When siblings Jodie and Josh Smith opened a tea room and chocolate shop on Calle Estrada in La Quinta on March 9, 2020, they had no idea the hurdles they would immediately face beyond small business ownership.
Ten days after they opened Cali Rosina Tea and Chocolate, most businesses were closed by the state, and people were encouraged to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants and businesses like Cali Rosina could remain open with limited service.
They grew their business “literally, one person at a time” with word of mouth, the help of friends and social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram, said Jodie Smith.
“I still pinch myself” that they survived, she said.
“And it was because my brother and I were here every single day with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas … and we connected with individuals, one on one,” she said.
Today, they offer 200 different varieties of loose-leaf tea blends, served hot or iced, and 270 craft chocolates from around the world, as well as some gift items.
In the next couple of months, the Smiths plan to expand to include a tea and chocolate tasting room in an adjoining space they had used for storage.
When they walk into Cali Rosina for the first time, people can be overwhelmed by the variety of tea and chocolate offered, Smith said.
“And it can be intimidating. So, we want to kind of break that down a little bit,” she said, in tastings that will be private party sessions by reservation.
“We are just waiting on furniture and a few other pieces to finalize everything,” Smith said.
Made to order tea to fit your mood
Originally from Ventura County, the Smiths have been living in the Coachella Valley for about 15 years — the last 13 or so in La Quinta.
When they moved to the valley, Josh Smith was ill and they needed to change their diets, Jodie Smith said, and that’s when she began learning about different herbs and teas, ultimately leading them to open a tea room.
They began participating at small yoga and music festivals during the summer for about seven years, which gave them an opportunity to learn more about tea herbs and chocolates, she said.
They had worked on their business model for about a year and a half, doing research, and participated as vendors in small yoga and music festivals, where they learned more about the different herbs and teas, and chocolates.
Their drinks are brewed from “high-quality” loose-leaf teas blended with fruits, herbs and fresh-squeezed juice as requested, served hot, over ice, ice blended or milky — always non-dairy — and made to order.
There are many varieties, Smith said, and with every customer, she is happy to create a blend that matches their mood or craving.
“People ask, how do you know what to serve somebody? Well, I first ask them, do you like fruity or floral? Caffeine, or non-caffeinated? And we’ll go from there,” she said. “There are so many varieties, and it all depends on your mood.”
Variety of chocolates from around the world
At Cali Rosina, it’s not uncommon to be offered a taste of chocolate with an order of tea.
Tea drinkers customarily like to have something sweet to munch while sipping their brew, Smith said, and the siblings decided chocolate was the perfect match for their beverages.
While Jodie Smith’s forte is tea, Josh Smith knows how to bring the best chocolates to Cali Rosina.
“We’re both into both products, but in a different way,” she said. “He’s our man who can find the source” for the best chocolate.
Customers will find chocolates from a wide variety of makers from around the world, and include a selection of sugar-free, dairy-free and vegan, as well.
Overall, Smith said, Cali Rosina has been an interesting and fun venture for she and her brother, where they are always learning something new.
“It really is fun. It's so interesting to continue to learn. I mean, every day, I learn something new and the more I do learn, it's like, wow, I really, I still don't know much,” she said.
One of her favorite experiences was with baby who couldn’t have been a year old.
“We were giving a sample to his grandmother and mom, he wanted to take part in tastings. And it was our cherry cinnamon milk tea. It is cherry pomegranate, hibiscus and caffeine free,” Smith said. “And when he took a sip … his face just lit up.
“It was like, that's why we do this, for those moments of surprise when it's like, well, so good,” she said.
Cali Rosina, at 78-120 Calle Estado Suite 104, La Quinta, is open seven days a week. For more information and daily hours, check Cali Rosina’s Facebook page or call (760) 619-2279.
Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the cities of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherryBarkas
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: La Quinta tea room, chocolate shop Cali Rosina to add a tasting room