Attention, tea lovers! Heaven is closer than you think. A quiet and cozy shop offers a temporary relief from the bustling streets of Danforth and Chester. Tsaa Tea Shop, a family owned and operated business, boasts more than 100 blends of tea. Customers can enjoy their drinks in front of a fireplace, but if hot, seeping tea isn’t your thing, Tsaa also offers bubble tea, smoothies, sandwiches, baked goods, and breakfast!
Millicent and Luellie Ramos are two Filipino sisters who run the shop. Their culture is perhaps why Tsaa’s menu also includes Filipino favourites: turon [banana lumpia] and halo-halo. Kultura takes place this Sunday, and with the forecast calling for hot and sunny weather, Kapisanan couldn’t resist asking Tsaa to share their refreshing drinks at the festival!
Were you always interested in tea? Tell us a little bit about how you got started.
Tea has always been a part of our own family tradition and some of the fondest memories I have are shared are with my family over a cup of tea. When my family gets together, during holidays or on special occasions, we would prepare a meal that everyone would share and enjoy, and after we finish the meal, we would sit together chatting, joking around and reminiscing about our childhood memories while drinking tea. So we decided to open up a tea shop to share this family tradition with everyone. Tsaa is a place for everyone to sit together and enjoy a good conversation over a cup of tea, appreciating the joy of life.
What is the art of tsaa?
Tsaa was always carefully prepared—from the purity and temperature of the water to the careful measurement, steep times, and serving method. We learned that in order to experience its optimum splendor, each tea required a measured balance of all these factors. This is the art of Tsaa as we know it.
You have over 100 blends of tea. Do you find that having an extensive selection overwhelms your customers?
Yes, we have over 100 types of tea, from pure tea to herbal tea. When a customer comes in, we try to ask what type and taste of tea they are looking for, and then suggest a few teas they might like. That way, they won’t get overwhelmed with the selections we offer. Sometimes customers will ask which tea would have specific health benefits—for example, indigestion, fighting a cold, or losing weight—and = we would try to suggest tea that might aid them. One of the good things about having a lot of selection is that we can cater to different taste palates.
What inspired your company to add food to your menu?
Tea has evolved for thousands of years to be the drink to accompany meals. It’s a great bridge to flavour, so it was only natural to add food in our menu to pair with tea.
Filipino food has been gaining popularity in Toronto recently. How have people (Filipino and non-Filipino) been responding to your turon and halo-halo?
Our halo-halo has “kumpleto rekado” so most of our Filipino customers truly enjoy it. One day one of our regular non-Filipino customer was curious about halo-halo and what’s in it, so we briefly told him the ingredients and made the drink for him. He was surprised to find how awesome it tasted and ever since has been a fan of halo-halo. Same goes for turon—they are amazed by how exotic and scrumptious our turon with jackfruit tasted.
Do you think sago at gulaman will reach ever the same popularity that bubble tea has?
Yes, I think so. With proper promotion, I think that it can achieve the same popularity as bubble tea.
We’re excited to have you participate at KULTURA this year. Our festival will be highlighting Filipino food, giving Torontonians the opportunity to recognize our culture and delicious food. What message does Tsaa want to send to Toronto?
An inherent part of the Filipino spirit is the joy and celebration of life. Every town, village, city, province, and barangay in the Philippines has its own special Fiesta or Festival Day, from the Panagbenga Festival (flower festival), to the Ati-atihan festival (dance festival), and to the Mariones Festival (cultural festival). Every fiesta, the community will prepare and share tasty food for everyone. So I am glad to finally hear that Kultura has organized a festival to show off some of our tasty Filipino dishes/food, promote our rich heritage and show how colourful and lively Filipino culture is. Tsaa is pleased and proud to be part of Kultura.