The moment you walk in the door, you realize this isn’t your mother’s tea shop.
From the striking exposed concrete décor to the funky artwork featuring its Parkdale neighbourhood, you know you’re in for something different. Then, there’s the main attraction – the tea. Plentea is a tea experience with an artisan twist. Its owners serve up hand-crafted tea beverages from an extensive menu of unique and enticingly named recipes.
“We want to revolutionize the tea experience,” says Plentea co-founder Mohammed Binyahya.
For starters, Binyahya describes Plentea as a tea bar, not a café. He and partner Tariq Al Barwani call themselves tea-tenders – closer to a bartender than a traditional barista – making their tea drinks fresh for customers by selecting from an expansive choice of ingredients they pull from their wall of flavours. And like any passionate mixologist, they are always testing new flavour combinations to dream up new brews to surprise their customers. There isn’t a tea bag in sight. “That’s not giving tea it’s full value,” says Binyahya of the most common way tea is prepared in North America.
In response, Binyahya and Barwani wanted to introduce the richness of the drink they knew growing up in the United Arab Emirates to Canadian tea fans. Their style of cuppa is heavily influenced by Indian chai. The drinks feature ingredients mixed by hand and a preparation method that uses a “teaspresso” machine. The result is far different from soaking a bag of tea in a cup of boiling water for five minutes.
“Back home, tea is prepared in a way that offers a rich beverage to enjoy,” says Binyahya. “We couldn’t find anything like that here.”
Ironically, while both Binyahya and Barwani were born in the UAE, they met in Canada while studying engineering at the University of Calgary. After completing their studies in 2008, they moved back to Abu Dhabi. But thoughts of Canada never strayed very far. In 2015, the duo returned, setting down in Toronto to open their new tea bar concept.
“We’re creating a line of tea drinks for a younger generation,” adds Binyahya. “These are for people who like different flavours to suit any time of the day. We’ve created some drinks for the morning, some for the afternoon and the evening. We have a tea if you aren’t feeling well. We also have teas for a broad range of mindsets and moods.”
If you’re overwhelmed walking into the shop, try Plentea’s most popular drink, the Thai Dragon, which features a blend of cardamom, coconut and black tea. “It was the first recipe that I created, and it still puts a smile on my face,” says Binyahya. If you want something more adventurous, take a Journey to Zanzibar or enjoy one of their other exotically named drinks.