One of the newest businesses to take root on Cherokee is teatopia, which is now operating in the slender storefront at 2619½ Cherokee. It was last home to The Little Dipper (since moved to The Fortune). The building enjoyed another tea house concept just prior to that business, with Smalls. The new venture has a very particular POV and we discussed the business’ concept and backstory with owner/proprietor Reginald Quarles.
Let’s start with the obvious. How did you find this quirky, little storefront? And what was appealing about it? The day that I found this location I truly think that it was the universe aligning. I came down to Cherokee street to watch poetry readings. The street was packed and it just so happened that the one parking spot that was available was the one right in front of 2619½ Cherokee Street, I saw it and immediately took down the phone number. I had been down on Cherokee a few times before but the location was still occupied by The Little Dipper. After that Sunday night of me inputting the phone number into my phone, I called the property management team and started the process of obtaining the space. I feel as if it was truly meant to be.
What do you like about Cherokee and the people in/around the community? What I like the most, other than the amazing level of support and respect people have for one another, is the fact that everyone is free to be their self. Cherokee has that vibe where everyone feels welcomed. Everyone on Cherokee street is free-spirited. To me, this was the perfect place for my visions of a non-traditional tea room.
Your tagline is “Brewing better lives, one leaf at a time.” Can you elaborate on this? What’s the origin of that phrase? I came up with this creed because I truly want to have a positive impact on every individual that and customer that I come into contact with. For example, if a customer is having a bad day, I want Teatopia to be their safe haven. It is ll about improving the lives of those around you; if we can do that then we will have that utopic world that many of us secretly dream of. Teatopia is just one of the many starting points in that process.
Can you talk a bit about your suppliers and supply chain? How do you select and from where do you receive your tea? Majority of my teas are shipped to me from the East Coast. My supplier gets the teas from places such as Japan, China, India, Africa, Sri Lanka, etc.. Once I receive the teas, I examine them carefully and make sure they are of quality. Prior to finding my supplier, I took an extended trip to New York and toured Manhattan and Chinatown in search of amazing teas and trustful suppliers. I like to call them secret tea shops because they are hidden and aren’t well known, especially for those that just visit New York. After doing a ton of tea tastings and walking many miles, I soon found some individuals that fit my requirements for building a relationship.
What teas have been the most-popular or commented-upon since you opened? How have people come to find you? There are many different teas that are popular. Some of them are the Vanilla White Chai Tea, Vanilla Tea, Cherry Hibiscus, White Pomegranate, Cranberry Orange, Silver Needle White tea, and Jasmine Pearls. All of these teas are loved hot or iced.
Our guess is that there are certain routines to each day, but that each day has its own wrinkles. What are some things that folks might not know about running a tea shop? Honestly, I try to keep things as smooth as possible. The only thing is time. Tea is not like coffee. With coffee, someone can brew two gallons in the morning and have it ready for a person once they arrive. With tea, its different. I have to make each drink to order. I also care about the experience that the customer has while drinking the tea, so I try to take away as many possible mishaps as I can. For example, I do all of the steeping of the drinks myself. Especially the to-go drinks. No one wants to walk around with a wet teabag hanging off the side of their cup. In addition to that no one wants to walk around timing their drink and make the mistake of steeping the drink too long and burning the leaves; this will ruin the tea completely. They just want to enjoy it. So, my response to this is to do all the steeping of the drinks. This way, the customer can go right to enjoying their drink. The time for tea is a longer than coffee but it is definitely worth the wait.