Herbal Republic Teas-4

I’d often walked by Herbal Republic in its former location on Broadway, however they’ve since moved a short hop east to Granville (just south of Broadway) and for the last six years, Herbal Republic’s retail space has been co-branded TEAZ.

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Herbal Republic began in 1999 with two goals: to produce high quality teas from around the world and to blend teas in-house.

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I sat down with owner Anita last week to learn about both the company and its mission. Anita is London-born of Indian heritage and warmly recalls loose leaf tea having always been on hand in her family home.

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Herbal Republic offers a complete tea experience, from consultation to tea sampling in their shop. A strong online presence means that customers can shop from all parts of the globe as well as request specific samples before ordering loose leaf tea and tea products, including tea kits (paper tea bags and loose tea in one box), sold in the shop.

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A clean product is at the heart of the company. Tea bags are heat-sealed and contain no glue, and as Anita likes to put it, with “no strings attached”. Literally. Both the outer bags and simple tea pouches are home compostable.

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Anita and staff tried the pyramid tea bags but moved away from them about eight years ago; they were made with nylon and not a healthy option.

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“It’s not about the packaging, it’s how we treat the environment.”

The family-run company earlier moved away from tins to bags for both cost and environmental reasons. As well, Herbal Republic has relationships with both Rainforest Alliance and UK-based Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP).

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[Carnival Mate tea]

Herbal Republic wanted to find a way to give back to the industry by honouring fair farming and estate certification. These two key organizations make sure that farmers are treated fairly and that standards are upheld, including organic certification.

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Another component of the company is food service. Restaurants and cafés stock Herbal Republic teas, including Coffee Bar’s two locations in Gastown and West Van. The Granville Street store remains the only shop, as food service and online purchases take up a large percentage of the pie.

“Tea should be soothing on the palate, like a good wine.”

L to R: Ginger Fresh, Gyokuro Supreme, Berrydale Honeybush (goji and strawberry) teas
[Ginger Fresh, Gyokuro Supreme, Berrydale Honeybush (goji and strawberry) teas]

I sampled five teas: Gyokuro Supreme Japanese green tea, Ginger Fresh (ginger-lemongrass signature blend), Berrydale (Honeybush, with goji berries and strawberries), Durbanville (Vanilla Rooibos), and Green Vanilla. Herbals comprise a large component of the 130 teas in the collection.

Durbanville (Vanilla Rooibos), Green Vanilla teas
[Durbanville (Vanilla Rooibos), Green Vanilla teas]

I also learned why I’ve been put off by green tea in the past. To avoid bitterness, Green tea should only be infused for 45 seconds. Both the Green Vanilla and Gyokuro Supreme were delicate and flavourful on the palate.

A rooibos tea, on the other hand, requires five to seven minutes’ steep time.

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Herbal Republic also stocks a selection of medicinal teas, their top three being Digestive, Cleansing, and Stress (all organic). The company maintains two herbalists on board and nine of the herbal teas are Health Canada-approved, while the remaining nine are in the process of being so.

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The black blended teas achieve their deep, dark colour through fermentation, are naturally caffeinated, and use flowers or fruit for scent, rather than artificial ingredients. This is the case for all their teas. Nothing artificial. A blend is OK as long as its ingredients are clean.

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While not a black tea fan, I did find a few nice blends on the list: Monk’s Blend (calendula and sunflower petals, vanilla flavour, and grenadine), Earl Grey Jasmine (green tea, jasmine and cornflower petals, and bergamot), and Okanagan Ice wine (freeze-dried grapes, white tea, ice wine, and grape flavour).

A small seating area allows tea fans to enjoy tea lattes, teas by the pot or glass, and iced tea (once the temperature heats up). A Friday through Sunday tea service will begin again this fall, with locally-sourced scones, Devonshire cream, and jams.

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Visit the website for more information on tea, store hours, and online ordering.

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