Just Opened: Steeped and Infused

Just Opened: Steeped and Infused

Master tea: the interior of Steeped and Infused (Photo by Catherine Hayday) 

“Do you follow astrology?” says Jennifer Best the minute she greets us at her new tea shop, Steeped and Infused. “Because Mercury is in retrograde and things like this always happen.”

She is referring to her shoe falling apart on her way back from Loblaws, but it seems as though the stars have otherwise lined up rather nicely for Best. A trip to get her eyebrows done at the recently relocated Brow House turned into a chat with her aesthetician about Best opening her own tea shop. This led to an introduction to the aesthetician’s buddy, who owns the property next door. That meeting turned into a partnership, and before she knew it, Best was looking at paint chips and supervising renos.

Steeped and Infused’s vibrant purple and green storefront sits on the north side of Queen Street East, just a few doors down from Edward Levesque’s Kitchen. The east wall is dedicated to rows of small sample jars, with information sheets for each tea on offer. Jennifer wanted to create a space where people could take their time and experience the teas: “Open them, smell them, touch them, whatever you want—but this way, for hygiene reasons, people aren’t breathing all over it before we sell it.”

Jennifer has the honest passion of an enthusiastic newcomer. She’s up front about what she knows and doesn’t. Her feelings aren’t hurt if people are devotees of west-end Tealish (she loves the shop, too). And if customers are looking for a premium estate tea, she’ll selflessly steer them toward the Tea Emporium.

We watched as a (very) pregnant Leslievillian stopped by Steeped and Infused. She’d been sent by her naturopath to hunt down raspberry leaf tea ($9 for 75 grams), which she’d been told could help her on this home stretch. Best, who is modest about her status as the new guy on the Toronto tea scene, ensures that the woman knows the tea is not sweet, as many assume (“because it comes from the shrub, not the fruit”). She’s also able to offer a solution, suggesting cutting the raspberry tea with an herbal tisane to make it more palatable. By the time the pregnant woman turns to leave, it’s evident that Best has turned this chore into something much more neighbourly—appropriate for the close-knit district. There may be no big boxes in Leslieville, but there are lots of little bags—of tea.

Steeped and Infused, 1258 Queen St. E. (at Hastings Ave.), 647-348-1669, steepedandinfused.com.