Shabnam Weber in front of some of the exotic teas you can find at The Tea Emporium
Within a ten minute walk from my home is a wonderful haven for tea lovers. Not only can you buy every type of tea imaginable, you can sit in the lovely restaurant area and enjoy it with the most awesome looking desserts. It truly is a little trip to heaven - just as good as a day at the spa. Oh, and did I mention all the lovely tea accessories you can buy there as well. There's a wide range of beautiful cups and tea pots, but my favorites are the jams and jellies to slather on my morning toast or to glaze some chicken breasts for a quick but oh-so-good dinner. So even if you're more partial to coffee than to tea....how can you resist this?
Naturally, I wanted to meet whoever created The Tea Emporium - my oasis from stress. Her name is Shabnam Weber - she and her husband, Frank are the wizards behind it and here's a bit of our conversation:
R: How did your love of tea start?
S: My husband and I both grew up with tea - I have a Persian background - and his is German. For both of us - tea was always in the house - and it was always good quality loose leaf tea. We also both subscribe to the life philosophy of - if you do something - then do it right - that applies to everything - coffee, tea, food etc.
R: When/how did you come up with the idea for The Tea Emporium- one of my favorite shop to indulge my love of teas?
S: We owned and operated a restaurant in Cologne Germany and fell in love with the specialty tea stores in Europe. We could not understand why something like that didn't exist in Toronto. We had decided we wanted to return to Toronto - and introducing Toronto/Canada to good quality loose leaf tea was the natural and most logical thing for us.
R: What's the best part of running The Tea Emporium?
S: The endless possibilities. We are always coming up with new and interesting products that are related to tea - tea jams, tea spices, tea truffles, tea cookies etc. The other part that is so gratifying is the delight with which so many of our customers enjoy our tea - for some - drinking loose leaf tea is almost like tasting tea for the very first time.
R: And, your biggest challenge?
S: Staffing is always our biggest challenge. We have always been very fortunate to find good people to work with us - people that care about the product. But it's no small endeavour to learn about each and every one of our products and to speak about it with authority and intelligence.
R: What is your favorite tea?
S: Hmm - that is not a simple question to answer. I start my day with a full bodied black tea - Assam, or blend of China black tea. Mid-morning - I will have our Sunshine Mate - or a flavoured green tea. In the afternoon I love a nice Darjeeling or Oolong - and in the evening a white tea. I tend to drink more Indian Chai's in the winter and in the summer lighter fruitier teas. That is what I love about tea - so many different types and varieties not to mention the endless amounts of combinations once you start blending with fruits, flowers, spices etc. It can suit you at any time of year and in any mood.
R: Any chance you'd share a recipe or two?
S: How about a Jasmine Martini and Pears Poached in Chai (Check out the recipes below)
R: Tell us a little about the "tea of the month club", it sounds so interesting.
S: We created the Tea of the Month club as a great gift to give to someone who loves tea - but also ideal for our many internet customers who want to try a variety of different teas. We have a few different themes and you will receive two teas delivered to your door every month for six months - it truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
R: Any last words - on teas or setting up a such a cool business?
S: Tea is so much more than your grandmothers teapot boiling on the stove. We encourage our customers to have fun with what they're doing - try a tea martini for example - or make a milkshake from Japanese green tea powder - think beyond what you're used to.
Second, so many people are being attracted to tea for its many health benefits. We strongly encourage people to find a tea that you enjoy the flavours of if you want to reap the benefits of tea. In order to get all the benefits associated to tea - it must become a part of your lifestyle.
R: Lastly, since lots of my readers live far from Toronto, how can they get some of your wonderful teas (I particularly love your accessories)?
S: They can order all of our teas from our website The Tea Emporium. We do have some merchandise online as well - but not our entire selection. A lot of our merchandise changes regularly - so we have selected some consistent items to feature online.
Now here are those recipes Shabnam graciously shared...