bowe specialize in.
The married partners, who live in FAT Village in Fort Lauderdale, serve 40 different kinds of
loose leaf teas – greens, blacks, reds, herbal, boba tea, and bubble tea. On Yelp’s “Best Bubble Tea in Fort Lauderdale” review, Novel Tea was the only business to get a full five stars. It also got five stars for “Best Tea in Fort Lauderdale” and “Best Boba Tea in Fort Lauderdale.”
If “reds” makes the tea sound a little like varietals of wine, Delgado said there’s a whole culture of tea lovers who take their passion just as seriously as wine lovers do. The origin of the tea leaves includes Brazil, Kenya, and Costa Rica. “Our organic tea is certified in New York.”
The coffee beans come from Argyle Coffee Roasters in Flagler Village. “You’re always getting the freshest roast,” Delgado said.
To avoid the impurities of city water, Novel Tea uses bottled water in the brewing process. “Even the ice is filtered. We try to keep it as pure as we can,” Bowe said. “We try to get as much organic as we can. Our organic teas are certified in New York,” he added.
Customers looking for a bite to go with their tea or coffee, can order breads, cookies, muffins, tarts, empanadas, quiches, scones, a hummus pizza, and other menu items – all made by a pastry chef. “Items you won’t find [served] by our neighbors,” Bowe said. He added that Novel Tea won’t sell the same items as the other businesses in the same shopping center because there’s a sense of cooperation and goodwill that he and Delgado want to foster and be a part of.
They also want to be a part of the charitable giving many Wilton Manors business owners take part in.
The two say charitable events are held regularly at their business. Last month, they partnered with Hunters Nightclub to raise $720 each for Wilton Manors Elementary School. Novel Tea raises the money through a tip jug they put on the counter. “We call this our growler,” said Delgado as he grabs one of the jugs. They’ve also donated to SunServe, Kids In Distress, Women In Distress, Everglades Angels, a dog rescue organization, and others.
Novel Tea is also host to regular special events, including local musicians performing.
Delgado and Bowe were inspired to start Novel Tea to spend more time together and to work closer to home. “We said ‘do we really want to be in our 80s and regret not doing this?’” Bowe said. Originally, opening in FAT Village was the plan but no space that was appropriate opened-up. Inspired by their shared love of photography, Bowe and Delgado also wanted to create a photography studio/tea shop, but decided it was better to focus on the tea.
As a nod to their previous plans, the works of local artists are featured on the walls. It’s also part of the feeling of home the two wanted to create for customers.
“You get the same service here as if you were in our home,” Delgado said. So, don’t be afraid to put your feet up and get comfortable. “This is a place of love and karma. There are no TVs. This is a little respite from all that,” Bowe said.