Reo Quarles

Reo Quarles owns Teatopia on Cherokee Street.

While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs and business owners for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome food and drinks using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting beverages and more.

Reginald "Reo" Quarles is the owner of Teatopia, an independently owned tea room and shop established in 2017 whose mission is "brewing better lives one leaf at a time." Teatopia is currently offering carryout as well as online ordering with in-store or curbside pick up. View the full menu of food, tea and more on the Teatopia website.

What tools do you deem essential for brewing tea at home? Tea can be made in a simple way or in a more complex way. If you are a black tea drinker or herbal tea drinker, all you need is boiling water, a strainer and some amazing Teatopia loose leaf. When it comes to jade oolongs, white teas and green teas, things change. The water temperature ranges from 165 degrees to 180 degrees. Water temperature is important with tea as well as steep time. If the water is too hot or if the tea steeps for too long, then the tea will become very bitter (tannic). It is important to be able to measure your water temperature and time your tea brewing. If you choose to cold brew your tea, then no kettle is needed.

If you had to construct a kit of three of your favorite teas for a new enthusiast to try making at home, which ones would they be, and why? Three teas that new tea enthusiasts must try are our Pu-Erh tea, Jasmine Pearls, and Chocolate Lavender. The Pu-Erh tea is a tea not many are familiar with, and it is my favorite category of tea. It has amazing dark, rich, earthy flavors, and this category of tea re-steeps over and over. Jasmine Pearls is an important tea to try because there are real jasmine petals hand-rolled with Chinese green tea. This tasty floral green tea is the perfect tea to start your journey. We had to add a tea that you can drink with milk and honey. Sometimes you are in the mood for something smooth, sweet and creamy and this tea is the one to have. If our list of over 80 teas are too hard to choose from, then you have the choice or trying out Teatopia triple surprise pack. We will gather three teas for you and take away the pressure of you having to sift through all the tea options we have.

What advice can you offer on how to make a refreshing iced tea? There are few different ways to make iced tea. Some people love a sweet traditional black tea with a little lemon, and others just love a really strong fruity tea. To ice your Teatopia tea, all you have to do is first brew your tea hot, and then pour it over your cup of ice. It can be just that simple. There is no need to complicate crafting iced tea when you have amazing tea to brew with.

Personally, I drink my teas straight. Nothing added. However, if you would like to sweeten your tea I would recommend making the tea hot first and then adding sweetener. If you add the sweetener while the water is cold, it will sink to the bottom of the glass and your first few sips will taste sweeter. However, if you heat your water first and steep your tea, you can add the sweetener then. Finally you would pour your cuppa over a nice tall glass of ice.

What are some fun or useful products that you offer at the shop that you really think enhance the tea-making and drinking experience? There are many different tools that we have in our shop to enhance the brewing experience. One of those tools is our Japanese red clay kyusu. This handcrafted teapot is designed to be used with Japanese greens teas such as our Uji Gyokuro, Nozomi and Sencha. Once the green tea interacts with the red clay, it lowers the chances of your tea becoming tannic from mistakenly steeping them too long. You can have a nice strong pot of tea without the bitter notes. We also have these amazing glass tea pots that are great for brewing all sorts of tea. The glass not only allows you to see the beauty of the tea liquor, but it also dissipates heat a little faster than clay or porcelain and you can drink your delicious pot of tea sooner.

Teatopia, 2606 Cherokee St., Cherokee Business District, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.669.1464, teatopiastl.com