Chorney-Booth: Jolene’s Tea House Continues Rocky Mountain Tea Traditions

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Drinking tea, like many food and drink rituals, is often misunderstood by those who do not participate in it. Talking about a good cup of tea often involves jokes about porcelain and spilled little fingers when in reality, tea has long been the drink of people from all walks of life across the world. Prized for its effects on mental and physical well-being, a good cup of tea is as good in a sturdy thermos as it is in a mug of Royal Doulton tea.

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Tea has a long tradition in the Rocky Mountains – early Swiss guides established the tradition of combining tea drinking while hiking in Banff National Park and you will always find relatively remote Alpine teahouses on the hike. on the trails of Lake Agnes or the Plaine des Six Glaciers which wind through the peaks surrounding Lake Louise. The combined elegance and practicality of mountain tea culture is the primary inspiration behind Jolene’s Tea House, a newly opened tea room on Bear Street in Banff.

Hikers enjoying tea on the veranda of the Lake Agnès tea house.  Courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Hikers enjoying tea on the veranda of the Lake Agnès tea house. Courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies jpg

“The tea ceremony in the mountains is extremely important,” says Jolene Brewster, the Jolene behind the tea house. “I’ve never seen anyone go on a day hike and have a thermos of coffee. You need something hydrating, something uplifting, something to keep you going. Tea has always been an important part of a day in the mountains. When we blend our teas we think a lot about what early travelers and explorers would have drunk while brewing tea over the campfire.

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Brewster, who has a personal connection to Banff’s tea culture through his extended family’s background as mountain guides turned tour operators, loved tea for most of his life. She remembers her mother serving tea to guests in their rural Alberta home as a child and was enchanted by the ritual of brewing and pouring tea and listening to the conversation swirling around. the table while everyone took a sip. Brewster started blending and selling her own tea in 2005 at a store on bustling Banff Avenue, but after five years she was tired of retail and switched to selling her teas (formerly under the Natur’el Tea banner) online and in person markets.

The neat interior of Jolene's tea house in Banff.  Courtesy of Gareth Paget
The neat interior of Jolene’s tea house in Banff. Courtesy of Gareth Paget Photo by G PAGET /jpg

Eventually Brewster began to dream of another more serene store, which began to take shape once she teamed up with new business partner Jess McNally, who also has a strong entrepreneurial streak instilled by her Alberta family. eminent. A former Buddhist nun who spent time exploring tea culture in the Himalayas, McNally also has an understanding of the relationship between tea, adventure and personal well-being, as well as a knack for marketing and Branding. She urged her partner to change the product name to Jolene to pay homage not only to Brewster’s own journey as an entrepreneur, but also as a feminized nod to the legacy of strong women who have served tea in the mountains before her. Together they renamed the tea itself and opened the shop in the historic Old Crag Cabin in Bear Street Bison Yard.

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“Ultimately, we want to share the story of tea in the Rockies and the amazing women who run these tea houses and serve this tea,” Brewster said. “It was a place of freedom – in the past, women were always here in their chic hiking pants, on expeditions and staying in teahouses. This building helps us send exactly the message we want to share.

The tea products are all contained in pretty boxes in Jolene's tea house.
The tea products are all contained in pretty boxes in Jolene’s tea house. Photo by G PAGET /jpg

Even for guests who cannot visit the cozy little tea room, the teas themselves are designed to reflect a sense of alpine peace. Since tea doesn’t grow in Alberta, most of the 75 ingredients Jolene’s uses in its tea blends are imported from all over the world, but they still seem specific to Banff. The shop is full of boxes of herbal, black, green, oolong, white, and earthy fermented pu-erh tea, all made with fully organic tea leaves and other ingredients. In addition to premium masala chai, creamy Earl Gray, matcha and other classic varieties, customers can choose blends like Meadow Mint with sage, spearmint and rose hips or Spirit tea. Lake laden with white pine and sweetgrass, created to pay homage to the tranquility of nearby Lake Minnewanka. The vast majority of Jolene’s teas are sold in loose leaf form in pretty boxes, with a few varieties available in compostable tea bags.

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The first auto campers in Banff brewing tea over the open fire.  Courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
The first auto campers in Banff brewing tea over the open fire. Courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies jpg

While a trip to the tea house is highly recommended – Brewster and McNally love to talk about tea and there are always samples on hand – Jolene’s also does solid business online through the natureltea.ca website and its teas are served at restaurants in the Bow Valley, including some that use the teas to liven up creative cocktails. Some products are also available at a few retail outlets in Calgary, including the Italian Center Shop and The Apothecary. The tea room itself is located at 211A Bear Street in Banff and can be reached at 403-985-5500.

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be reached at elizabooth@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @elizabooth or Instagram at @elizabooth.

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