How my tea journey & the online tea community have transformed my life and well-being
My name is Tori. I am based out of Ontario, Canada, and I’ve been running the blog Siply Tealicious for a year now. Tea has been a part of my life in one way or another for over a decade. Tea means so much to me and it seems as though, no matter what life stage I’m in or no matter what challenge I am facing, tea is there for me. My first experiences with tea were brought on by a need for comfort. Around the age of 11, my anxiety disorder began to pop up with insomnia as its number one symptom.
After so many sleepless nights, my father suggested we try a “sleepy time tea” which I now know as chamomile. I had drank a few different herbal blends before, specifically those from the brand Traditional Medicinals. Whenever I had a cold or sore throat, my father always had tea on hand for that. Though those tea blends designed for illnesses were only consumed on occasion, I continued to drink chamomile every single night until I was in my twenties.
I remember feeling so grown up when I started drinking those herbal wellness blends. To me, tea had always seemed like a mature, “adult” beverage and even just drinking it for sleep or wellness made me feel accepted to a secret club. Sadly, I don’t remember the day I first tasted camellia sinensis, but I know it would have been in the form of a green tea. However, I do remember the day that tea first changed my life.
All throughout my high school years I had the pleasure of working at a local family owned Chinese Buffet restaurant in my hometown. I remember my boss coming up to me one day and asking if I would like to try “Japanese Green Tea”. I accepted, not thinking much of it. I expected Japanese Green Tea to taste the same as any other green tea I had tried. I wasn’t yet an avid tea drinker but I thought the caffeine boost would at least help me get through the remainder of my shift.
I remember my first sip of this tea, and to say I fell in love feels like an understatement. I can still remember the wonderful light grassy notes followed by the strong, warm, and toasty flavour of the popped rice. I should say, I was pretty sure what I was tasting was some sort of roasted popped rice. I couldn’t actually read what the tea bag said, but the flavour was nothing like anything I had ever experienced before.
I don’t know why I never ended up asking my boss where she got the tea or where I could get the tea, but I had no idea if I’d ever taste that amazing umami flavour again. For years, I searched every tea aisle in every grocery or health food store I came across looking for a box to say Japanese Green Tea. All of my searches ended without success, but around my first year of university I started to develop a stash of a few different tea bags; chamomile of course, green tea, peppermint tea, chai; I had them all.
I grew up in a small town and had no idea that stores like DAVIDsTEA or Teavana existed until around my fourth year of university. I think I had gone into a DAVIDsTEA and gotten an iced tea to-go with a friend once before and while I came across another one while back-to-school shopping with my dad. I told him I just wanted to check it out for a moment because I wanted to know if they had this green tea I had been hunting for the past 7 years.
I remember walking in and asking the tea guide if they had a tea that I was told was just Japanese Green Tea, but it tasted like it had roasted rice in it. Without any hesitation the tea guide brought down a container labeled “Genmaicha” and it smelled so familiar and amazing. I purchased a 50g bag as well as samples of Pumpkin Chai and Pom Cider. I don’t remember purchasing any sort of steeping method, so I’m not sure if my father already had a mesh ball or if I bought one somewhere else after buying the tea. I do know that Genmaicha was everything I had remembered it to be, and I was so happy to finally have this tea in my stash.
Over the next year, my love continued to blossom, and I even purchased a few teas from DAVIDsTEA online after Christmas. The next summer was full of weekly trips to Teavana and DAVIDsTEA, and my stash was quickly beginning to grow to proportions that I found crazy. After one of my many trips to DAVIDsTEA, I decided I really wanted to work there. I was on the verge of starting my second degree which would be a year long and included a very intense internship. I was as broke as just about any other university student, and I hadn’t planned on working through my next degree, but something was calling me.
To my surprise both DAVIDsTEA locations local to my university were hiring so I promptly applied. An even bigger surprise happened the next morning when I received an email asking me to attend a group interview that very afternoon! Of course I gladly accepted and spent the next few hours doing my best to prepare. I didn’t think the interview went poorly, but I honestly didn’t think the job was on my horizon. A few days later when I was offered the job, I was extremely excited. Not only did I just land a sweet discount, but I was going to get paid to talk to people all about something I love, tea!
I absolutely loved working at DAVIDsTEA, and although that was one of the busiest years of my life, it was one of the best. I spent my day at my social work internship or in class, and even after the most stressful of days, I was excited to spend my evening working at the store surrounded by tea. My favourite part was when new customers would come in and ask for recommendations because there were so many teas on our wall that I felt were overlooked!
That year, I became closer to my goal of becoming a professional social worker. I met the love of my life, made so many amazing friendships, and spent so many days surrounded by tea. When the day came to move on to a job in my field, I was sad to leave DAVIDsTEA, but a part of me knew that this wasn’t the end of my journey.
Over the next year, I completed my masters degree and spent a lot of time commuting. I was always packing 2–3 teas for every class and listening to many podcasts. One day, while I was feeling down, I tried to think of ways to reconnect with my love of tea. Tea had always been my safe haven, and merely consuming it was not enough for me.
In early 2019, I got the idea to start a blog and even made the instagram handle for it, but I chose to wait until my degree was done. Many, many months later on November 9, 2019 I posted my first articles to Siply Tealicious. I remember being filled with so much excitement and so many nerves, but I had no idea how much I would fall in love with the online tea community.
I thought I would be one of maybe 12 tea bloggers, but over the past year I’ve connected with thousands! There are more tea heads and tea companies out there than I would have ever imagined. I started making a point to post consistently, with several reviews a week while I was also trying to develop recipes and how-to guides. I made many friends and my passion was once again ignited.
In the early days of the COVID-19 closures, my blog again became my safe haven. I started working on many ideas and taking part in challenges. I got ahead in my writing and I started looking for ways to expand my blog. I spent a while debating between starting a YouTube channel or starting a podcast, and due to my love of reading biographies and listening to people’s stories I chose the latter.
After brainstorming all summer and begging my friends to push me to take the plunge, Quali-tea Time finally launched on November 9, 2020. The support that I’ve received so far has been enormous, and a year ago I would have never foreseen taking this step.
My blog, and now my podcast, are so much more than a hobby, they’re my life. Throughout my life, tea has time and time again shown me that it will be there for me no matter what. Now, after a year of publicly sharing my tea journey, I have a communi-tea that is also there to pick me up when I’m down and to geek out with me over things that only us tea heads understand. Tea is so much more than a beverage or even a hobby. For me, tea is comfort, tea is joy and tea is friendship.
(Originally published by Tori in MyTeaPal Stories)