By LINDA BLADHOLM
Tibetan flags fly on bamboo poles outside Amate, a new tea shop that provides a serene oasis on the gritty stretch of 79th Street between Biscayne Boulevard and the causeway.
The name means ''love in action,'' and owners Hope Aranguren and Emilia Peña have created a place where tea lovers can relax in a courtyard that resembles a Japanese rock garden with a Buddha statue in one corner.
Hope, who grew up in Miami, and Emilia, who is from L.A., became life partners after meeting at a spirituality workshop 10 years ago. It took them four years to plan, build and landscape the complex, which is still a work in progress. Both have day jobs and the shop doesn't open until 4 p.m. weekdays, but they hope to extend the hours as word gets around.
Order in the small front shop where glass canisters are filled with teas custom blended in Maine. Black teas include infused azucar, a rich blend with bits of maple candy; coconut truffle; Cal Mex spiced with cardamom; ginger spice with peach; and plain Ceylon, a robust, high-grade silver-tip tea with honey notes.
Greens to go for include exotic mango, cozy walnut, delightful citrus with a hint of grapefruit, jasmine pearls (tea rolled into small pellets), and Lung Chin, a mild, pan-fried green good for iced tea. Fruit teas range from strawberry kiwi tisane to om (chamomile with citrus).
There are pastries, scones, biscotti and a few sandwiches, but
the best accompaniments are the whimsically named mini treats from Sticky Fingers Cupcakes.Pay at the counter, then take a seat in the canopy-covered courtyard. By fall, the partners hope to turn a building at the back into a spiritual bookshop with meditation and yoga classes.
The top floor of that building, painted Tiffany blue with polka dots and decorated with gauze net curtains, is Colleen Bell's Sticky Fingers headquarters. Pastel cake stands display her quarter-size creations. Bell, who went to Johnson & Wales, takes appointments during the week and is in-house weekends.
She keeps fresh cupcakes in a fridge, so you can buy several dozen. (Larger orders require advance notice.) Flavors to try include guava and cream cheese, tiramisu, peanut butter and jelly, raspberry-chocolate, Tennessee Waltz (with banana pudding) and Girls Just Want to Have Fun (vanilla with sprinkles). Sounds like what the women here are doing seriously.
Linda Bladholm's latest book is Latin and Caribbean Grocery Stores Demystified.
Place: Amate Tea and Sticky Fingers Cupcakes.
Address: 811 NE 79th St., Miami.
Hours: 4-11 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Prices: Teas from $2.95 a cup to $9.85 a pot, sandwiches $6.95, cupcakes $2.50 for regular and $1.25 for minis.
FYI: Back patio space can be rented for private parties. All teas will soon be available packed in tins.