Tea Trader has been serving Calgary tea aficionados for three decades, carrying hundreds of specialty teas from around the world. Owner Ted Jones opened the first Tea Trader store in Inglewood in 1994 in a ground-floor space shared with an antiques shop. From there, Tea Trader moved a number of times within Inglewood — one of the most memorable locations being the second-floor space accessed by a street-level door on 9th Avenue that opened directly to a stairwell. Jones has since moved the shop into a ground-level space in the Ramsay Design Centre, a heritage building in neighbouring Ramsay.
Hailing from Norwich, England, Jones practically has tea running through his veins — Tea Trader’s e-shop counterpart, Mr. Maxey’s Tea, is named in ode to a local tea purveyor he recalls from his childhood years.
Jones now travels to tea gardens around the world to meet with his suppliers and source new varieties of tea. His Ramsay shop is full of old teapots, canisters and tea chests collected over its many years in business.
We asked Jones to give us all the “tea” on selling and sipping tea.
Why do you love tea?
“Growing up in England it’s a staple; you’re drinking it all the time. We had a tea supplier called Mr. Maxey who would deliver to our door — he’d buy the tea at the London auctions, repackage it and bring it to the doorstep — so there’s a strong reminiscence for me.”
How much tea do you drink in a day?
“Less now that I’m getting older, but I’ll drink a couple strong mugfuls in the morning — I don’t drink from teacups because you can’t get much volume. Later in the day, I’ll have three or four cups while we are tasting, but spitting a lot of it out.”
What kinds of tea do you like to drink?
“I drink assam in the morning with milk, but, when I’m at the shop, it’s a mixture. We’ve got a lot of tea [samples] to go through, so we’re often tasting to pick and choose what to potentially buy. And then we have to try the ones we buy routinely, because the quality and character can change over time.”
What is one thing someone should invest in if they want to truly appreciate specialty teas?
“When I make tea, I use a fine china mug and a regular tea filter — you can take the filter out, put it on the saucer and, half an hour later, you can reinfuse those leaves. The china is partially for elegance, but also, it’s because if you use a big, thick, ceramic [mug], it will suck the heat out of the cup of tea.”
1902 11 St. S.E., 403-264-0728, teatrader.com