An Interview With the Co-Founder of David’s Tea
By Meghan Gribben
Tea culture is growing—fast. Artisan loose leaf tea shops were once a rarity but in the last four years have been popping up everywhere. In places like Tea Emporium or Teavana, customers can find a vast variety of blends of tea to drink. Once playing second fiddle to coffee, tea is becoming the beverage choice for health-conscious Canadians.
One of the big players in the tea industry right now is David’s Tea. Their first store opened in Toronto, at Queen and Spadina, in 2008, and they now have 105 stores across North America. David Segal, co-founder of David’s Tea, says he wanted to make tea “fun and accessible.” David’s Tea has 150 different varieties of tea; they also carry all the required equipment, like infusers and tea pots that you would need to brew loose leaf tea.
“North America is late to the party,” says Segal, about the popularity of tea. “It’s been around for thousands of years, it’s as old as the hills… I think North Americans are starting to realize there’s so much more to the tea bag [than] what you can get in a grocery store.” Until recently, “no one was doing tea in a fun way on the main streets, and tea was very British or very Asian, and you’d go into a grocery store and you’d get like Earl Grey or Camomile. What we got really excited about was that there were so many flavours in teas,” says Segal.
David’s Tea carries white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, pu’erh tea, maté, rooibos, and herbal teas. They differentiate from other tea companies in many ways. “We have the largest organic tea collections in the world to my knowledge, certified organic tea collections; that’s a major differentiating factor for us,” says Segal. “We also do all of our own blends: they are all of them exclusive to us.” One other difference is that while competitors will launch teas only once a year, “there’s always something new at David’s Tea,” says Segal: “we design our own accessories, and we launch over 40 teas a year. All throughout the year, whether it’s seasonal collections or tea of the month.”
It’s also good to know that David himself is tea lover. “I always liked tea, and drank Earl Grey and Camomile like everybody else, and then I realized just how much more there was to it,” says Segal. “Tea is like a journey; it really is. I’ve been to India; I’ve been to Sri Lanka; I’ve had the opportunity to develop a passion and a love for it and I can’t imagine my life without tea now. I drink five, six cups a day.”
For the novice tea drinker, David’s Tea is a good place to start. “You’re always going to be helped out by someone who is passionate about tea,” explains Segal. “You don’t really need to know anything about tea to come into our stores, everyone is welcome: whether you’re a tea expert, we have some amazing traditional blends, some oolongs, white teas, green teas, or if you’re brand new to tea, we’re going to show you how easy it is to make loose leaf tea.”
Everyone has a favourite tea, so we asked Segal what his was. “Definitely Sencha Ashikubo, which is a traditional Japanese green tea, and I drink it every morning; it’s outstanding,” says Segal. “What a lot of people don’t realize [about green tea is]…you really want to let the water cool before you put it over your tea leaves, and you only want to steep it for about a minute or two. Sencha Ashikubo is really buttery and very vegetal. It’s a beautiful tea, but if you over steep it or the water’s too hot, you’ll burn the leaves and it will taste really bitter.” He also likes Read My Lips, which is a dessert tea; Mother’s Little Helper, which has Valerian root in it as a sleeping aide; and North African Mint, which is a mint tea with fennel and cloves. All these blends are available at David’s Tea.
What about the future of tea culture? “I think people are going to continue to explore their senses,” says Segal. “The thing with tea is it’s so versatile, it fits in your lifestyle in so many different ways.”
David’s Tea does not currently hold a location on the Danforth, but has one in the east end in the Beach on Queen St. East, as well as one on Church St., Bloor St. West, and Queen St. West.