ENTREPRENEUR LATONIA COKELY: A TEA RITUAL As Self-Care

We recently connected with LaTonia Cokely to discuss a tea ritual as a form of self-care. LaTonia is the founder of Adjourn Teahouse and we are honored to carry three blends from her signature collection under Sanctuaire’s Wellness category. Below we discuss how LaTonia got started in the tea business and learn easy steps about how to add a tea ritual to your self-care habits.

S:

How and when did you begin your relationship with tea?

LC:

We always drank tea as a family. I was raised in Richmond VA and sweet tea is a thing! Beyond that, however, were our evening rituals with hot apple juice, sleepytime tea and “mock” hot toddy’s. My mom always made tea sipping something special and communal; we drank tea together. I can vividly remember how “grown” I felt drinking tea and how it made my insides feel warm and cozy. Also, serendipitously, I won a business plan competition in HS for a candle and tea shop. Almost 20 years later, here we are! Since then, I’ve returned to tea for both happy and sad moments.

S:

What does sitting down with a cup of warm tea mean to you?

LC:

It reminds me that I have more control over my time and being than I’d like to admit. I think oftentimes, we are so overwhelmed that we forget the things we can control, like sitting down unapologetically and Adjourning; literally pausing all of the madness around me for a few minutes to decompress and think. For me, this became critical in my healing after the passing of my father in 2004 and mother in 2014. It was literally how I began to usher myself through grieving. And, I am still a work in progress. I just learned along that way that tea steeping and drinking was the most sustainable way for ME to give/get back to ME.

S:

What led you to transition your love of tea into the business of tea?

LC:

I was an educator in Maryland for years and transitioned to facilitating and coaching teachers in DC. During a summer session, I talked about the necessity of bringing yourself into the classroom and chose to model this by sharing tea with the student teachers there. Now, I had already gotten an LLC (for a different tea business) and was very confused about the process and, truly, lacked confidence. After sharing with the teachers, I was encouraged and supported in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I was able to make a few connections to get the help I needed to get Adjourn off the ground. Ultimately, tea for me is an art; I am a creator not necessarily a businesswoman. That being said, I want to offer blends that encourage other women like me and folx around the globe to Adjourn, or pause, and offer themselves more space to breathe and process.

S:

Did you ever imagine that owning a tea business would be part of your story?

LC:

This is a great question! Yes and no. I have had dreams of having a cute little shop somewhere in my retirement. But, I’ve had to deal with a lot in the past 10-15 years and, truthfully, it became more important for me to live and have stability than risk owning a business. After my mother’s passing in 2014, I knew things had to change. I loved working with students but not the bureaucracy of a school system, a large one to boot. My mother’s last words were, “Be Happy”. I noticed how stressed I was as a teacher often getting migraines and having stomach issues. Eventually, I chose to leave the classroom and work with a non-profit. There I cultivated some awesome friendships and had the space to DREAM finally. However, I never knew I would OWN a tea company. It was the juxtaposition between my mother’s passing and encouragement from others that forced me to get it a try!

S:

Is there anything that you have discovered about yourself while growing your tea business?

LC:

Yes! A LOT! I discovered that this is truly my creative outlet. I am a creator and that’s become an identity I’ve chosen to welcome. I have also learned that though I am no longer a teacher in the traditional sense, I am still (and, will always be) an educator. It is in my blood. I’ve learned that when I follow my gut + my own path, good things will come abundantly. I thought I was destined to be a principal one day. I was certified as an administrator and had three degrees and a whole house by 25. With all of that, I was still unmoved + unsatisfied. I found between 25 and 30 that none of that mattered. Today, I feel like everything I do matters. That’s the growth I have always wanted!

S:

How do you think that a tea ritual can be used as a form of self-care?

LC:

Yes! Self and collective care. Tea sipping is both solitary and communal. I think, moreover, it's the practice of making tea that brings in ritual. It takes time to brew a nice cup of loose leaf tea. There are elements of patience and pausing/waiting that come up over and over throughout the process. You can’t rush it so you have to give yourself the time to be present. And, what I love about tea rituals as self-care practices is that it is sustainable. You CAN take 5-10 mins to enjoy a cup of tea.
Adding mindfulness to tea steeping and sipping is certainly self-care. This simply means that you are paying attention to each part of the process and engaging each of your senses:

1. Watching the water boil, the steam and bubbles
2. Playing with and smelling your tea of choice
3. Carefully scooping and observing the colors and textures
4. Watching the tea transform in water
5. Breathing and savoring each sip
6. Tasting the top and bottom notes/flavors of the blend
‘‘
We are often told (because of capitalism) that our rest and break comes when we retire. That should not be the case; we are not mules.
’’

S:

For those that are new to a tea ritual, what are a few easy steps to get started?

LC:

1. Choose a tea you are really interested in sipping 2. Set your water to boil and add about 2 tsps to your tea infuser, teapot or tea filter 3. When you water reaches temperature, let it sit a few seconds then pour it into your mug 4. Let your tea steep for 3-5 mins, taking the time to watch your brew transform and engage your sense of smell 5. Sip and enjoy!

S:

Here at Sanctuaire we carry the blends Rimshot, Home Sweet, and Afro Blue. Can you tell us a little about each of these?

LC:

Rimshot is your all natural, caffeine free, coffee alternative! Imagine a delicious café mocha with notes of coconut and cinnamon without the caffeine. This unique blend takes me back to my coffee house, spoken word, jazz club days. Its main ingredient includes cacao bean husks. It's filled with the chocolatey goodness of cacao beans, in addition to rich antioxidants and essential vitamins. You won't regret trading your coffee for a cup of Rimshot! Excellent plant-based source of magnesium, antioxidants and other vitamins. Tasting notes: Nutty, Chocolatey, Soothing Home Sweet is a curated blend reminiscent of Sunday dinner. It's a blend of carrot, almonds, apples, Assam black tea and cinnamon. The Assam is a rich black tea that offers notes of molasses and dates and gives you a full-mouthed feel. Think sweet potato pie or sock-it-to-me cake sans that calories. It is strikingly nostalgic and will take you closer to home with each sip! Home sweet makes an amazing latte! Try adding oat milk + honey. Improves circulation, helps with digestion, can help with cholesterol, anti-inflammatory, good for heart health. Tasting notes: Hearty, soothing, fragrant Afro Blue is a beautiful blend of white peony tea, lemongrass and warming chai spices. Blue butterfly pea flowers bring in refreshing and nutty notes, along with anthocyanin, an amazing antioxidant. It's leaves produce an all natural rich blue pigment; add lemon or lime and watch your tea transform into purple before your eyes! This blend is both light & warm, spicy & refreshing, moody & bright. Tons of antioxidants, eases nausea and strengthens your immune system. Tasting notes: Warming, spicy, fragrant

S:

Outside of dedicated tea time, what are some of your other self-care practices?

LC:

REST! I believe in naps and flow, so I am blessed to include following my own flow/schedule/rhythm into my practice. I also see a therapist, read, stretch and I love to do my own nails.

S:

As people of color, why do you feel it is important to include/introduce a tea ritual into the day?

LC:

We need it and we deserve it! I developed this brand and the practice of “Adjourning” with my parents in mind, both of whom were barely 50 when they transitioned on. We are often told (because of capitalism) that our rest and break comes when we retire. That should not be the case; we are not mules. Coming up with sustainable ways of taking care of ourselves individually and collectively is so important in the health of our families and our community as a whole. And, WE DO THIS! Drinking tea is so ingrained in the histories and anthologies of people of color. It's high time for us to get back to our own roots by incorporating herbs AND the practice of tea sipping into our rituals.

S:

Either in your home, or elsewhere, where is sanctuaire (sanctuary) for relaxation and peace?

LC:

I am Cancer so, home is very important to me. Anywhere within my home, specifically my bedroom! I also enjoy naps on the couch in my den.

S:

What can we expect to see from Adjourn Teahouse in the future?

LC:

Great question! I have a few nice collaborations coming up that I am super excited about. I also leased my first production/studio space to really expand. I am using this space to scale Adjourn and work with young black womxn interested in entrepreneurship and wellness. I will also drop a few dope new blends in the next few months, so stay tuned!

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