Today is International Tea Day! I celebrated by having a cup before I left for work and a few more at work, but that’s not enough. So I’m going to share a few tea places that I think you all should check out. Here are some of my favourite tea places, or places that are secret and need some love.
Teavivre — When friends ask me for a good shop to start learning about Chinese tea, this is one I often recommend. Teavivre has good-quality Chinese teas at reasonable prices, offers lots of samples, and has a really good rewards program. They also do quite a few promotions and sales. They are perfect if you’re new to buying tea online and want to find a low-risk way to experiment.
Secret Teatime — This is an independent ceramics shop in Toronto that handcrafts lovely cups and bowls. I first found out about them at the Toronto Tea Festival earlier this year, and bought one of their chawans, as well as 2 cups. They’re a well-kept secret, but worth your time, especially if you’re looking for a high-quality bowl for whisking matcha. Plus: independent! Handmade! These things make me very happy.
Yunnan Sourcing – I’ve reviewed several Yunnan Sourcing teas previously, and that’s for a reason: their stuff is damn good. YS offers a wide variety of teas at ridiculously reasonable prices. The site also has a big collection of teaware, including several gaiwans — I’ve bought at least 3. Plus, they have a monthly subscription option. My only problem is that the only samples they sell are for pu’erh cakes. Otherwise, if you want their greens, whites, blacks, or oolongs, you’ll have to buy 50-100 grams upfront.
Capital Tea Ltd — This is yet another well-kept Toronto-area secret when it comes to tea. While Capital Teas focuses mainly on Chinese and Indian teas, they sell a few other varieties from across the globe, including teas from Taiwan, Kenya and Rwanda. Their jasmine teas are good, and they also offer samples. As a bonus, if you’re in the Greater Toronto Area, the purchasing threshold at which you get free tea is cheaper than for other parts of Canada.
Amoda Tea — Amoda’s model is a bit different from the other vendors mentioned here. Instead of blending and selling their own teas, Amoda curates tea samples from other independent tea companies. Past partners include Aromatica Fine Teas, Nepali Tea Traders, and Capilano Tea House. Once they partner with a vendor, they include the partner’s teas in a monthly subscription box and also sell individual blends. It also looks like they’ve started to sell their own house blends too, which is interesting.
Finally, there’s one special company I want to draw your attention to:
Surai Tea — International Tea Day was started with the intention to “draw global attention of governments and citizens to the impact of the global tea trade on workers and growers, and has been linked to requests for price supports and fair trade.” That’s why I was delighted to learn about Surai Tea earlier today.
This company launched earlier this year in Ottawa. What’s special about them is not what they sell, but who they help: Syrian refugees. Surai Tea explicitly was set up to help Syrian refugees gain Canadian job experience — since Canadan employers often use a lack of “Canadian experience” as form of gatekeeping, this company was founded specifically to combat that.
If International Tea Day is all about helping workers in the tea industry better their lives, I can’t think of a more appropriate company to support. I just bought some of their teas to try, and will report back soon.