An organic café recently opened in Jacksonville where Western culture meets the heritage of the Far East.
Opened in December 2017 by Jacksonville resident Wen Raiti, House of Leaf & Bean features organic menu options such as fresh tofu, sandwiches, salads, wraps, rice bowls and more. The menu also features organic smoothies, juice, tea, coffee, light bites, kids’ meals and breakfast options. Additionally, Leaf & Bean offers a Zen room for customers to relax and unwind from a busy schedule in a gadget-free, quiet room for Chinese tea ceremonies, reading and meditation. Customers can either dine inside or place a to-go order at the drive-through.
Raiti, who worked as a Certified Public Accountant prior to opening her business, said she founded Leaf & Bean because of her passion for healthy eating and the environment. A native of China, Raiti wanted to create a restaurant “Where West Meets East.”
Ten years ago, Raiti was diagnosed with a medical condition brought on by a poor diet. However, the restaurant owner said she essentially cured herself by changing her lifestyle and committing to a more nutritious diet. Now, she wants to give back to the community and help others eat healthy.
"I would like to give back, and I want to help more people who are suffering like me 10 years ago,” she said. “I knew it was something I wanted to do – to give back to the community – I wanted an open house to let the community come in to try alternative options."
Unlike chain restaurants that offer processed foods loaded with sugar and preservatives, Raiti said Leaf & Bean's motto is "simple, organic, fresh." She features plant-based proteins on her menu, natural ingredients, organic teas and other healthy options. Leaf & Bean is unique, Raiti said, because the restaurant owner is applying for a United States Department of Agriculture [USDA] organic certification.
"I have a lot more appreciation for those people who follow [USDA] guidelines," she said. "The seal itself is not easy to get. For us, I think it took us two years at least in order to get it."
To get a USDA organic seal, Raiti said her restaurant has to use certain ingredients that coincide with specific guidelines.
According to Raiti, another unique attribute of House of Leaf & Bean is that it’s a community-oriented restaurant.
"I want to give back to the community," she added. "We also need the community to help us, so we need the community, the community needs us. We put our heart and soul to make everything we put on the table."
Additionally, Raiti noted that she values quality and health benefits over her bottom line. For example, Raiti decided to offer hand-made dumplings on her menu despite the required labor cost because they taste better than dumplings made from a machine.
"This is how you can imagine the decision-making process," she said. "It's about the health benefits, not about money or profit."
For more information on House of Leaf & Bean, call (904) 379-1231 or visit www.HouseofLeafnBean.com. The restaurant is located at 14474 Beach Blvd. in Jacksonville.