Naked Leaf is our favourite boutique tea shop in the heart of Kensington. We partnered with this great local business two years ago and they have been our exclusive local supplier of organic teas since the beginning. At the helm is Jonathan Kane, tea expert and YYC advocate, who has owned and operated the shop for nearly nine years - we sat down with him to talk about his business, Calgary and all things tea.
How did Naked Leaf start?
The idea all started with an allergy to coffee – it was the reason I started drinking tea so intensely. I couldn’t find what I wanted tea wise in Calgary so when I was ready to make a career change (at the time I was teaching at the University of Calgary in the fine arts program) I decided that Naked Leaf was my next step. I enrolled in an entrepreneurship program at Mount Royal that really helped me transition from one career to another.
What did you want Naked Leaf to bring to Calgary?
I wanted to bring interesting and unique teas that are hard to find into the city. It took a long time to build the relationships all over the world that you need in order to bring in what no one else has.
What is your favorite part of operating a business in Calgary?
I find that there is a large part of Calgary that is really passionate about supporting local, independent businesses, which is great. Calgary also provides a ton of opportunity to collaborate with other local businesses to bring in unique products to the shop. As the city looks for more interesting shopping experiences and different products it’s the independent boutiques that have the opportunity to provide that.
What are some unique things you can find at Naked Leaf?
We have chocolate that is infused with our tea, that you can’t find anywhere else. We also make customized tea packaging where you can submit your own artwork or photos to get put on a tea container.
How does Naked Leaf work with the Community?
Our packaging supports the community - we have a line up of tea tins that are decorated by local Calgary artists. We ask for submissions from anyone and everyone, we print 50-100 labels and once they’re gone they’re gone.
We also have a lot of different local companies who use our tea to make different products, everything from body wash to chocolate and even kombucha! It was part of our mandate from day one to be involved with the community and the arts. Collaborations like these are the way we do that.
For someone who is new to tea – what’s something they should know?
All tea comes from the same plant, white, green, black, Oolong – it’s all the same leaf it is just processed differently. The simple explanation of the difference is oxidization, black tea is a fully oxidized leaf whereas green tea isn’t oxidized.
There is also a misconception that certain teas don’t have caffeine in them – if it comes from a tea plant it contains caffeine. Herbal teas, on the other hand, aren’t made from the tea plant so they don’t contain caffeine.
If you haven’t been in to Naked Leaf yet – head on down to Kensington where Jonathan & his team can teach you a thing or two about tea. While you are there try the root beer rooibos we use for our rootbeer kombucha - it’s incredible.
- Shelby Stewart for True Büch