“I honor you,” he says. And then Tom Lalevich joins his palms and bows to a customer at his Lima Road tea shop.
That visitor might be stopping at Tamurai Tea for a green tea, or a jasmine pearl tea, or any of a dozen other organic teas. A tea pearl blooms slowly and fills the glass container.
A few feet away, Amber Pape leads a yoga class. Behind the counter, Lalevich leads a tour of his teas and his journey from gridiron to meditation.
“I honor you.” He explains. “I drop my ego in respect that you’ve taken time out of your day to visit with me or the tea shop,” he says. “You’re taking a pause in your day. By your having an open mind, by coming into the shop and sharing a part of your world and your being with me, I have to honor that.”
He values the pause for peaceful meditation. He began meditating while playing football in junior college in California, he explains. His teammates accepted it, too. “They saw the importance of quieting the mind and opening the heart, and becoming very intuitive within their being,” he says. Revealing the intuitive nature of the individual allows one to be more insightful and kind, he says.
He began meditation to enhance his athletic performance in 1974, and has been meditating for over 40 years.
“In the mid-1990s I heard about drinking green tea for health properties, and I found that green tea enhanced my meditation greatly,” he says. “And that started my journey into Indian and Chinese herbology that has been around for thousands of years.”
The combined effect is a calm state of being, he says. “I look at meditation and prayer as a two-sided coin. It enhances the lifestyle and well-being, but meditation without prayer is half the journey. It calms the brain, calms the mind,” he says. “So that when we do pray to our god — mine being Christian — we come to prayer in a very loving sense, a very blissful sense, which enhances the benefit.”
The tea itself is important to Lalevich. “I have a passion for tea,” he says.
About 95 percent of his teas are organic. Tea is not washed from field to cup, he says, because washing could change the composition. So it is important to start with tea that has not been exposed to pesticides or other chemicals.
“We have herbal teas, which are wonderfully health providing,” he says. “We have green teas, white tea, oolong tea, black tea and then the matcha green tea. We have loose leaf as well as bagged teas, and we do carry sustainably grown, locally roasted Utopian coffee.”
“One of our main goals is to educate people on the health-giving properties of both meditation and tea,” he says.
As Lalevich shares tea with an audience of one, Pape shares yoga with a class of one. The yoga teacher has more than 200 hours of certification, and continues to share her skills at other locations around Fort Wayne. “I basically just share my knowledge of yoga and meditation with the community,” she says. “That includes just quieting the mind and being a better person overall — mind, body and spirit.
“Yoga postures are created to find a more comfortable seat for meditation, and in meditation you’re looking to find that stillness of the mind, the journey to the self through the self. To be alone with yourself.”
She also teaches prenatal and postnatal yoga classes by appointment. Pape teaches throughout the Fort Wayne area.
Lalevich opened the White Swan Plaza shop in 2013.
“This is my first venture into something like this,” says the veteran of 25 years in the whiskey business. “We’re incorporating wine and tea infusions,” he explains. “When you combine organic, high-grade tea with good-tasting wine, it makes the bio-availability of that tea much greater.”
Tamurai Tea offers occasional wine and tea infusion sessions. There is no charge. Reservations are not required, but anyone interested should call 387-6134 to confirm when and where the infusions will be offered.
Lalevich says his hobby-turned-business serves yet another purpose.
He says he strives to become healthier and more sensitive, and he sees that as a responsibility to his children and grandchildren. “What I hope would live beyond me would be my faith,” he says, “and it would encourage me to explore new avenues that are going to enhance the lives of my loved ones. I would hope that I could share that with consumers and people in the community in different ways. And that was the sole reason for opening the shop.”