Tao Tea Leaf Ltd
By Theresa Lemieux

Go your own way

Owner of Tao Tea Leaf and certified tea sommelier Tao Wu pours boiling hot water on loose-leaf oolong in pre-warmed vessels, then dumps the water quickly. This first rinse, as it is commonly known, is not to clean the tea, as many claim. It is to open up the leaves, the same way wine opens up with exposure to air. Tao inhales the scent, then brews another batch, leaving the water in for no more than a minute.

Tao will happily demonstrate the traditional Chinese way of steeping tea to help his customers get the most out of his award-winning selections. He does not, however, want them to feel constricted by excessively strict methodology. “Drinking tea is a way to relax, to feel restored,” he explains. “You shouldn’t stress about doing it correctly. You should enjoy the calm it brings.”

Drinking tea is a way to relax, to feel restored. - Tao Wu, owner
Born in the renowned tea-producing province of Fuji in China, Tao Wu is used to drinking the finest as a matter of course.

Authentic Chinese tea, here in Toronto

Born in the renowned tea-producing province of Fuji in China, Tao is used to drinking the finest. He understands the difference between mass-produced, machine-sorted teas and those made using ancient methods of harvesting and production – an understanding he wants to share with Torontonians.

Tao Tea Leaf has expanded its line of teas to include international favourites, but remains an ambassador for fine Chinese teas, especially authentic Chinese teas. Tao schools clients on the differences between unique types, such as white tea, oolong, and pu’erh. For those who want to immerse themselves in the world of tea, they can join him on an expedition to China in April 2017, when tea leaves are ready for harvest. After the trip, Tao offers a free tea-tasting back in his shop for those who want the first-flush made from tender young spring leaves.

“90 per cent of our customers have basic tea knowledge,” says Tao. “Many understand the importance of season, origin and the way of the tea master. Some are quite serious and know exactly what they want.” Tea neophytes need not be intimidated, however. Tao is quite happy to brew tea for the newly curious. Tea is his world and he is delighted to see it growing here in Toronto.

Tao Tea Leaf has expanded its line of teas to include international favourites, but remains an ambassador for fine Chinese teas, especially green tea.
Tao schools clients on the differences between unique types, such as white tea, oolong, and pu’erh.

Tea and toasts

Each February, the cold of winter is chased away by the steaming pots of hot tea and the growing crowds at the Toronto Tea Festival. Situated inside the Toronto Reference Library at Yonge and Bloor, this festival is Tao’s way of connecting Toronto’s burgeoning tea community. More than 45 tea vendors and experts come in from cities across North America to engage the public’s growing love of fine tea. Tea sommeliers, producers and importers all meet with tea lovers to offer lectures and tastings, perform tea ceremonies and auction off rare teas.

Tao is rightly proud of the instant success of the festival that he founded in 2013. He likens the Toronto Tea Festival to the sociability of Chinese tea houses. “Tea houses make it very easy to meet new people, to talk about the tea you are tasting,” he boasts. “People in Toronto understand food culture very well, it’s natural that they want to learn more about tea as well.”

Tao Tea Leaf sells teaware, such as cast iron teapots, which help keep the tea warm for a longer period of time.
Tao Tea Leaf sells teaware, such as cast iron teapots, which help keep the tea warm for a longer period of time.
You can also find traditional yixing clay teapots, which help improve the taste of the tea.
You can also find traditional yixing clay teapots, which help improve the taste of the tea.
Tao Tea Leaf is a Toronto-based retailer and wholesaler of loose leaf teas.
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