Plentea Tea Bar More Than Qualitea: Toronto owners talk community, health and space

Anyone who knows me, knows I am in l-o-v-e with tea, so when a coworker suggested I try this new place at Queen and Dufferin Sts. in Toronto that served hand-crafted teas only by the cup, I could not resist.

I entered into Plentea on an overcast Sunday morning on the way to lunch. It is a quiet, cozy shop with an upstairs seating area that left me completely mesmerized.

My first time in the Parkdale joint, I ordered an After Sunrise. It’s a green tea with actual pineapple and no, the tea didn’t have that fake, Jolly Rancher taste. Just pure green tea. Just pure pineapple. Just pure yum!

Plentea opened its doors on February 15, 2016 and brings the unique

diversity of tea back to basics – no additives, no chemicals, just tea.

Plentea co-partners Mohammed Bin Yahya, CEO, and Tariq Al Barwani, COO. Photo courtesy of Plentea.

Tariq Al Barwani, COO, and Mohammed Bin Yahya, CEO, were kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the brand, the product and what else we can expect from Plentea.

Read more about this quali-tea bar booming in Toronto’s ever-changing Parkdale neighbourhood:

  1. Plentea is all about taking control over what you put into your body, while also celebrating wellness and peacefulness! Where did the concept of Plentea come to be?

Tea has always been a social drink as well as a healthy beverage that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. We have taken advantage of such a drink and introduced it in a contemporary way that help transforms people’s moods and energy.

  1. I am obsessed with the name Plentea and love that it immediately makes me think of being balanced while fulfilled. Is this what you intended when who picked this title? 

“Plentea” captures the diversity of tea, the different ways to enjoy the [drink] and the benefits tea brings to the body and mind.

  1. Tea is really trendy – do you think the tea-trend is here to stay? What makes you think that?

Tea has been around for thousands of years. It has lately been trendy in North America and brought to attention for its benefits. More recently, it has been really popular as an alternative to coffee. Various teas and herbal tisanes have great medical benefits, so it is here to stay!

  1. When did you first learn how to make homemade tea?

This is a family tradition, so ever since childhood. Our earliest memory is of parents making tea for each other or guests as a social and hospitality drink.

  1. What is your first “tea” memory?

As kids, we would love to drink it but we were always told ,“it’s for adults!”

  1. Originally born in United Arab Emirates, but having moved to Canada for school, do you invest any part of your African/Arab heritage into the products you make? If yes, tell me why and how!

Our teas are very international. As tea is enjoyed in many parts of the world we incorporate flavour experiences from all those cultures. We also brought in flavours from our Middle Eastern and African heritage to the menu.

  1. Why did you choose Parkdale to set up shop?

We were looking for a community that was accepting of a new concept like Plentea. We also wanted to reciprocate with providing a cool space to enjoy a cup of tea, where people can work and communicate and meet.

  1. What about this west Toronto neighbourhood intrigues you?

The great mixture of demographics and the fact that even though it’s being gentrified it still holds onto its route of being a tight knit community

  1. There are a lot of nifty, cute teashops in Toronto. What makes Plentea so unique?

We are a tea bar. We never use pre-blended teas we actually mix and blend recipes of your tea as you order it. So, it is fresh and full of flavour every single time.

  1. At this point, customers cannot buy tea in bulk from Plentea – do you think this will change?

Yes, we plan to have bulk teas that can be purchased in a new way, [different] than what is currently out there.

  1. Did you always know you wanted to open a creative, carefully crafted homemade teashop?

Mohammed: I have been influenced by my uncle’s success as a businessman since I was a kid, so YES! I always wanted to be like him. I have always been passionate about making a differance in people somehow and discovered that it is possible even through a cup of tea!

Tariq: Running my own business was not something I always actively pursued. But I did know that I was never mentally satisfied when I worked for others because I was not part of creating and driving the business, even when I had ideas. I decided that I will not be on the back burner or wait for some other person to say I am good enough to be promoted anymore. I took matters into my hand and when Mohammed and I had a good vision I went into business.

  1. What risks did you have to take to launch Plentea?

Moving to a new city and opening such a new concept without knowing the response was difficult to measure, but we are very pleased with the outcome and the support we have been given.

  1. What was the most challenging part about starting this business?

Like any other business venture, turning an idea into a reality and taking the first step is definitely very challenging.

  1. What has been the most rewarding factor of the Plentea journey?

Bringing our idea to fruition and really being appreciated by our Parkdale community, making an addition to their lives that they appreciate. We love that Plentea has given the community a space to make new patterns, socialize, work and play over a delicious custom built cup of tea.

  1. The layout inside your shop is really cool – it’s a cross between industrial open-concept and homey DIY conservatory. Who helped you design your store’s layout?

Steve Fong Architect was pivotal in fine-tuning our design/vision and putting us in touch with a talented team to create the Plentea’s space.

  1. How many employees do you currently have?

We currently have three teatenders but we hope to grow that number.

  1. How do you hope Plentea grows in the next five, 10 years?

We want to continue to make positive impact in Parkdale. Build a community of tea lovers and bring people together in our space. We would also love to bring Plentea to other communities to make new patterns in their lives

  1. What advice do you have for other business owners launching in a big, Canadian city?

Know the city’s ebb and flow. Know exactly what you have to offer and whom you will be offering it to. Build your business around a community and be an active participant in it. Make a difference that your community values.

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