MANSFIELD — Braxton Daniels hasn’t just seen downtown flourish and grow. The Mansfield native is determined to be a part of it.
Daniels serves on the boards of the Mansfield Art Sector and North End Community Improvement Collaborative, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted his own storefront.
“I just felt like I deserved a place here,” Daniels said as he sat by the window of 3rd Cup Tea. “I was born and raised here. I’ve been involved downtown and in Mansfield for a while.”
After working at 3rd Cup Tea for two years, former owner Paul Kemerling asked Daniels if he wanted to buy the business.
Daniels leapt at that chance.
“He gave me the opportunity. It would be stupid for me not to take it,” he said.
Daniels took ownership of 3rd Cup last month. Since then, he’s expanded the hours and selection of fair trade, organic teas.
“I have a problem of knowing when to stop,” he said.
Daniels’ passion for tea is relatively new. He didn’t know much about it until he started working at the teahouse.
Now, he drinks two to three cups a day. He’s also experimented with a number of specialty items — mixing in fruits and crafting matcha lattes and lemonades.
“My favorite right now is a raspberry superfood goji berry hot tea,” he said. “Either that or my berries-and-cream mix, which is raspberries, blackberries and strawberries with tropical fruit tea and a little bit of milk. It literally tastes like cereal. It’s amazing.”
Daniels spends a lot of time researching flavors and health benefits.
“Before I started working here, I had no idea what tea was,” Daniels said. “Then I started reading on it and it’s almost like medication. It’s so healthy for you. It’s got your amino acids and antioxidants, all the stuff.
“I want to know what I’m serving people,” he said. “I’m trying to be as helpful as I can because we get a lot of newcomers.”
Daniels said he’s made a lot of new friends since taking over the shop. He spends most of his days there, sometimes with help from his mom and 16-year-old sister Zakiyaa.
“He’s kind of annoying sometimes, but we’re siblings so it makes sense,” Zakiyaa said. “It’s kind of fun. I like to learn a lot of things. It’s pretty cool to know how it all works.”
Daniels’ mother, Sharonda Wilson, said she doesn’t have the words to describe seeing her son’s dream come true.
“It’s a beautiful feeling to watch his journey,” she said. “I’m a real proud mom.”
The urban teahouse carries more than 50 varieties of hot and iced tea, as well as bubble tea and a case of healthy snacks.
In the future, Daniels hopes to bring in board games and create a sober bar inside the shop.
“I don’t drink at all, but I want a nightlife,” he said.
He didn’t offer firm details, but he’s sure it will happen someday.
“I’ve got a vision,” he said.
Third Cup Tea is located at 101 North Main Street. The shop is open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.