Steeped in Tradition

Growing popularity of brews inspire Island tea entrepreneurs

Whether it’s two for tea, an elegant high tea party, or an after-dinner ritual, tea and all that it encompasses has made a resurgence in recent years. From national chains like David’s Tea to chic teahouses offering flights of tea to celebrity-endorsed ‘beauty’ teas, it’s clear this humble beverage has become en vogue again. Several Island entrepreneurs are embracing the comeback and putting their own spin on its rejuvenation. I checked in with two to get the inside scoop on the beverage that’s as beloved by millennials as it is by grandmothers.

“The world of tea is fascinating. The legends of origin point to China. The Camellia Sinensis leaves were found to be good to brew and drink way back in 2500 BC. Tea was consumed largely for medicinal purposes until the Tang Dynasty around 700 AD. Then it became a more popular pastime and a source of artistic inspiration where poets and artists created a sophisticated universe around tea,” said Katherine Burnett of Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley.

Katherine Burnett of Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley// Submitted Photo

Burnett started Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley as a tea party catering service for the elderly in 2001, in memory of her dear friend Irene Baker, who had often invited Burnett and others over for tea. Burnett focused on the hospitality side of things, but her interest in tea grew as she took online courses with Tea USA and attended annual tea conferences. When she moved back to her home province of PEI in 2006, Burnett expanded into retail marketing of specialty teas. Today, Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley can be found at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market. Burnett also sells her tea wholesale to many Island locations and across Canada.

“I love the ritual of making a cuppa and the quirks of tea, ” said Abigayle (Abi) Totty, owner of Fable Teas, based in Kensington. Totty admits to a lifelong love affair with tea, perhaps explained by her Scottish background and her many years in the UK.

“I have a long history of doing pop-up cafes at music festivals in the UK where my authentic Indian Chai tea would create long queues of eager punters,” Totty said. “Now Fable Teas is a traveling tearoom creating wonder and whimsy with mismatched vintage bone china, embroidered tablecloths, bunting and all the sweet trimmings of high tea.” Both Totty and Cherlyn Moffet, a partner of sorts in Fable Teas, have started to learn tea leaf reading as well. Besides at its traveling tea parties, Fable Teas can also be found at the Summerside Farmers’ Market.

Fable Teas hosts traveling tea parties, this one was held at Venture Stables, hence horses and ponies were in attendance.//Photo Credit: Sue Woodworth

The two Island tea purveyors seem to agree that one key reason for the resurgence of the beverage is its purported health applications. “I think a lot of people have realized the immense health benefits with tea. We have people asking us what type of tea would help with their sore throats, colds, back pains, diabetes and increase lactation. I also think people are looking for more natural alternatives for ailments and what options are available to them,” said Totty.

Burnett echoed Totty’s observations. “People are more health conscious and so want a green tea experience where health benefits are widely listed and documented to help even fight cancer. All teas have health benefits…[but] it must be noted that herbals, though called teas, are not made with the Camellia Sinensis plant. A more appropriate label would be ‘tisane’.”

With the rising popularity of teas, Burnett and Totty are used to fielding questions from ‘newbies’. Burnett suggests a plain, black single estate tea. “The organic Awesome Assam on my shelf is really full bodied, beautiful coppery golden liquor and is tasty with or without milk. Our Cha Cha Chai is [also] a must on a shelf as the spices definitely help cut through sinus congestion or a cold-filled chest.”

Totty recommends “a fine black as a base for so many concoctions, [including] kombucha [and] Chai, or to drink on its own when you fancy a builder’s brew (that’s British for a normal tea, or the tea version of a double double). An Oolong tea [is] much higher in antioxidants, more refined-tasting than a green tea, it’s majestically smooth.”

Photo Credit: Sue Woodworth

Moffet who, according to Totty, has “a magical gift for concocting wonderful flavoured coffees and herbal elixirs that are very popular with customers,” touts Fable Tea’s hand-blended Flourish. “Its primary ingredient is nettle, which has an abundance of vitamins and minerals including calcium and iron. It also has hibiscus, which is very high in vitamin C, and cinnamon, which fights infections and viruses.”

So whether you are buying a blend from an Island tea entrepreneur, or shopping for a favourite tea at your local grocery store, enjoying a cuppa tea is an easy task. Hot or on ice, tea is a soothing beverage with a long history and, it would seem, a bright future.

About Ilona Berzins

Writing is a passion for Ilona. Food, especially savouring every morsel is more than a hobby. Being allowed to contribute to Salty enables her to combine two of her loves. An admitted grammar perfectionist she now has to apply all those rules to her own writing. Ilona resides in rural PEI and is currently living overseas on another Island with many trips back home to PEI, when the snow is gone of course.

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