In ancient times, the Silk Road was the name given to the trade routes linking East and West. So it’s fitting that tea aficionado Daniela Cubelic chose that as the name for her shop in Victoria, B.C., where she revives the age-old traditions of the tea trade.
Even though tea consumption is rising among North Americans, there are still legions who think only of orange pekoe or English Breakfast, common varieties that Cubelic says are often three to five years old by the time they reach supermarket shelves. In contrast, the teas on Silk Road’s shelves range from just a few weeks to a few months in age, resulting in huge differences, both in flavour and antioxidant value, when compared to the supermarket-bought variety.
“It’s like buying Persian carpets. If you don’t know a lot about it, it’s easy to not know what you’re buying,” says Cubelic, who studied in China and Taiwan for a total of 10 years to become a Tea Master. “It takes a great many years to develop the skills to purchase tea well and to understand it.”
What sets your business apart?
The exceptional quality tea at a really excellent value for customers. I know because I’m dealing directly with the purchasing. Just looking at the dry, loose leaves tells me an incredible story about the tea.
Where have you travelled to indulge your passion for tea?
I’ve travelled extensively in Asia, to China, Japan, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka and Turkey, too. And I’ve been to Morocco, which has a wonderful tea culture.
When you travel for holidays, not work, where do you go?
I love going to Vancouver for a quick urban getaway. I recently stayed at the new Hotel Georgia in Vancouver. It’s beautifully refurbished and fantastic.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
If your work is something that you love, then it’s not really work. If you love what you do, you get to do what you love every day. I feel that way about my life.
Do you travel with an iPad or another device?
I love unplugging from electronic devices when it’s not a business trip. I bring books and then leave them behind for other travellers to enjoy at an airport or hotel. It’s almost like a happy karma thing for travellers.
Do you have any tips for what to pack?
There are three teas that I always travel with. One is a jasmine green tea, which is calming and really great for jet lag. I also travel with oolong tea, which can help settle your stomach when you’ve overindulged. And I pack a tea that’s unique to Silk Road called Angelwater; it’s a blend of spearmint and lavender and rose petals. It’s incredibly soothing and relaxing.
What are you reading now?
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. It’s wonderful to learn more about the Dutch trading in Japan in the 18th century.
Daniela Cubelic’s favourite blends
Japanese sour cherry
green tea, sakura cherry essence
spearmint, lavender, rose petals, elder flowers and red clover
Chinese semi-green oolong tea
lemongrass, citrus peel, rosehips and lavender