The whole world in one cup.
Philip Holmans loves tea.
What sounds like a simple statement, is in fact, a vast misunderstanding of what gets this man excited. To you, it may be your morning pick-me-up, but for Holmans, it’s a trip around the world. Just add water.
Philip’s entry into the world of tea started out as a caffeinated necessity – forced to stop drinking coffee due to medical problems, he soon progressed from grocery store teabags to premium loose leaf teas. His love of tea grew so large, that he started his own online company, World Tea House , just so that he could get access to those wonderful tea leaves from around the world. His storefront soon went from virtual to reality, with the opening of his store in downtown Halifax. The store boasts over 100 varities of teas, including green, black, white, rooibos, all available in a myriad of flavours. Holmans took some time out to talk to Passable.
Why start a store selling tea?
Tea culture is becoming very popular. With the increase demand for organic and fair trade products, our
teas needed a place where people could look, smell and taste them. That’s the main reason for the store, a
try and buy for teas which other tea retailers lack. Add a relaxing atmosphere and it’s a perfect fit.
Where did your love of tea come from?
Coming from a military family I’ve traveled the world, being exposed to many cultures at a young age. This
is why I love tea… the culture that comes with it. Tea is consumed by almost every culture in some form, I
love the unity that tea brings to all people.
What have been the highs and lows of owning a business like this?
Highs: seeing my dream come to reality. I’ve always had a vision on what my tea house would look like and
it’s gone through significant changes over the last 10 years (business model/plan). Finding the combination
of what really works is very rewarding.
Lows: money naturally, but we try not to get caught up in that and concentrate with positive thoughts. Any
business starting out has cash flow issues, but we planned for this and are happy with the growth rate of our
How was the reaction to the store been like?
AMAZING. Word is spreading, people are excited for a change from the fast paced coffee shops, a
place where they can come in and forget the din of the world while they sip some tea. Some folks are
overwhelmed when they come in. Not many people realize that there are thousands of types of tea in the
world. Our wall of tea where customers can look and smell each of our teas helps a lot. Our staff is always
here to help with recommendations as well.
How savvy are people when it comes to tea nowadays?
We get all kinds at the tea house: those who come in looking for a specific tea, and those just being
introduced to loose teas. Most have the idea that loose tea is complicated, but it’s only as complicated as
the person making it. Once they see how easy it can be people are hooked
A lot of customers are hearing the buzz from articles and celebrities about the health benefits of tea. The
more popular tea becomes, the more educated people will be about it, and we are here to help educate
What do people say when they come into the store?
First timers usually look at all the teas behind the counter and say “Wow… you have a lot of tea”. Some get very excited, some overwhelmed. When I show them the sniffing jars they usually are relieved that I’m not shoving jars in their face like other tea retailers do.
How important is it to you to have fair trade and ethically sourced teas?
It’s one of our most important focuses of the store. Organic and fair trade. We’ll even buy our tea at a higher price to get fair trade teas.
What are your favourites and why?
Favourite tea… wow that’s a hard one. I am a moody tea drinker (hey… I’m a Gemini!). I’ve been asked
this question a lot over the past 2 months. My answer: if I were stuck on an island… and that island had
a latte machine… I would take my Tali’s Masala Chai with me. For everyday drinking I love the Japanese
green teas, especially Sencha. After 7pm, I switch to de-caf and my favourite is Rooibos. My morning tea
is always black, these days I gravitate toward the Indian teas, Assams and Darjeelings.
Some people have one particular food moment in their life where the food is transformative for them. Did you ever have a “wow” moment, the first time you sipped a type of tea?
My first matcha made the traditional Japanese way (whisked in a bowl)…The energy it gave me. It’s like a tea energy drink, but super healthy at the same time. The taste is amazing as well, sweet, grassy, not bitter at all.
What do you want people to know about tea?
I want people to know tea is simple, uncomplicated and relaxing. The health benefits should be secondary it it’s enjoyment. There is a tea for everyone, it’s just a matter of trying them to see which is “your tea”.
World Tea House is located at 1592 Argyle Street across from Neptune Theatre, in Halifax.