JoAnne Hatalcik and Mike Freeman at their new shop, Tea Etc. Photo by Steve Hubrecht

New shop offers scintillating sips

Tea Etc. opens in downtown Invermere

A stop for a sip of Invermere’s newest small business on main street is almost guaranteed to fill your cup.

JoAnne Hatalcik and Mike Freeman opened Tea Etc., located on 7th Avenue between Konig’s and Candyland, just a few weeks ago and have already had plenty of curious locals and visitors pop in to see what’s brewing. What they find is an entire wall of large glass jars full of loose leaf teas, including many unique blends, bearing irresistible aromas. The sheer range of teas available is eye-catching: black to green, herbal to fruit tea, and a range of special wellness teas line the shelves. Teapots, cups, mugs, cozies, infusers and strainers, and more fill the rest of the small shop.

For Ms. Hatalcik tea is a lot more than just a drink (although she’s quick to point that she’s always preferred tea over coffee). She was born and grew up in the Columbia Valley, but moved to the Bow Valley in 1990, where she worked at the fabled stone-and-timber Plain of the Six Glaciers Teahouse, perched amidst the soaring peaks and glistening white glaciers far above Lake Louise. She later worked for a friend who established the Banff Tea Co., which now sells 40 boutique tea blends.

The couple (who met in Banff) moved to Invermere three years ago.“Invermere was always still in my blood. And the Bow Valley was getting busier and busier all time,” said Ms. Hatalcik. “Invermere still has a small town-feel. The main street is filled with small, local business instead of chain stores,” added Mr. Freeman.

When the chance to open their own tea shop came up earlier this year, they jumped in with both feet.

“We saw the space (where the shop is) and thought that would be a great place for a tea shop. We told some of friends that if they ever saw it go up for rent to let us know. And literally the next day those friends called to say ‘you’re not going to believe this, but that shop is up for rent,’” said Mr. Freeman.

“For me I guess it’s kind of been a progression of tea, from one mountain valley to the next,” said Ms. Hatalcik. “I’ve always wanted to be a business owner, I just never did it. But this space we have here is small enough, I can manage it and it was easy to envision tea in here. It’s perfect for this space and you don’t need a lot of equipment. So we took the leap.”

The tea at Tea Etc. comes from several places, such as China and India, through different suppliers but is blended in Canada. “As we get going, we’ll start blending our own blends here in Invermere,” said Mr. Freeman. Every tea has all natural flavouring, and the couple hope to start adding more organic offerings. The store has some free sample, so you can steep and sip before you buy, and almost every tea has a sniffer tin, so you can also indulge in the fragrance of a blend before purchasing.

Mr. Freeman compares the difference between the loose leaf teas in Tea Etc. and bag teas available in grocery stores to that between “fresh ground Kicking Horse Coffee and a jar of instant.”

“Steeping your own loose leaf tea is nice too, you sit down and prepare it. It’s a nice morning ritual, almost like a little tradition,” added Ms. Hatalcik.

Ms. Hatalcik and Mr. Freeman are enchanted with many of the flavour teas, but both concede that their favourites of the lot are simple choices: Yorkshire Harrogate for her, Earl Grey for him.

To learn more, stop by the shop on 1206 7th Avenue and try a few samples, or visit teaetc.ca.

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