Sometimes you give yourself no choice but to go "home." In this case, my home is the very place where some of the world's best grown teas can be found - Taiwan! It was a very fruitful, healthy, pleasurable and fun-filled year living in Toronto, Canada, after living in Taiwan for nine years. However, the constant reminder of Taiwan from one day to the next kept pulling me back to an island that has been home to so many fantastic and life-altering experiences.
Let's look back on a year and a "home" that was (and will always be), Canada...
The 'treasure chest' filled with bricks of tea and the detailed pots and cups of a true fanatic of tea landed at Pearson Airport in Toronto a few weeks after my arrival; and to great anticipation, too. Once the special cargo found it's new home there was very little time between being unpacked and put to good use. There was tea to be made and little time to waste!
Within weeks of the first (and many, many subsequent) steeps Innofarmer Tea started out on a soon-to-be well-worn path from the City streets, to farmer's markets, to tea shops and workshops. Delicatessens and other Fine Food establishments were entered, introduced to and, in a select few cases, even put on display some of our teas for future sales.
One restaurant stood out above all the rest. The Fish Street Market and Open Kitchen (2584 Yonge St. Toronto, ON | https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fish-Street-In-House-Chef/273051692814850?fref=ts). Owners Anthony and Dany opened their doors and welcomed us with open arms. Aside from their 'D'elicious assortment of dishes, one of the sweetest couples I know allowed Innofarmer Tea to set up a display and tea tasting table in front of their store. It was a win-win for everyone: Customers discovered our collection of quality teas and tea lovers discovered The Fish Street! Sure, the food was great...but the hospitality and generosity of the owners and staff made Saturday the most exciting day of the week!
Tea, however, doesn't roll off the tip of one's tongue when talking about soft shell crab and clam chowder. Searching for the true tea lover takes a little more effort - and some extra pizzazz! Since I have such a deep love (and respect) for tea, having the opportunity to tell others about what I have grown to appreciate in this fine elixir was what I set out to do. Workshops, workshops and more workshops. Innofarmer Tea cobbled together a handful of workshops for tea drinkers - beginners to advanced. Throughout the winter months (and what a winter it was!), Innofarmer Tea offered several tea tastings in combination with a series of informative and engaging slideshows, presentations and Q&A sessions. Whether they took place in company offices, basement studios or local Comunity Centres, attendees thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful variety of tea of offer and the interaction that took place between students. The marvels of tea not only bring complete strangers together, but also stimulate conversation and interest in so many new discoveries.
Discovering what Torontonians (and by extension Canadians) want in their tea doesn't unfold through test groups and mark research all on their own. To get a real sense of what Canadians want in their beverage I had to offer tea tastings and workshops. What I didn't take into account was the value of the rapidly growing farmers market network throughout the City. Once Innofarmer Tea was entrenched in a local market in North Toronto the information was quickly realized. Farmers Markets have been a fixture in most cities throughout Canada, but only in the last 5+ years has the popularity markets exploded. Still, the lonely ol' tea merchant is rarely found among the tomatoes, corn, honey, strudels and Caribbean-Korean dumplings that cover most stands! So when it came time to cart out our tea bricks and bags every Friday we didn't have a clue what our day would bring us. Still, without a doubt, each and every Friday at the market was special and unique their very own way.
The unique qualities that make up Taiwan is very hard to describe. So when we discovered a network (and a big one at that) of Taiwanese living in and around Toronto we couldn't pass up the opportunity to not only meet but also greet many who eventually became our very good friends. On Eglinton Ave. East, two blocks east of Yonge St., you'll find a bubble tea shop that serves up Toronto's Best Bubble Milk Tea. Hands down, there's no contest! FormoCha Bubble Tea Shop (55 Eglinton Ave. E., Toronto, ON | https://www.facebook.com/FormoChaBubbleTea?fref=ts) was our valued partner in bringing Innofarmer Tea to a larger group of customers. Whether in tea bag or loose leaf brick, you could find a wide assortment of Innofarmer Tea on FormoCha's menu and counter tops. The two owners, Daniel and Erica Li, were not only partners in this venture but eventually became, and still are, lifelong friends. The fact that they are Taiwanese goes to show you that Taiwan and Taiwanese share that same uniqueness the world over.
Well, it's about time to wrap up this brief look back on the year that was. We had such a good time while living in Toronto. Introducing our collection of high quality, great-tasting teas sure was a memorable experience. Yet, there is still so much more on the way.
In the next Blog entry, Innofarmer Tea will look back at a handful of charitable and fundraising events that were attended throughout this past year and a pair of Travel and Tourism Shows that brought the best out in Taiwan through the taste of it's delicious tea.
Until next time...Keep Steeping and Drink On!
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”