Its fans love the flavor derived from the tropical fruit. But the variety of brewed-leaf beverages at R Café suits just about any taste. There’s rooibos (the African redbush tea), white peony, jasmine green tea, purple oolong and yerba mate, to name just a few. A regular who orders the same variety every time may find the barista suggesting another to sample. Many fans of the guava ginger find they also love the lychee noir, for instance, Mr. Reverol said.
It’s not just in R Café. Americans have been drinking more and more tea in recent years, according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. In 2015, they consumed 3.6 billion gallons of it – and that does not include herbal teas. (R Café’s array of offerings includes herbals.) Millennials are the most likely to enjoy the brewed leaf: 87 percent of them drink tea, the association said.
Kristian Orozco, who has served cappuccinos and leaf brews at R Café for a year and a half, said customers order tea when they want caffeine, but not as strong as it is in the java. His personal favorite is the matcha green tea.
“It has a really earthy taste to it,” he said. “I love adding vanilla and milk to give it an exotic taste.”
Susan Moorhead, a children’s librarian at the New Rochelle Public Library nearby, fell in love with R Café several years ago over a cup of Earl Grey tea and a quiche on dreary day. Feeling out of sorts, she ducked in out of a chilly drizzle when she noticed the painting of the Eiffel tower by the front door.
“It's beautiful inside, like walking into an artist's watercolor of a perfect café,” she said. “The friendly staff, the luscious display of treats, the calming ambience all persuaded me to take a window seat. It’s a restorative place to take a moment or – as I soon discovered – to meet friends.”
New Rochelle resident Caroline Reddy prefers the guava ginger.
“It doesn’t have that strong ginger taste,” she said. “The ginger is very, very subtle. It goes great with honey, and it’s really great in the winter.”
To be sure, the teas are not replacing coffee-based specialties. Lattes, cappuccinos and Cuban machiatos are still the most popular. But teas and herbal infusions, as a group, aren’t far behind.
“When it’s freezing outside, people want tea,” Mr. Reverol said. “Every day it rains, tea goes up in popularity.”
Reverol, a native of Venezuela, opened the shop, known to regulars simply as “R,” because he wanted a place to find good coffee in New Rochelle. Living here, his quest for a good cup of java always involved a train ride to Manhattan. When he opened the shop, originally called R Patisserie, offering teas alongside the coffee drinks was a natural.
“It’s a marriage,” he said. “They cannot be divorced.”