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Retailer ‘Tao Tea Leaf’ Expands Operations as it Opens Storefront at Toronto’s Union Station: Interview/Photos

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Tao Tea Leaf has opened its latest location in Toronto at Union Station in a high visibility area of the concourse, directly under the Great Hall. 

And the brand, a retailer and wholesaler of loose leaf teas which was founded in 2009 with two other Toronto and area locations, expects to continue to grow its presence in the market.

The first company location was on Yonge Street followed by a presence in Mississauga’s Square One Shopping Centre.

Tao Wu, founder and owner, said he found the Union Station because one of his friends was looking for a location for their business.

Tao Tea Leaf – Union Station (Image: Spring Morris / Tao Tea Leaf)

“I noticed there was a space. It was ready,” he said. “When we opened our Square One location we did our marketing research. I saw Union and the Financial District. I was impressed with the traffic inside the Union. 

“There was a thought in my head that maybe one day this location will be a good idea for my business. We believed that once COVID passed the location would be a good one. So we decided to take it.

Tao Wu

“We do have a plan to open more stores but we also have other plans for what we want to do. For example, we like to keep our shop size small and also we only want interesting, high traffic areas. Probably outside Toronto, but for now I will focus on Toronto.”

Tao Tea Leaf also features blended teas and herbs.

“Tao is a Chinese word signifying the “way”, “path”. In the context of East Asian philosophy and East Asian religions, Tao is the natural order of the universe whose character one’s human intuition must discern in order to realize the potential for individual wisdom. This intuitive knowing of “life” cannot be grasped as a concept; it is known through actual living experience of one’s everyday being,” says the company on its website.

Tao Tea Leaf – Union Station (Image: Spring Morris / Tao Tea Leaf)
Tao Tea Leaf – Union Station (Image: Spring Morris / Tao Tea Leaf)

Mingzhu Gao (a certificated Tea Sommelier who graduated from Carleton University and worked as an accountant) and I began this specialty tea company out of love and passion for high quality tea. Our tea has gained a lot of attention including a First Place Award in the annual North American Tea Championship. Our retail tea shop has been featured as one of the best tea shops in Toronto by blogto.com, and was also featured in the Toronto Star.”

Tao Tea Leaf also founded the first Toronto Tea Festival in 2013, and this tea festival has become an annual event but was put on hold this year and last year due to the pandemic. It is the largest festival of its kind in Canada, as every year more than 45 local tea-related vendors participate and more than 2,500 tea lovers attend. 

“Right now, the last Tea Festival was 2020 because usually the Festival happens by the end of January and the beginning of February,” said Wu. “We were lucky. We organized for 2020 and then COVID hit. Maybe we are thinking to plan for 2023 but we’re not 100 per cent sure yet.”

Wu said tea is becoming increasingly more popular for consumers.

“There’s a few things. One is for the taste. Lots of people probably haven’t experienced tea before. But in the past few years, the whole tea market is booming and they may have a different chance to taste different types of tea. It may be blended tea or traditional, authentic tea. They may have milk tea, bubble tea,” he said.

“There’s also a good health benefit for drinking tea. People like to use tea, it’s not really a medicine, but it has lots of health benefits to help people for some health purpose.”

Tao Tea Leaf says it is committed to transparency in the tea industry. 

“We source traditional, handmade teas directly from the growers and tea masters who craft them around the world. We hand blend and custom craft the finest teas and botanicals. Our collection has grown to 180 unique teas and blends; this includes our 53 certified organic selections,” says the company.

Tao Tea Leaf – Union Station (Image: Spring Morris / Tao Tea Leaf)

“We bring small groups of tea lovers to China for tea tours every year. We share who they are, what we see, how we feel not only best teas.  All our tea information is honest and accurate, as are the stories behind each tea, and our customers have come to expect a real, fully genuine experience with us.

“Tea is all about sharing; Tao Tea Leaf offers in-store tea tasting events and workshops which help novice tea drinkers learn more about tea and culture. We also offer tea tasting events and workshops which, in the past, have been presented in cooperation with the Toronto Library, Harry Rosen and Park Hyatt Hotel, etc.”

The retailer, which was among the finalists for the 2014 Canada Post Ecommerce Innovation Awards – Most Creative Marketing Campaign (Small), believes ecommerce is the future.

“We are connecting Tea Gardens to Tea Cups across the world by the click of a mouse. Today, we’ve built a company that connects tea masters across China to tea lovers in more than 15 countries, from the United States to Thailand, Germany to Greece, Turkey to the United Kingdom, Norway to Spain, Australia to the United Arab Emirates, Ireland to Indonesia, and Russia to France. Tea lovers across Canada and around the world are finding the teas they want and the information they need at Tao Tea Leaf’s website. Our teas are also selling at Staples.ca, Shop.ca, Amazon.ca and will be launched at theShoppingChannel.com soon,” it says.

*Images provided by Spring Morris and Tao Tea Leaf

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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