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Stepping into TWG is like being transported to a glamorous old world; floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves hold 800 varieties in shiny tins of TWG tea, the staff are dressed to the highest standard and have a deep well of knowledge about their teas, and the interiors are stunningly polished and classical music is playing softly in the background.
TWG has recently opened up their first Ontario teashop in Yorkdale, and their second location in North America (the first being in Vancouver). TWG is a Singapore-based company that has been open in Asia since 2008. 1837, the year printed on their tins, is not the year of their founding but the debut of the first Singapore trade post for tea and spices in the city; all ships would stop there to trade in the glorious and sensual world of tea and spices. TWG have shops in China, Japan, UAE, Spain, United Kingdom, etc., but their two shops in Canada are their first foray into this side of the Atlantic. With its highly diverse population, Toronto was the perfect place to expand the upscale TWG tea culture.
The TWG Toronto salon is managed by Constantine, who came directly from the Singapore franchise, so we know TWG Toronto is being held to the highest standard. Every one of their 800 teas has its own story, and each cup you drink transports you to the different parts of the world the tea comes from, it's like travelling from your cup.
TWG offers the highest quality sourcing of single estate teas and blends sold in haute couture containers; although most of their tea is sold loose-leaf, they do have packages you can buy with teabags (either silk or cotton). You can get everything you need to make a perfect cup of tea at TWG: Japanese cast-iron teapots, Chinese clay/ceramic teapots, European-style imperial porcelain and ceramics, and a variety of beautiful infusers; they offer the whole steeping experience.
Their teas come from around the world: China, Japan, India, New Zealand, the US (Hawaii) and even Brazil are just a few countries where TWG sources from. Their selections are all exclusive to TWG, and they have either single-origin teas (which are pure teas that represent a specific culture and taste profile) or blends (with different spices, nuts, florals, fruits, herbs, etc.) They have 6 types of tea:
1) Black: the "King of Tea," possibly the most popular, and drank universally worldwide; it pairs well with desserts and savouries.
2) Green: the "Queen of Tea" - delicate, unique, lower levels of caffeine than black tea with more mineral flavours; it's a tea Constantine says is perfect for enjoying alone.
3) White: made from a combination of tips and tender young leaves and super delicate to taste.
4) Blue: named for its colour, it lies somewhere on the tea scale between green and black and is full of antioxidants and health benefits.
5) Pu'er: this fermented tea is matured for a long time underground to deepen and strengthen the flavours and is traditionally produced in Yunnan Province, China.
6) Yellow: once served exclusively to the Emperor, it's rare because one tea flower can only produce one portion of tea and is rumoured to have incredible health benefits.
If you're not sure what you want, TWG staff are well-equipped to help you narrow your choices down. They ask key questions to help you define your taste and suggest blends that would be perfect for you, like what time of day you'd like to drink tea? Are you an evening drinker? A morning drinker? Do you want to relax? Be energized? You can smell the tea and see the leaves in-store and find what resonates with you most. They can even recommend food pairings to go with your tea. At their tea salon in Vancouver, they have a full menu served with tea pairings that create a beautifully balanced meal.
To keep up with TWG, follow their Instagram or shop on their website, but they always recommend giving them a call if you want to talk tea and learn about what TWG tea would best suit your flavour profile.