Little Leaf Tea founder George Widjaja stands behind the bar in his restaurant. While it started as a teahouse in 2009, Widjaja expanded his business in 2013. Widjaja has incorporated tea into the bar’s drinks and prides himself in his whiskey selection. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
Growth is brewing at a Fresno teashop, with its owner able to expand from his base product into a fully stocked bar and restaurant, with plans for further growth in the future.
Located at 6011 N. Palm Ave. by the corner of Bullard Avenue, Little Leaf Tea is run by its founder, George Widjaja. Widjaja, who came to the United States from Indonesia in 2001, opened his teahouse in 2009 amidst the tea craze that had emerged in the decade.
“I had a couple of friends that actually already had a teahouse at that time and we actually thought to partner up, but it just didn’t go well, so I decided to go on my own,” Widjaja said. “The tea in the United States is actually pretty good, so I said: ‘Why don’t we try to do this?’ Because if coffee can make it, tea should be able to make it too.”
Amidst the success that Little Leaf enjoyed, Widjaja acquired the empty store adjacent to his and turned it into a bar and restaurant in 2013.
“That time, it was just like: ‘Hey, maybe I want to try something else?’” Widjaja said.
The Little Leaf’s bar still works the original purpose of the store into its drinks, with several tea-infused cocktails on the menu. Among them is a variation of the vodka-based Moscow mule, which trades out the usual ginger beer for ginger tea and adds beer for effervescence.
Despite the restaurant’s success, tea remains Little Leaf’s primary means of income, with the store getting hundreds of customers on any given day. In order to make his establishment stand out from the other teashops in Fresno, Widjaja stated that he focused on atmosphere and attention to product to create a more calming tea experience.
“We’re more traditional, and then it’s an adult environment,” Widjaja said. “We don’t make our tea so sweet, (or) with a lot of cream. We try to make our place a relaxing place.”
So far, business has been steady for Little Leaf, which has kept Widjaja and crew consistently busy. Nonetheless, Widjaja has no plans of stopping.
“We’re probably going to expand to something a bit more, like another [location],” Widjaja said. “Trying to find something new, adding to the menu.”