The pot’s always on at Cally’s Teas, and this Edmonton neighbourhood tea shop couldn’t be more inviting. Welcomed in with a warm brew, customers can peruse the shop’s eclectic wares – Japanese pots, Finnish bags, teacup shard jewellery – and contemplate rooibos vs. oolong . . . hmm . . . or perhaps Earl Grey Cream. All of which are made extra-special when owner Cally Slater-Dowson wraps the teas in her signature silver bags and paper, stickers and ribbons. We figured February is the perfect time to discover a new tea flavour or two, so we met with her to talk tea, sip a bit and beat the late-winter blues.
WW How did you get involved with tea?
CS-D I sold tea at the Strathcona Market for a while, and, before that, I was a childcare consultant for the government – but I’ve drunk tea all my life. I fell in love with the varied smells of tea, and just got into it. Then in 2004, when I was doing the teas for Culina [restaurant], I was walking down 99th Street and saw this little space – I think it was once a martial arts studio – next to the Treestone Bakery and thought it would be a great location for a tea store. It’s such a varied community here, and lots of people were coming from across the city to the bakery. There’s also a nice little hair salon and a veterinarian in the same building. So it seemed like a good place.
WW It’s hard to imagine this space as a martial arts studio – it feels like something out of Alice in Wonderland. How did that happen?
CS-D I talked with Trevor Fermaniuk, an interior designer who is very talented, and told him, “I want a little jewel, but I want it to be friendly. And I want it to be Eurasian.” So he made a stage model and, based on that, he and Rob Buttery at Collectiv [art and design shop] in the Highlands came up with a great space.
WW How many varieties of tea do you sell?
CS-D About 150, from seven different suppliers, one of which sources teas directly from China. I get great rooibos from a supplier in Calgary, and Taylors of Harrogate from England. There’s also an Inuit tea called Northern Delights from northern Quebec. They have unique flavours like Cloudberry, Crowberry and Juniper. I also have a saskatoon-berry tea, called Forbidden Fruits, from Wetaskiwin. And besides all those, we have about 18 of our own blends – many made with Alberta herbs, including “Maren’s Blend.” Maren, who used to work for me, developed it herself using organic spearmint, peppermint and lemon balm. She now works as a cook at Blue Plate Diner and is involved in all kinds of other interesting things.
WW How do you go about developing your own teas?
CS-D I often develop blends based on local products. Just recently I created a simple blend to celebrate my second anniversary here: maple cream tea and rose black tea with rose petals, called Strathcona Tea. Others are more complex, such as the one I created for Culina, Queen’s Jubilee. It has four black teas, from China, Africa, India and Ceylon, plus flowers and a bit of jasmine and bergamot. And though we always start with a flavour in mind, sometimes we end up with something totally different. For example, we have one blend called Irish English Breakfast Mistake that has two organic teas I mixed by accident. Now I have people coming back for it.
Cally’s Teas: 8610 99 St., Edmonton; 780-436-5038