Local Love Blog Series –
Banff Tea Co.
We’re thrilled to get to feature Siona and her amazing team from Banff Tea Co. this week on the Local Love Blog Series! They have found an amazing way to bring people from all over the world together, in celebration and appreciation of tea! With up to 200 different teas, and 40 completely unique blends, Banff Tea Co. has something for everyone.
Inspiration for the shop came as Harry Potter meets Zen.
It’s important to Siona that the shop feels open and inclusive to encourage clients and staff to be creative and curious about exploring taste and flavours in their teas. They are also striving for zero-waste and have a strong eco-driven ethos to their business practices.
Siona’s passion for tea began early, when she received a cup of her Gran’s very own blend.
At the time she was only 4 years old, but eventually knew she wanted to run her own tea business. She worked for a family company in the UK selling loose-leaf tea and coffee beans, which gave her some insight into how she would ultimately run her own business someday. Eventually, she made a trip to visit friends in Banff who lured her with the promise of beautiful mountains and the potential for a job at the local tea shop in town.
When Siona arrived in town, Banff Tea Co. had been operating for just 2 years.
With the experience of her family’s business owning and operating the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, Susanne Gilles-Smith, first opened Banff Tea Co. because she was passionate about giving back to charities while sharing her love for tea. After meeting Susanne and securing a job, Siona knew she had found the place where she wanted to be. So, when the offer came to buy the business, it was truly a dream come true. 12 years later, Banff Tea Co. is selling locally to the entire Bow Valley and all its visitors, as well as internationally online! The business and tea are integral parts of Siona’s identity now, and it has allowed her and her team to live a lifestyle they all love.
But Siona doesn’t do it alone and has an amazing team by her side! Assistant Manager, Roxy, honestly believes that what sets Banff Tea Co. apart is the staff.
While Siona admits that one of the hardest challenges has been finding the right people and keeping them around, given the transient nature of the Bow Valley. This is why Roxy appreciates Siona’s hard work to offer a living wage and loves Siona’s belief that the team should be able to live and not just survive in the Bow Valley. Due to this, the whole Banff Tea Co. team are happy to be at work everyday, work well together, and are ultimately able to offer personal and genuine customer service!
While Siona hails from Northwest England, the outdoors wasn’t a mystery to her growing up.
Siona was lucky to have the Lake District National Park at her doorstep, making tourism and natural beauty easily accessible to her and not a huge adjustment to get used to when she moved to Banff. The rest of the Banff Tea Co. team come from all over Canada, including Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, and the East Coast.
While Siona is pretty happy with Banff Tea Co. as is, she does still have goals for their tea!
She hopes that they can eventually have a direct line to each ingredient they use in unique blends, ensuring that they are being as ethical as possible. And, while they already ship internationally, the hope is for their e-commerce sales to reach more customers all over the world.
Banff Tea Co. also proudly gives 5 – 10% of their profits each year to a variety of charities.
While their donations vary from Canadian charities, and those in other tea-growing countries, Banff Tea Co. is also an involved part of the Bow Valley community. They wanted to make sure the following artisans and local businesses got a shout-out: Katie Borrowman from Of Cabbages and Kings, artist Mike Cameron, Kirstie Tweed from Orange Girl Photography, Banff Food Rescue, The Bear Minimum, and Café Books.
While the past year was challenging, Siona and her team were able to find the good aspects too!
There was a silver lining in being able to slow down and really enjoy time with family while working shorter workdays. The heightened calm and lowered pressure allowed them to savour those moments, all with a cup of tea in hand. Given this, Siona hopes that more people will not forget to take the time to listen more intently as things get busier again. An often-overlooked skill, listening is one she wishes we would all choose to perfect because the feeling of being heard is the greatest way to feel valued and loved.
As things are slowly re-opening, Siona is excited for her trip back to the UK to visit family and friends. Meanwhile, the Banff Tea Co. team has incredible travel plans dreamed up, including South America and Africa.
For Siona, she’ll also be travelling to China to continue her tea training as soon as she can.
At the end of the day, Siona’s favourite thing about tea is its connection to humans.
All around the world, offering a cup of tea is a welcoming tradition that has endured centuries. Banff Tea Co. has provided Siona and her team the opportunity to connect with others and make their day a little brighter. With the never-ending combination possibilities, there is time yet for so many more amazing blends. The amazing properties of the tea leaf, in combination with other herbs and spices, are yet to be fully discovered which gives Siona plenty to explore with!
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