Just outside the ancient walls of Diocletian’s Palace (built in 305 AD) on Ulica kralja Tomislava in Split, Croatia is the charming loose leaf tea shop, Kuća Čaja (House of Tea). Stop inside, and you’ll be amazed at all of the fine loose-leaf teas housed in the cozy shop. With over 100 teas stored in aluminum tins behind the counter, Kuća Čaja also has other specialty blends with flavors like, “New York Cheesecake” and “Angel’s Tongue.” Glass shelves in the customer area are stocked with beautiful, delicate porcelain tea pots and cups, matcha wares, whisks, gift items, tea timers, and other tea accessories.
Siniša Kaliterna, the sales manager, and Mila Skoko were more than happy to speak with us about their growth in a place where coffee prevails. Siniša and the staff have been supplying Split, its tourists and the locals from the surrounding towns, with premium quality loose-leaf tea for the past four years. When I asked Siniša why he decided to open a tea shop he explained that there was nothing like it in Split and he understood that it was a huge gamble. He explained, “Here, our culture is very focused on cafés and wine. Friends meet for coffee or a drink; people would often associate tea with something you drink when you don’t feel well.” The staff at Kuća Čaja have noticed a change since they opened. There is a growing interest in tea and the many heath benefits from drinking tea. “Also, people are beginning to explore the many favors of tea while appreciating their subtle differences.”
While strong tourism brings in people from across the globe, while I was there, a local Croatian mother came in from Trogir, a town about 30 km away, because she heard of one of their teas which helped with a particular ailment she was experiencing.
The selection of teas at Kuća Čaja are selected from around the globe and include many masterful blends. There is also have a growing selection of local tisanes which include chamomile, lavender and sage.
Recognizing the enthusiasm for sharing her knowledge and love for the Camellia sinensis plant with her customers, Mila was happy to open container after container of tea for this Long Island, New York tea shop owner. From fine Silver Needle white tea, a common Irish breakfast and a less common green Assam to distinct aromatic blends containing healthful ingredients such as sage, nettle, lavender, and calendula flower this duo certainly knew their teas.
Of course, I had the overwhelming urge to purchase 50g of every tea Kuća Čaja sold, but settled on a handful to bring back to New York:
- Oasis of Senses: a Sencha (green tea) leaf with apple pieces, almond slices, lemon peel, coriander, pistachio, pink peppercorn and calendula petals.
- Angel’s Tongue:a Pai Mu Tan (white tea) leaf with calendula petals, scented with bergamot and vanilla essence.
- White Dragon: a blend of two exceptional white teas: Silver Needle and Mao Feng.
- King of Pu-erh: a fermented dark tea produced in China with may health benefits, purportedly including cholesterol reduction, weight loss, and many antimicrobial properties.
It was certainly a pleasure to meet two individuals as enthusiastic about tea as me, and to learn about the growth of a startup to a comfortable place in the Croatian small business world. I’m already excited to go back next summer!