Rolling in the steep

SAIT culinary grad selling high-quality teas on campus

WHOANDWHAT in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015. WHYANDMORE. (Photo by Ryan Wellicome/SAIT Polytechnic)

The Tea Factory owner, Wayne Ha prepares a Macha Tea at his shop in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015. (Photo by Ryan Wellicome/SAIT Polytechnic)

SAIT students can now enjoy a large selection of loose-leaf teas from a local teashop that has roots within the SAIT community.

The Odyssey Coffeehouse is serving a selection of traditional and blended loose-leaf teas from The Tea Factory, a café located in Mission that specializes in all-natural teas in addition to coffee.

“We are different; we care about everything we do here,” said Wayne Ha, who started The Tea Factory in April 2013 after recognizing a need for a high-quality tea shop in the city.

The Tea Factory carries over 120 teas, ranging from conventional teas to modern blends; the Odyssey Coffeehouse serves around 30 varieties.

Collaboration between The Tea Factory and the Odyssey Coffeehouse not only bring high-quality teas to the SAIT campus, but provides another opportunity for The Tea Factory to share its all-natural teas.

“It is exciting, and it gives us a chance to introduce more people to our teas,” said Ha, who noted that just like SAIT students who come from around the world, many of their high-quality teas come from abroad.

Ha is no stranger to SAIT. He graduated in 2009 with a culinary diploma and then worked as a chef in Calgary.

Although Ha is no longer professionally chopping and dicing, his approach to food and drinks—which originated from his time in the SAIT culinary program—has remained steady.

“I learned how important quality ingredients are to make anything,” said Ha, who now applies his “perfectionist” attitude to both tea and coffee.

His experience at SAIT encouraged creativity both in and out of the kitchen, and it sparked a “love for making things.”

From custom blends to help with steeping times, Ha and his staff consider every pot of tea important, no matter the type of tea or the drinker.

The Tea Factory offers drinks beyond tea, including locally roasted coffee from Fratello Coffee. Ha, himself, is a professionally trained barista and wants his café to be more than a teashop.

Extending his values of high-quality and all-natural ingredients, Ha sources all the food served at The Tea Factory—from sandwiches to macarons—from local businesses.

Like any young business, Ha has seen The Tea Factory endure some challenges.

A month after the tea shop opened, the 2013 floods cleared out the surrounding neighbourhood and a lack of customers nearly sunk the new business.

The Tea Factory has also enjoyed successes and Ha is looking forward to the future of the business.

“I want it to be known as the coolest tea shop—be known for everything tea.”

Ha is looking for his business to expand its evening presence and become a “tea lounge” that features tea cocktails and live music.
In addition to the teashop and the Odyssey Coffeehouse, The Tea Factory also sells their teas at a variety of local restaurants and cocktail lounges in and around Mission.

Jocelyn Colaiezzi is the operations manager for the Odyssey Coffeehouse and oversaw the introduction of the new teas.

The main motivation in seeking new teas was finding local suppliers for their products.

“We are trying to get food closer to where we live,” said Colaiezzi, who also manages the Station Market, the Station Express and SAITSA Seconds.

Colaiezzi was initially impressed by the natural ingredients and quality of the teas from The Tea Factory, and Ha’s connection to SAIT provided further encouragement to collaborate with the tea shop.

Ha and Colaiezzi selected around 30 teas for selling at the Odyssey Coffeehouse, choosing a variety of classics and student-centric teas (like Remember Me and Study Booster).

Colaiezzi also chose a few teas because they “just sounded delicious.”

The selection at the Odyssey Coffeehouse will change with the seasons, and Colaiezzi said students can make requests for teas they want to be sold at the campus café.

“I want this to be their place.”

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