Story by Deanne Gagnon, Photos by Adrian Lysenko
When Marc Bohemier and Denise Atkinson attended the Toronto Tea Festival last summer, they did not anticipate that it would be a “transformative experience,” as Bohemier describes it. “We were planning on checking it out for an hour,” says Atkinson. “Then we ended up staying for two days. Everybody was so down-to-earth, really active, and enthusiastic and passionate about it.” By the end of the festival, they knew they had to bring this kind of tea to Thunder Bay.
The name Tea Horse originates from the ancient Tea Horse Road, a trading road developed in 640 AD from China to Tibet through the Himalayas. The logo, designed by local artist Lora Northway, encompasses the concept of East meets West.
“It’s really cool that it’s this link between the eastern and western world… there is a lot of depth and kind of a philosophy that you bring people from different cultures together around kind of a simple thing. Hot water and dried leaf,” says Bohemier.
The atmosphere is warm, inviting, and thoughtfully designed, with an eclectic mix of repurposed items and thrift store treasures. The “Eastern” side boasts a wall of traditional Chinese canisters and teaware displayed on beautiful wooden shelves, once part of an old shed, refinished by Bohemier. The “Western” side includes a vintage fireplace and large table with plenty of seats, encouraging a sense of community.
A wide variety of whole leaf teas, tea wares, teapots, and gaiwans (for preparing tea in traditional Eastern style) are available for sale. All their teas are ethically purposed from reputable Canadian buyers. Tea tasting events will be offered.
Those who visit Tea Horse will be taken on a journey—Darjeeling from India, oolong from Taiwan and Shu Pu’er from Yunnan. As Bohemier says, “It won’t be like any tea you’ve had in your life, I guarantee you.”