I've been telling people that come into our space, or that we meet at farmers markets for a while now our story but it just dawned on me that I never truly explained to our customers and visitors that aren't from Toronto what it is that makes Herbal Infusions Tea different than other tea shops, and, in my opinion better. So I've compiled a short list. Here we go.
We are tea animators
Unlike the majority of tea shops that you will come across both online and in your communities, we aren't merely tea peddlers. We don't just import from large mega blenders and repackage our teas, effectively becoming 'middlemen' in an already cloudy industry. We take the time to source quality tea bases, then dehydrate in-house, or source locally ingredients from markets. For example, our Creme Brulee Chai uses spices that we collect from Kensington Market in Toronto from passionate merchants that know their products. And we have a close relationship with the awesome guys at Chocosol - a sustainable chocolate company that rocks a mean stone ground chocolate. They are also dedicating their roof to not only solar panels for roasting their cacao, but also to an organic herb garden. You better believe that Herbal Infusions will be utilizing some space to create mint, lavender, and other botanicals to inject into our tea.
We are transparent
No hidden flavours are tolerated. When I first started this journey into tea and launched my tea shop in downtown Toronto I was utilizing a deep supply chain of over 15 tea suppliers bringing me 115 types of tea. Now I quickly started to realize that not all tea suppliers are created equal. In fact, many of them do not give resellers the tools that they need to fully educate tea drinkers in what it is that they are drinking. Sure some might tell you when it was blended, or if they contain nuts. But it really doesn't go beyond that.
When it comes to the flavourings that are used to create exotic tea flavors like pumpkin chai tea, tiramisu tea, choconut oolong, blueberry kona, and others they aren't all disclosing what is used to scent the tea.
Are the tea flavourings gluten free? Kosher? organic? natural or artificial? dairy-free? In this day and age we all have intolerances or allergies and sometimes they can be extremely dangerous. We ask these questions with our food and get answers and we should have the same transparency with tea. For over 3 years I have been conducting tea blending workshops for hundreds of interested people. Some in the industry have told me that I am exposing the secrets of scenting and flavoring tea and they don't like it. To those people I tell them there is nothing more important than educating tea drinkers about what it is they really are drinking.
We are innovators
This year the 2nd annual Toronto Tea Festival kicks off at the Toronto Reference Library. And this year again I have been asked to speak. I'm doing two talks with my good friend Trevor of Tipicular Fixins, a cutting edge beverage consulting company in Toronto. Trevor and I have run many fun tea cocktail workshops at my shop over the years and it's always a pleasure to work alongside with him. I've been crafting creative tea infused cocktails and learning the finer points of cocktail making with Trevor- something that brings the health benefits of a great cup of tea to urban nightlife. We push the boundaries of incorporating tea into cocktails to a whole new level.
I've also crafted Tea Sodas - something that was done 3 years ago when I started my tea shop, which, interesting enough was right around the corner from the very first DAVIDsTEA store. DAVIDsTEA launched their version- Tea Pops last summer. It's a great alternative to ice teas when trying to cool down on hot days. I'd always include fresh seasonal berries and sprigs of mint on my Tea Sodas though.
Tea Slushies are a fun way of incorporating tea into something that has become a staple for many kids during the hot season. I'll be uploading various 'how to' videos on our Youtube Channel this spring/summer that you can try at home so be sure to subscribe to our channel!