By Elizabeth Corzo
Hidden in a small shopping plaza on Coral Way, situated across FIU, lies a pleasant little cafe named specialTEA Lounge. It’s incredibly easy to pass this small cafe, which I almost did, and would not have found it easily had my gps not notified me I had arrived at my destination.
Once I entered the lounge, the first thing I noticed was the relaxing atmosphere. Browns, greens, and other earthy tones filled the setting, along with fresh flowers and wooden furnishings. Square light fixtures were hanging above, just below white drapery that covered the ceiling in a tasteful manner.
To my left were small tables, couches, books and various board games for entertainment, and a countertop seating area just next to where dishes are returned. Straight ahead were a couple of booths and a flat screen tv with the local news on. The overall ambiance fit the theme they were trying to get across, which is fresh food while being very conscious of their impact on the environment. Whenever possible, specialTEA Lounge purchases organic produce and environment-friendly materials. It’s even noted on their website that they shop for their groceries using their biodiesel-powered vehicle, demonstrating their commitment to being earth-friendly.
As soon as I saw the menu, I thought to myself how well the menu goes with the décor. Staying true to the “earthy” feel, fresh salads, wraps, paninis, numerous teas, etc were neatly written on various black chalkboards. I decided to go with the recommendation my sister suggested, and chose the Chicken Bacon Ranch Panini ($9.50); it’s filled with chicken, apple wood smoked and black peppered bacon, creamy ranch, mozzarella, and mixed organic greens. I was very pleased I took her suggestion, because it was absolutely delicious. It was made to order and was hot as it arrived to our table.
The chicken itself was of good quality and was very flavorful, and the ranch and apple wood smoked bacon paired wonderfully with it. The mixed greens were noticeably fresh and helped maintain the light and healthy theme at specialTEA Lounge, while the mozzarella cheese, which is one of my personal favorites, was melted over the steaming chicken. Although I split the Panini with my sister, I was very satisfied once I finished my half; (I’d like to make a note that I was very content my sister eats very small portions, as gave me the noticeably larger half).
On top of the Panini, I ordered one of the most refreshing Strawberry Banana smoothies I’ve ever had. The smoothie ($6) contained green tea, strawberries, bananas, and cane sugar. Besides the fact that it was a typical sauna-like Miami day and I have a weak spot for strawberry banana smoothies, it was so delicious that I could’ve ordered a second one. My sister, who doesn’t like strawberries and describes bananas as being “okay,” took a sip and absolutely loved it; she kept eyeing it until I told her she could have more, which lit up her face. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this menu item could at least be a nudge in the right direction for my sister to get more of her needed daily fruit serving.
The final item I ordered was a personal Red Velvet Bundt Cake ($4). If you’re like me, you could eat the entire dessert by yourself, but it is a generous serving size that can be shared with another person or two. The sweet cream cheese icing was my favorite part, and I enjoyed the “rustic” look of it on the cake; instead of being neatly piped, the icing was slapped on and topped with red sprinkles (and who doesn’t love sprinkles?). The imperfect icing gave it more personally, and let’s face it, neatly piped or not, that entire red velvet bundt cake never stood a chance; even after the Panini and smoothie, my dessert was reduced to mere crumbs.
If you’re an FIU student or live in the area and haven’t been to specialTEA Lounge, you’re missing out! Promoting a sustainable lifestyle, a relaxing and inviting atmosphere, fresh or organic produce, and numerous choices for tea-lovers, this cafe is also great on your wallet and is a much better alternative to all the fast food establishments on every corner.
Address: 10766 Coral Way, Miami, FL 33165
Tel: (305) 554-8327 (TEAS)
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