Teaja opened in early 2011 as a franchise concept store in Yaletown. Their small, generously-stocked tea shop on Mainland Street contains high-end single origin teas and tea blends, all certified organic. Teaja is proud to be Vancouver’s only 100% organic tea shop and due to its organic status may very well the only one of its kind in Canada.
A Chinese tea master (one of only 10 certified masters in China) helps owner Austin Austin source the shop’s teas. Austin is close to completing a tea sommelier program through the Tea Association of Canada (TAC).
And yes, Austin’s first and last name are identical. She explained to me that Austin is her maiden name, and throughout childhood, many friends would just call her Austin. At 21, she decided to legally change her first name to match the last and hasn’t looked back since.
Austin combines her passion for tea with a way to promote wellness. All teas contain antioxidants, it just depends on the processing used. Something else I learned at the shop this week: all tea comes from the same bush, whether white, green, black, pu-erh, oolong, or (the more rare) yellow.
There are numerous benefits to drinking tea:
- Strengthens the immune system
- Reduces the risk of cancer
- Protects the heart
- Improves mood
- Relieves stress
- Eliminates body fat
- Boosts memory and mental alertness
- Builds a stronger body
- Helps to slow down the aging process
- Increases hydration
- Prevents tooth decay
- Fights bad breath
[L to R: Austin and Teaja’s Director of Franchise Sales Stefanie Makagon]
I tried several teas at the shop via cupping, a way to assess tea by understanding the subtleties between a few similar types. It was interesting to watch Austin prepare the teas, varying the steeping times and water temperatures.
Cupping gave me the chance to sniff loose tea in a tin, smell the leaves once they’ve steeped, and of course taste the final product in a cup. Analyzing tea this way is almost scientific, but also very pleasurable.
[Silver Needle Private Reserve tea, Bai Mu Dan tea, Vitality blended tea, Wellness teas]
At the moment, Teaja is in the process of building its tea collection; there’s currently over 60 loose teas for sale in the shop, alongside specially-brewed wellness teas (including tummy, cold, and calm), tea accessories, and brew pots.
Another beautiful treat is a tea blossom. Seven varieties are available, all individually packed and sourced from China. The outcome of dropping one into a glass pot is colourful and fragrant, almost too pretty to pour out after using!
The water used at Teaja is specially filtered via Everpure, an advanced water filtration system. Next in the process is a series of water taps for pouring water at just the right temperature.
The shop is constructed using sustainable materials, from the recycled glass quartz counters to energy-efficient lighting. The floors are made of renewable bamboo materials. A shelf on one wall holds loose teas in glass, above the colour-coordinated tea collection. Austin has a background in industrial design, and it shows in the clean lines of the space.
After my tea sampling I asked Austin what her best-selling tea is. The answer is Double Cream Earl Grey, amongst a 50/50 mix of male and female tea drinkers who frequent the shop. This too shows the changing demographics of tea drinkers. More males are cozying up to a cup of tea, and the robust flavour of the Double Cream Earl Grey blend plays a key role in converting coffee lovers to tea.
Teaja has future plans to expand the franchise within North America. The online shop will also soon be available. I’m curious as to where the next Teaja store might pop up in town. I’m personally rooting for Kitsilano.
Teaja is located at 1080 Mainland in Vancouver’s Yaletown.