What I Do: Reginald Quarles at Teatopia
Reginald Quarles is a contradictory man. A competitive athlete obsessed with jujitsu, he’s also a peaceful vegan who loves Paulo Coelho and Deepak Chopra. After the sudden death of his mother two years ago, Quarles quit an unfulfilling career in insurance to open his teeny tea shop, Teatopia, on Cherokee Street in January. Less than a year after opening, he has a new, larger space down the block with around 70 teas and blends available. Here, Quarles shares his experiences with meditation, secret tearooms and finding balance.
“The biggest thing behind Teatopia – our mission statement – is brewing better lives one leaf at a time. We encounter so much negativity on a daily basis, and we need a space to counter that, to make us feel safe. That’s why it’s so peaceful and clean-cut and relaxing. I feel like we need that.”
“Before I opened this, I worked at a mental health insurance company. I worked with the critical incident team: robbery and homicide, suicide, major layoffs anywhere across the U.S. My job was to provide counselors to respond to it. … I was 27 at the time, and everyone else I worked with was fine with where they were at. They were complacent. I wanted to be more. I wanted to do more, so in June of last year, I walked out in the middle of the day.”
“I took an extended trip to New York, and I spent a ton of time in Chinatown. I had this guide show me around. I like to call them secret tearooms because they’re so easy to miss. They’re probably smaller than the small space I was in at first, but there is so much knowledge and culture. I learned a ton.”
“Everyone has their way of meditating. My way of meditating is making tea. Sometimes I get a ton of meditating done in a day just because I make so many different teas.”
“If you use water that is too hot for a white tea or a green tea, it will scorch the tea leaf and get really bitter and dry. Tea has tannins just like red wine has tannins, and the more that you steep it and the hotter the water, that’s when those tannins start to release.”
“I’m currently drinking a tea that’s called pu-erh tea. Raw pu-erh is the tea you would buy and probably give to your grandkids. It can take 20 years to age and ferment. All teas ferment to an extent. This tea takes a long time to ferment, and the idea is the longer it ferments, the better it will be. These tea leaves come from tea trees that are about 500 to 1,000 years old, if not older.”
“Jujitsu is really difficult because it’s like chess with your body. That’s what it boils down to. It’s getting in and out of certain situations and being able to protect yourself. When I compete, I’m at peace.”
“I’m actually super hard on myself. It may not seem like it, but I have a very high standard for myself. I have this belief that no one should want my goal more than I want it.”
Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.
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