BUSINESS BEAT: Tea business offers lifelong learning experience

JagaSilk offers products, experiences and knowledge of tea for consumers and resellers

Loose tea connoiseur Warren Stewart

Green tea is the new coffee for consumers seeking a healthy alternative. Maccha, then, is like green tea on steroids.

Since 2005, Jared Nyberg, who operates downtown Victoria tea retailer and wholesaler JagaSilk with wife Miyuki, has been doing his best to spread the word about the pleasures and benefits of this potent style of tea.

Nyberg describes maccha – micro-milled into a near powder – as “green tea that you eat.”

After watching him whip a hot-water-and-maccha combination on the counter into a frothy, green mixture, using a traditional bamboo whisk, one experiences consuming the tea rather than drinking steeped water.

The drinker is meant to savour the mixture for a few seconds before swallowing it, allowing the various flavours – much like the characteristics of wine – to come through in the palate.

From a health standpoint, Nyberg claims maccha is 120 times more powerful than regular green tea, in terms of the antioxidants contained within.

From a business angle, the move to retailing has been gradual for the couple, who met while Nyberg was living in Japan.

Nyberg began selling maccha wholesale as a 22-year-old University of Victoria student. Since then, he and his wife have become steeped in maccha and its traditions – studying the growing and preparation process, its properties and ideal preparation – and shared much of that knowledge with the public through JagaSilk’s Academy of Tea program.

“We didn’t want to start off winging it,” Nyberg says of waiting to open a retail café. “It can be very disappointing.”

The calming, Japanese-themed JagaSilk Teabar, which opened in 2009 in Nootka Court and was recently expanded, is considered the “slow bar,” he says. Their Spiced Water tea and coffee house, opened last fall with partner Stephen Lyons in the former Budget Rent-a-Car kiosk up Courtenay Street behind The Falls, is the “fast bar” catering to the “coffee culture.”

In a blossoming retail tea market – Nyberg calls it a “resurgence” – JagaSilk aims to differentiate itself by being able to trace its products from “seed to cup,” not homogenizing the preparation process and staying creative.

Their strategy has seen them cultivate a direct relationship with growers and gain knowledge of their production and storage practices, a point Nyberg calls “traceability.”

Rather than selling tea marked with a best-before date, their products reflect date of grinding. That, he says, guarantees hyper-fresh tea for consumers and commercial buyers.

Pop in for a bowl of maccha or a cup of maccha latte and prepare to be educated. While he clearly knows his stuff, Nyberg is the first one to admit there is far more to learn about this ancient cultural tradition. “We don’t consider ourselves experts; we consider ourselves students.”

JagaSilk Teabar is at A17-633 Courtenay St.; Spiced Water is at 727 Courtenay St. Visit jagasilk.com for hours and more information on Academy of Tea.

Thrifty’s warehouse offers more options

Thrifty Foods has opened its retail support centre on Victoria International Airport property.

The 152,000-square-foot facility, which cost about $31 million to complete, will allow the company to store meat, grocery, frozen food and dairy items and distribute them to their 40 stores on Vancouver Island and the mainland, as well as its independent wholesale customers.

The 50-employee facility is expected to add jobs as it ramps up operations.

CARE award finalists announced for 2012

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association of Vancouver Island scoured the entries and came up with its list of finalists for the 2012 Construction Achievements and Renovations of Excellence (CARE) awards.

The finalists are selected by a panel of industry professionals, using criteria such as architectural design, quality workmanship, creative use of space and energy efficiency. Categories include Residential Planning Design and Construction, Interior Design, Commercial Planning and Design, Customer Service, Sales and Marketing, Special Achievement and Special Interest.

Online public voting, available at www.careawards.com starting Aug. 6, will determine winner of the People’s Choice Award. The CARE winners will be announced at a gala event Sept. 14 at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

More information can be found at www.chbavictoria.com.

Craigdarroch Castle introduces new website

The Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society has added some new features to its website, including a video page, photo gallery and an online membership sign-up form, as well as a rebuilt event calendar. The society hopes the moves will decrease “snail mail” and allow more of the public’s donations to go toward programs at the historic tourist attraction.

Names in the News

Victoria’s Sign of the Times won the Sign System category award at the 2012 National Sign Competition for its work at family respite facility Jeneece Place. Dan Hansen’s company fabricated and installed the signs, designed by Matthias Reineke of Lime Design in Alberta … High River, Alta.-based Western Financial Group acquired Sidney-based B.C. Yacht Insurance Brokers on July 1. The latter, founded by avid yachtsman Bob Raymond in 2006, will continue to operate out of its office at 105-2506 Beacon Ave. … Relationship and sex therapist Jayne Weatherbe is giving free talks for women on Unlocking your Libido. They happen Monday (July 30) downtown, Tuesday in Oak Bay and Thursday in Saanich. Call 250-388-6434 to register … Camosun College student Noele Barry is the 2012 recipient of a $2,500 scholarship from the Certified Management Accountant Society of B.C. Barry is pursuing her CMA designation through the college and can use the cash toward the CMA’s Strategic Leadership Program … Mike Seymour of MSR Solutions Inc., Jason Dales, water maintenance operator with the Capital Regional District, and Colwyn Sutherland, asset and demand management specialist with Kerr Wood Leidal Associates, have been elected as directors on the board of the B.C. Water & Waste Association, a not-for-profit association made up of 4,400 water and wastewater industry professionals … Dallas Gislason has joined the Greater Victoria Development Agency as economic development officer. He replaces Sasha Angus, who last month was named manager of policy and governmental affairs with the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

To submit business story ideas, email editor@vicnews.com.

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