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The #TeaChemist "Joi DeFrantz" General Manager of "Tea's Me Cafe" in Indianapolis, Indiana

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

Today we are super excited to share this first in a series of in depth interviews, learning about Joi DeFrantz, our network partner, loose leaf tea supplier, and fellow Xavier University of Louisiana alumni.

Sit back and enjoy this roundtable interview, as she shares her experience in the Tea industry, her passion for #Entrepreneurship, and her commutment to the revitalization of the Indianapolis community.

Jamin: “Is your last name French?”

Joi Defrantz: “Yes, my last name originates in the region between France and Germany”

Leonard: Comparing Tea & Coffee, in term of caffeine, which has more?

Joi: “Coffee.”

“Tea has 2 1⁄2 milligrams less per cup than coffee does.

"From the research I’ve done and the “Tea Tasting's w/ Joi” I have executed. Coffee usually has 220 milligrams per 16 ounces."

Chris: “How long does it take for tea to begin to lose its flavor/freshness?”

Joi: "Loose leaf tea technically never expires, but we recommend 1 year from purchase. Also it is very important to keep the teas leaves in a dry, dark environment."

Leonard: “What is your favorite tea?”

Joi: "My favorite one? Wow that is a hard question."

"I don't have one, depends on my mood, I typically like black teas for energy. Man that's a hard one, I can't commit to an answer on that one lolol.”

Chris: “Are there any health benefits to drinking tea? If so, what are they?”

Joi: “There are a lot of them. There are 6 different Tea categories that we carry in the cafe.”

“Health benefits are generally the same as Tea comes from the same plant, but there are some specific benefits to certain categories of Tea.”

“White Tea to Black Tea, you are going for freshly picked Tea leaves, lot of antioxidants, anti cancer and aging, very good for skin and teeth. Same thing for all the other Teas.”

“Green Teas are picked later in the season. They have that nice fresh taste, a bit grassy, kinda like drinking your veggies. Great for your metabolism, fighting against diabetes, increase in blood circulation, there are studies that have been done on the nitrous oxide in tea that shows it helps increase blood flow.”

"Oolong Tea picked b/t green and the black tea, some of them are oxidized a bit more, more bold and complex flavors to it. Black Teas goes through full oxidation process, the most popular in the US. There is an amino acid that helps with brain relaxation.

"The Earl Grey is really very good for anti anxiety, antidepressant, improving cognitive functions, There so many health benefits to tea, I can go on and on.”

Gino: “First off, how are you doing?”

Joi: “I'm doing great, and you?”

Gino: “I'm doing great as well. The question I have for you is, “How often do you use your chemistry background in your tea business?”

Joi: “All the time, looking at how much caffeine is in teas is very important. Longer steep times make for more caffeine, maximizing the tea infusions. Making sure temperatures are correct, extracting out the health benefits, makes a difference. Combinations of different types of Teas, figuring out which tea’s blend the best.”

“One of our customers works for the school board, and has students interested in STEM that he is interested in creating an internship with us, tying in the chemistry with our Tea.

“I’ve even helped on a Tea based science fair project.”

Chris: “What chemistry skills do you think give you an advantage within the tea industry?”

Joi: “Blending, once you get done with making a perfect cup of tea, you want to be sure that there is a uniform mixture. I think about it in chemistry terms all the time. You always want to make sure nothing gets contaminated. Keeping all our equipment clean and ready for use. I bring the lab to the tea shop.”

Leonard: “What is your title at the cafe?”

Joi: “I am the General Manager, and i'm working towards being a part owner.”

Jamin: “What inspired your transition from working as a chemist to running a tea cafe?”

Joi: “I was a supervisor in at my last lab job, and I was the only black female in leadership, making it feel like it was 1965, Lol. I was also becoming burnt out working in that location.”

Its funny I had started talking to the former owner of this Tea Cafe, about working Part Time to discover if this was something I wanted to do, but then he decided to sell the cafe at end of 2016.

"In 2017, Tamika Catchings purchased the space, I love the space, and I love culture."

"So when I was presented with the opportunity to run it, I felt it was a great fit. I love it. I love going to work everyday. I really think it has helped my growth as a person."

Jamin: "Amen! If you don't love what you do everyday, what is the purpose!!"

Chris: "Do you miss 9 to 5 career?"

Joi: “Yeah there are times definitely, the stability of it, some of the financial benefits.

I love to travel, just love it!! Being able to not have to worry about it, or have to budget, but I found a way to travel anyway lololol"

"I just know that there is a process when you transition careers, I feel like the financial constraints are apart of the process. I feel like I have more possibilities now Especially with the type of people I am meeting, than even before, So i now im solidifying connections to get back to where I was financially. Had to get my own healthcare, there are time that this is rough financially."

"For example I lead a mission trip to cuba, i talk to our customers about it casually, and one of our regular customers helped donate on the mission trip."

Leonards: ”Thats DOPE!”

"Could you elaborate on the comment you made about your personal growth?"

Joi: “A difference in perspective. In Indianapolis, we have a very static corporate structure.There are major Pharmaceutical companies here that cater to certain people. There is some upward mobility & flexibility in that, but I like to really feel that I am not limited in the many things that I do. Being able to feel like sky's the limit, and I truly feel that in this position. I feel really very empowered by having this position, and also through the conversations I’ve had with Tamika."

"Then Bringing other people in who have made tremendous contributions, it's more of a family atmosphere, like an HBCU nurturing environment, that i think most people will thrive in."

“Very cooperative and collective. Its been growing process to come from out of a more individualistic place, to a collaborative team type of atmosphere.”

Jamin: “What advice would you give a person thinking about taking that leap into entrepreneurship?”

Joi: “Do it!!! Do it!!! We have so many opportunities, and so much potential , but we limit ourselves to survive. The things that are comfortable for us, alot of the ways we are taught to live limit us, I think that with entrepreneurship, sky is the limit. There are so many great opportunities."

“If you have that vision, it just won't leave you alone until you do something about it. Get with mentors, get a supportive community, they will help you during the rough days, keep you pushing forward.”

"You can also take on different roles. There was a Breakfast Club interview I was watching and they were recommending that a group of friends starting a company can take on different roles. One person might be the primary person running it, one person handling the investing, one person up front with sales, we have some many unique ways to contribute to the world, to just work a job, but 9-5er’s are important too."

Chris: “How did you overcome any obstacles that you faced making the transition into entrepreneurship.”

Joi: “I love the breakfast club, and looked at how they can really be authentic in what they were doing in their day to day lives, living their passion and living their dreams , that has been a big motivation in my life. I want to be able to manifest some of the things God has put in my heart to do, so that helped me through the hard times. Its helped me to have just great people who remind me what they have been through, how many times they have had sleepless nights, or might put a strain on the relationships but they push through it. Just the support from my network, along with prayer.”

Leonard: “Different but similar to the last question, what failures have you encountered in the leap?”

Joi: "Money money money, my bank account looking real slim at times."

“Along with a few people asking me, You are a chemist, what are you doing here?”

”Why would you work at a Tea shop?”

“Don't you want to do something better with your life”

“People just not understanding it. To all of those types of questions I usually respond, “why wouldn't I be here.”

“Yes, I had to learn the business side, and I’m still learning, that’s a continual process, but I think that people are now starting to understand and get it, they see what we are trying to do and be for the city. It's more than just working at a tea shop. It's not that I don't have anything better to do with my time or that I failed at life lolol”

“I will be 42 in November, folks are like why change now? Why not just retire as a chemist?” But im like nope!!! So those type of questions”

Jamin: “I truly appreciate your candor, your story is so similar to how we feel about our work & business.”

“I too love the breakfast club, also Joe Buddens podcast, seeing life long friends sharing their truth, utilizing their bond to market their dreams, the authenticity, being their true selves, that what people tune in to see, you being your true self . I think thats what most people dream they too could do (sorry being long winded)"

Jamin: “Are there any podcasts, youtube shows, websites, books, TV shows, that help fulfill and motivate you?”

Joi: “I originally wanted to be a physician. but there are certain things about our healthcare system that I would like to see changed, so I did not commit to that road. I have studied psychology extensively on my own, which really helps with my mindset.”

"Dr. Guy Winch, he talks about being able to rebound when things happen, and it really has helped me with customers, family, and personal relationships."

"I've read books by Dr. Kelly McGonigal, psychologist out of stanford, she wrote a book about the upside of stress, so how you respond to stressful situations, if you think about it as your body getting ready to handle prepared to handle the situation, you will have a healthier response, Then if you see it as a negative thing it will be more destructive to the body”

"Dr. Joe Dispenza , I've been on recently, he talks about the neuroscience of transformation, I think that as people transition and they are thinking about doing something different in their lives being able to go from your old self, where you have certain routines hardwired in brain, to imagining your new future, and bridging that gap. Those are who I listen to alot."

Gino: "Would tea be a good alternative to sports drinks? If so, which tea would be best?"

Joi: “Hmmm from an electrolyte standpoint I don't think so. From a hydration standpoint Tea has caffenation in it, so herbal teas would be best with no caffeine, but I'm a big proponent of water.”

Jamin: “What factors do you believe stops individuals from making tea at home versus buying at a cafe?”

Joi: “I don't think that people know. It sounds gimmicky, to tell people that you have to use loose leaf. I think its a lack of education a lot of times. Folks see it as more of an esteem type of product and not a necessity. But when people get into the health benefits, when people understand how we use premium tea, that its mostly organic, being loose leaf tastes better and gives you more health benefits. When people begin to understand that whats comes in a tea bag is that you are getting tea dust, i think that people develop a better appreciation for it, once they have experienced loose leaf tea. I’m really passionate about educating folks to the variance in the experience."

Gino: “Were you always into tea or was it something that you've grown into?”

Joi: “Yes and No, i love tea, but wasn't always into loose leaf tea. Because of the same factors we just addressed, thankfully I had healthy people in my life like my great-grandmother who insisted we go to health food stores before it was a trend. That anchored in my mind that when it comes to food sourcing you want the freshest & best case scenario. So when I started to taste loose leaf Tea, I thought it was really good and It got me curious to try out different places."

Joi: "I use to be a customer of Tea’s Me before I started working here. Being able to go around and taste others peoples Tea’s, really helped we develop my experience, so now I am even more into the Tea’s that we carry, because i really believe in them, and they taste great!”

Jamin: "Let me pause for a second. That is such a DOPE QUOTE. Instantly establish your credibility (sorry for interrupting)"

Joi: “Yeah I tell people all the time, that yes I have job here, but I would be here if I didnt anyway, chilling up in the cafe.“

Leonard: “To channel my inner Brown Sugar lol, When did you first fall in love with tea?”

Joi: “LOLOLOL when did I first fall in love with hip hop. Hmmm good question let me think, I first fell in love with Tea’s Me 3 or 4 years ago”

Gino: “What is your long term vision for the cafe?”

Joi: "I wants us to be a place where people have a safe space, where they can feel like they contribute positively to the culture of the city, where they can feel seen and feel healthy. We will be around as long as we can be around, it happening with the city, Indianapolis is going through a cultural revitalization right now, it’s been a beautiful experience to be apart of this."

Gino: “If you could set up a Tea Shop in any other city, besides where you are now, where would that be?

Joi: "Miami!!!!"

"The beach, salsa dancing, you cant go wrong!!"

End of part 1.

To learn more about Joi’s work or to order fresh loose leaf tea please visit:

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