Made in North Carolina: Cup of T by Tiffany Melenzio


Written by Maria Summers

Tiffany Melenzio is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in psychology and drama. It launched the Cup of T in the summer of 2021 to combat the difficulties of the global pandemic.

T-cup sells handmade crocheted tote bags, clothing and accessories, each item representing its own unique story, often resembling a song or moving artwork. Elements from different creative works allow her to translate the pieces into new art forms. for her “my funny clementine” tote bag, she used the colors and themes depicted in the novels “Macbeth” and “The Games People Play”.

“My great-grandmother said that each person in our family represents a part of the tea,” Melenzio said. “A brother is the water, a brother is the tea bag and I was the cup – how I came up with the name Cup of T.”

She developed her manual skills thanks to the knitting and sewing lessons of her great-grandmother. With her guidance, Melenzio dedicated herself to embodying the beautiful work of art. As Melenzio’s artistic skills progressed, she wanted to show those close to her the reward of investing in yourself.

As the eldest daughter of an immigrant family, she took on the role of mother to her siblings to inspire them to pursue their passions and realize their potential. She did that and more.

Melenzio was the first in her family to go to university and carried the torch through a family of entrepreneurs. As the “cup” of her family, Melenzio felt most content supporting others and spreading love. She has also fulfilled this role through her business ventures by creating art that comforts people.

“When people buy from Cup of T, I want them to feel warm, loved – like I gave them a big hug,” Melenzio said. “I hope the long hours spent creating will translate into the same love they feel.”

As his business grew, Melenzio faced a major challenge balancing his desire to retain the sincerity of handmade art with the demand for time-consuming work. She overcame this obstacle by discovering the potential of crochet, an art form that takes less time than sewing while ensuring that the love of handwork shines through.

As a full-time student active in theater, Melenzio must constantly balance her own well-being with maintaining her business, grades, and theatrical responsibilities. She assigns him certain days to crochet and tries to take advantage of every break in his schedule to create.

Cup of T allowed him to live his life in color at a time when everything seemed black and white.

“During the pandemic, everyone was surviving,” Melenzio said. “I reached a point where I didn’t just want to survive, I wanted to live. The best way to do this is to create art that moves others.

One of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month is to amplify Black business owners while recognizing their unique journeys. You can support Melenzio and Cup of T by buying from her Instagram Shop or visit him UNC profile created by students. With every purchase, look for a tea bag chosen just for you.


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