Justine Duquette

Cup of Communitea

Justine Duquette

One cup of tea at a time, small business owner—and former Daemen staff member—cultivates community near campus.

Justine Duquette had just started a new small business, opening a tea shop, when the pandemic hit.

Not knowing when she’d welcome customers again in-person, Duquette got creative: She started to livestream tea tastings nightly, via the Facebook page of her business.

Something began to brew.

Before long, Duquette and a growing following had come together to try most of the 200-plus teas at her shop—while learning about the health benefits and history of various blends.

The experience so moved the entrepreneur—and then-assistant director at Daemen College’s Paul A. Saffrin Center for Sustainability and Civic Engagement—that she changed the name of her business to Cup of Communitea.

“We came together at a time of real chaos and uncertainty,” said Duquette. “The shop survived because of that human element—and we helped each other through a difficult period.”

Brewing a blend of service and sustainability

Whether it’s in her career in nonprofits—or as an entrepreneur—Duquette values the opportunity to create relationships and build support toward a common goal.

At Daemen, she managed the main service-learning program on campus, where she connected professors and students to collaborative opportunities in the Buffalo-Niagara region.

“Students learn about their area of study through service,” said Duquette, who became a senior project manager for a global consulting firm in August. “Daemen was the job that got me into the Buffalo nonprofit world, helped me understand where resources are and how to strengthen connections.”

Duquette’s passion to cultivate community carried over to her shop—located near Daemen’s campus in the heart of the Village of Williamsville (with a Wildcats sticker prominent on the front door)—and to customers, who each month choose a nonprofit organization to support by raising funds and awareness for causes such as animal rescue, food insecurity, and others.

“My work at Daemen and the shop—these are similar at the core: raising awareness, giving back and building relationships,” she said.

Reading the tea leaves

Encouraged by the response to her first location, Duquette has since opened a Cup of Communitea tasting room at The Hiraeth House—a women’s business collective near downtown Buffalo (that also features Daemen student artwork for sale).

Now, as the pandemic enters a new phase, she is starting to see some of the friendly faces from her virtual events in-person for the first time.

To Duquette, it made sense that tea would help navigate an unprecedented time.

As the oldest concocted drink in recorded history—and second only to water in the amount regularly consumed—tea has been with people, and bringing them together, for centuries.

“Hot water and tea leaves create something entirely new together,” she said. “When people gather and experience the warmth and kindness of each other, that’s special—that’s community.”

Artwork by Daemen student Chloe Silvashy hangs near Communitea’s tasting room, where local artists’ work is displayed and available for purchase.