Tynisha Lomax has a simple motto: Drink tea every day.
She doesn’t mind if you start with an unfussy box of Twinings or order the diverse and aromatic leaves of her aptly named tea brand, Levitea. Lomax just wants more people to pause, take a moment and try her favorite drink.
“For me, tea has to be bold, it has to be flavorful and it has to stand up to its type,” Lomax says. “If I’m giving you a black tea, it’s got to be the black tea I want to serve from my brand.”
Since Lomax opened Levitea in 2014, her business has grown much like how tea steeps: organically and stronger with time. She didn’t rush on her brand’s name either, writing out dozens of words she could spin “tea” into: positivity, ingenuity.
“I thought about ‘Tea He He,’ but I didn’t think Brew HaHa! would appreciate that,” Lomax says, laughing.
Then, levity. The name stuck.
“If anybody knows me, I’m always going to add levity to a situation,” Lomax says. “I’m the person that’s going to crack a joke to make you smile when you’re crying.”
In the beginning, Levitea’s home was a bright-yellow shop on Wilmington’s Union Street, where customers could learn about—and sip—different types of tea with a croissant or apple turnover in hand.
Lomax used to walk down Union Street as a little girl, shaking hands with small business owners as they swept the sidewalk out front. She imagined herself in their shoes.
“I guess it was my Sesame Street,” Lomax says. “I was just so enamored with the idea of owning my own shop.”
But years before launching the business, she tucked that dream away and dove into the nonprofit world. She loved the work, but after her organization downsized in 2011, she knew it was time for a major career pivot. Then, in 2013, Lomax’s mother-in-law died unexpectedly. Twenty days later, her father died after a long illness.
“That was a huge wake-up call to me, as far as what I wanted to do with my life,” Lomax says. “I didn’t want to work that hard for someone else’s dream ever again.”
Lomax began filling her entrepreneurial cup with specialty cakes and toyed with opening a bakery. But as she researched products to pair with the shop, she stumbled upon tea, and the rest is history.
Lomax loves tea’s sustainability and that she can help send children to school just by purchasing tea from their communities. She’s fascinated by its versatility, and that the most common tea plant can be plucked, rolled, ground, fried and withered into endless types and blends, from bright and grassy matcha to smoky lapsang souchong.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Lomax transformed her brick-and-mortar on Union Street into an online business but missed the community of her shop. She was about to open at a new location in 2019, but decided to pause. She’s glad she did.
“It forced me to kind of figure out how to do what I did at the tea shop and broaden that horizon,” Lomax says of Levitea’s online presence. “I was really lost for a minute there, because I couldn’t figure out how to translate this idea to people and tell them they need to buy something else off the Internet.”
Lomax went to work. She posted tea guides on Instagram, designed her brand look, and created her own YouTube channel called Tysh with the Tea. On the show, Lomax chats with guests on all things tea—over a cup of tea, of course.
Since venturing online, Levitea has steadily grown nationally, and Lomax recently sent an order to England, one of the world’s most tea-loving (and tea-opinionated) countries. Her business has evolved in tandem with the rise of botanicals, from nonalcoholic drinks to skin care.
Lomax isn’t trying to make Levitea the next Starbucks of tea—at least not yet—but she is a bit of a sommelier for the plant. In her words, tea triggered her “nerdy senses.”
“It touched on everything I loved,” Lomax says. “It’s delicious, it’s good for you and it has this whole terroir.”
You can still find Levitea in Wilmington, this time sprawled across shops and restaurants. Enjoy a cup at Stitch House Brewery or Le Cavalier at The Green Room in the Hotel duPont. You can also order bags to go at Le Cav or the soon-to-open Girard Craft and Cork. Faire Cafe will also sell Levitea blends when it reopens later this year.
Still, longtime Levitea fans often ask, “Are you ever going to reopen?”
Lomax scribbled that answer down long before opening Levitea, initially as wordplay and now an ode to her entrepreneurial spirit and constantly evolving business: It’s a possibilitea.