The Spice & Tea Exchange of Key West opened its tucked away Front Street location seven years ago — mind you, before the arrival of the coffee colossus chain next door. After a series of absentee owners, Katie Wills and her partner, Matt Wills, decided to buck the trend and purchase the business in 2019. The duo, who were previously a pharmaceuticals representative and salesperson, respectively, had always wanted to experience life in the Keys full-time. Unexpected career shakeups would provide just the opportunity.
As it happens, a friend who owned the Treasure Island, Fla., Spice & Tea location informed the couple of the chance to purchase in Key West. The two, who reside on a 53-foot Carver Pilothouse, jumped at the prospect of reinventing themselves.
Although neither Katie nor Matt had prior experience in tea, spices or the rhyme and reason of Key West foot traffic, a weeklong crash course offered by the Spice & Tea franchise would have to suffice. They would both come to rely on the fundamentals of making the shop welcoming by playing up the exotic aromas and utilizing a tea bar that facilitated to-go orders and a norush sampling experience.
After 12 months of utilizing every available surface of the original cozy store space, the two have headed off Duval with a brand new location at 511 Greene St. According to Katie, “The original locale was only 400 square feet. We couldn’t get enough product in to showcase what we really do. We carry over 65 organic loose-leaf teas and make over 75 high-end spice blends for cooking.”
She continues, “Personally, I believe off Duval is the place to be and Greene Street is amazing! We’re right on the way to the Historic Seaport and a stone’s throw from Sloppy Joes.”
The opening celebrations for the new location kick off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, March 20, at 11 a.m., with a live broadcast with Pirate Radio the following day when all teas will be BOGO from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
In the run-up to the grand opening, I asked Katie for her herbal and spice recommendations for very real mostly funny scenarios. The following are her go-to picks.
Something to Calm Your Nerves Over the COVID-19 Panic
So many choices! I would start with our Beauty Rest tea. It contains valerian root, which has been used for centuries for anxiety and insomnia. Make yourself a big 12-ounce cup and sleep the worries away. Who knows? You may wake up more beautiful, too. If that doesn’t sound like a plan, then try our Blood Orange Smoothie tea, rim a glass with our Florida Sunshine Sugar and honey, add 2 ounces of bourbon, a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you prefer, and go watch the sunset. When all else fails, have a cup of Iron Goddess of Mercy and pray. And wash your damn hands!
A Hangover Pick Me Up
We have one heck of a Bloody Mary Blend if you just want to go with hair of the dog! On the detox side, I’d definitely recommend you come in for a Matcha latte and get the antioxidants flowing. Caffeine is also a good bet for a hangover, so you might want to try our Yerba Mate, which has the caffeine equivalent of an espresso.
Something to Steady a Disgruntled Child
We have a Sugar Wall of naturally infused sugar (laughs). I’m guessing that’s not what mom and dad are looking for, though. How about a raspberry herbal tea that changes color when you add lemon?
A Cure for Political Junkies
I’m the antithesis of a political junkie. So, I’ll make the tea red, white and blue and bid them adieu.
Something to Nullify a Probing Mother
Ha! Shout-out to our friend Tim at General Horseplay. I believe that recipe calls for vodka and all our teas go great with vodka. Or rum, gin and tequila! Tea can be concentrated and then infused or you can just add the adult beverage of your choice.
A Way to Spice Up Bland Conch Fritters
Ugh, or greasy fritters — nothing worse! We have a handmade Lemon Pepper Garlic or Caribbean Heat depending on your preference.
Something to Drown Out the Noisy Spring Breakers
Besides Beauty Rest Tea, which we already covered, a natural sleep aid for humans is catnip, believe it or not! We sell the highest quality and freshest catnip on the island.
A Remedy for a Narcissistic On-Again, Off-Again Partner
You are not a trolley tour. No one can just get on and off of you whenever they like! You need our 7-Day Cleanse so you can get your mind and body right! ¦
— SpiceandTea. com 511 Greene St. #102