Bridal Bliss: Brooklyn Tea Founders Jamila And Ali’s Charming Poconos Wedding Celebrated Black Love And Black Businesses
Lizette London

Before Jamila and Alfonso, also referred to as “Ali,” were partners in business and love, they were strangers turned into seat mates at a dinner party. The two were brought together for the first time by their friends for a birthday celebration at a beach house in Atlantic City in 2014. And while Ali wasn’t initially excited about the gathering, once seated next to Jamila, he couldn’t help but be delighted.

“I groaned but went and happened to be seated next to my future wife,” he tells ESSENCE. “We talked about Blackness in America and she mentioned some books I should read. I’ve been intrigued and learning from her ever since.”

Jamila describes their first conversation as a “Blackity Black” one. “We talked about everything from Black Panther politics to life as HBCU kids,” the Spelman grad says of her chat with Ali, a Hampton grad. “We’ve been talking every day since.”

While their initial connection was made over a hot meal, a constant presence in conversations and in their overall relationship ever since has been tea. The hot drink was a part of daily life for Ali growing up thanks to his Jamaican mother and became something that brought he and Jamila closer as they fell in love.

“When we started dating in 2014, tea was always at the center of our relationship,” Jamila says. “Whether it was Ali making me beautiful cups and pots of teas in his living room or us visiting tea shops for some date night fun, tea was our favorite third wheel. We quickly realized in that first year of dating that the way we bonded and communed over tea could be something to replicate for others.”

With that, the couple decided to work together to build a business. The end result is the popular Brooklyn Tea, which has a brick-and-mortar spot in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood. It’s become a favorite of many, including of Shonda Rhimes, as well as a big success. It’s also tested Jamila and Ali’s relationship in a way that’s made them better.

“Being in business together has made our relationship stronger,” she says. “We can definitely be stubborn and not the best at hearing out different approaches, especially when we first started dating. However, workshopping ideas with friends and getting feedback from customers allowed us to witness each other’s ideas get approved and celebrated. It was humbling and a constant reminder to truly value what the other person was bringing to the table.”

In seven years they’ve survived job stress, entrepreneurship, dealing with loss, and the regular ups and downs of a relationship to make it down the aisle. When it was time to celebrate, the couple went all out. They also stuck to their roots of keeping things as Black as possible. They planned a wedding and reception that spotlighted fellow Black business owners and vendors, from the cake creator to the caterer and even the actual venue. All Black everything.

“Our company, Brooklyn Tea, is indebted to so many people intentionally seeking to support a Black-owned tea brand so it was really fun thinking about the amazing entrepreneurs we already had relationships with and how they could be part of our day,” Jamila says.

Check out the ways in which the couple made Black-owned businesses, and their baby Brooklyn Tea (you have to see the cake!), a part of their special day and learn more about their love story.

Vendors

Photographers: Lizette London, Bryndan Moore

Venue: Awaaba Mansion at Noble Lane

DJ & MC: Dapper DJ Productions

Catering: Greedi Kitchen

Flowers: Brooklyn Blooms

Makeup: Viodelda Contreras & Nafeezah Wallace

Groom’s Tuxedo: Kyris Kustoms

Bridal Gown: Pantora Bridal

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Hair: Carla Pinto’s Styles by Carla and Bravo Locs

Nails: StudioNickiSpice

Wedding Cake: BCakeNY

Champagne: Happy Cork

Want your wedding to be considered for feature in Bridal Bliss? Email us a few wedding photos and the story of your big day, with a few quotes, at bridalbliss@essence.com.

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