In the morning, Casey James reaches for an aromatic black tea, a robust blend with hints of chocolate perhaps. Throughout the day, she shifts to green tea with festive notes of marzipan and orange that suit the holiday season. And before bed, her whole family winds down over hot cups of caffeine-free rooibos.
James is a tea aficionado, as well she should be. She, along with her parents Tom and Karinna James, and her husband Reza Nasooti have been steeped in the high-end tea industry for years and run North Vancouver-based Vansing Distribution Group, an importer and exporter of gourmet products and accessories. Vansing is the exclusive franchisee of TWG Tea in Canada and last year opened the first TWG Tea Salon and Boutique in North America on West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. The luxury brand (the company name stands for The Wellbeing Group) was established in Singapore in 2008 and has more than 60 outlets around the world.
“The brand itself is incredibly well known globally,” says James, a North Vancouver resident.
While Vancouver is often thought to be a town of coffee guzzlers, James says there is a healthy contingent of tea connoisseurs who are fans of the TWG label.
“It’s very recognizable to our Asian demographic, as well as travellers,” she says, noting many of TWG’s locations are in Asia.
The West Georgia site was previously home to the Urban Tea Merchant, which the James family used to run. Last December, the space was transformed into the TWG tea room and retail shop finished with dark wood, marble, brass, and a grand wall of vintage-inspired tea canisters. The location offers 500 teas from around the world, a potentially overwhelming selection for the novice tea drinker.
“It’s almost like a wine list,” James says of the menu. “We’ll help guide the guest based on what their palate is, what their tastes are.”
“We’ve got canisters that we can bring down and let the guest smell them,” she adds.
Those sipping their selection in the dining room can also order tea-infused food from the breakfast, lunch or dinner menu. From savoury canapes to sweet treats, “everything that we do is tea-infused,” James says.
With Christmas approaching, Vancouver’s TWG Tea has launched a seasonal menu featuring festive teas and food pairings, as well as gift sets for the tea lover on your list.
New this year is the Joy of Christmas, “a really beautiful black tea with fruit spices and chocolate, so it’s a really warming tea during the holiday season,” James describes. For evening fireside sipping there’s a Red Christmas tea, which has all the festive spices without the caffeine. “Really, you taste Christmas when you try it.”
Based on the success of Vancouver’s inaugural TWG Tea, the local family behind Vansing Distribution is currently brewing up plans to expand their franchise.
“The plan is that we’ll be opening multiple locations in Vancouver, as well as across Canada and the United States,” James says.
TWG Tea Salon and Boutique is located at 1070 W. Georgia St. Visit vansingdg.com or more information.