MANSFIELD — Paul Kemerling isn’t a fan of grand openings. So when the owner of Relax, It’s Just Coffee decided to open a tea room downtown, he did so with little fanfare.
“I wanted to sort of quietly reopen the doors and let people organically find us,” Kemerling said.
3RD CUP TEA is located inside the ‘Field Market, 101 N. Main St. While the ‘Field Market will continue to offer a limited selection of snacks and other items, 3RD CUP TEA is now the primary focus of the storefront.
Kemerling decided to make the transition from grocery store to tea house during the COVID-19 shutdown. Grocery and deli sales at the ‘Field Market had been low, but tea and kombucha has always sold well.
“We discovered pretty quickly that it was a really tough business, the grocery business,” Kemerling said. “It was time for us to rethink concepts and that’s when I took a hard look at what we were doing. It just made sense for us when we reopened to focus on tea.”
Inside the shop, seating options include bar stools, hard backed seats with work tables and comfy couches and chairs.
“When we opened Relax, we didn’t have a lot of money, so our look became eclectic by force,” Kemerling said. “We wanted to sort of set this up as not your grandma’s tea shop. We want to have the same sort of eclectic approach that we have to coffee.”
While nontraditional in many aspects, the name 3RD CUP TEA comes from a first century poem by Lu T’ung -- titled “Song of Tea” or “Song of Seven Cups.”
In the poem, T’ung states that the first cup of tea moistens the lips and throat, the second breaks through loneliness and the third searches the soul.
“There’s something about tea that’s always been sort of meditative. The process of preparing and drinking tea can be a meditative process,” Kemerling noted.
The idea that a cup of tea can touch the soul also alludes to the social aspect of the shop.
Like Relax, 3RD CUP TEA is designed to be a place where guests can socialize or get work done.
“The vibe of the coffee shop is so chill. I love it. It’s calm. A good mental break. A good place to read. The tea is soothing,” said Braxton Daniels, an employee at the shop. “It’s a great place just to get away and relax.”
3RD CUP TEA offers more than 50 varieties of black, green, white, rooibos, herbal and botanical teas and features three brewed iced teas each day. It also have six kombucha flavors available.
Under current restrictions related to COVID-19, restaurants can’t serve food or drink in ceramics, but at some point customers will be able to order a pot of tea and make themselves at home.
Kemerling also plans to add matcha tea and tea lattes, which are made by pulling shots of tea through an espresso machine.
“People who want that latte experience with that sweet velvety milk but aren’t coffee drinkers now have an option,” he said.
Kemerling said he’s enjoyed getting to experiment with different flavors of tea, but that hasn’t always been the case.
“Over the years, I’ve become more and more enamored with tea. I used to drink coffee all day long and the last few years it’s been coffee in the morning and some sort of green or herbal tea in the afternoon,” he said.
“Tea is so much more diverse than coffee. There's almost an infinite amount of options available in terms of flavor and profile.”