This article is produced in collaboration with our friends at George Brown Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts.
Hoda Paripoush has been drinking tea for as long as she can remember. Paripoush was born in India to Persian parents and, growing up, tea was at the heart of her home life and family culture. “India and Persia are both tea-drinking nations,” she says.
Paripoush’s family came to Canada as religious refugees when she was just three years old, and tea became a source of comfort during a time of constant change. “The one certainty was tea time,” she says. “No matter how chaotic life was, tea was always there.”
After completing secondary school, Paripoush initially enrolled in a naturopathic medicine program but soon realized it wasn’t the right path for her. “The only thing I was passionate about in naturopathy school was starting a tea club,” she jokes.
In contemplating her next career move, Paripoush began to focus on which activities brought her the most joy in her daily life. “I realized that it had to do with drinking tea and taking time to pause,” she says.
With few tea educational programs available in Canada at the time, Paripoush began attending tea trade shows and taking short-term courses in the U.S. Fortuitously, George Brown launched what was then known as its tea sommelier program, just as she was beginning to dive deeper into her tea studies.
Just as tea had been a source of connection during her childhood, tea became the common ground that allowed Paripoush to form important relationships with her instructor and fellow students at George Brown. While studying for her tea sommelier certificate, Paripoush also began developing an early incarnation of her business, Sloane Tea.
Her instructor and peers were some of the first taste testers as she developed blends for Sloane. “I was able to use them as fundamental resources in tasting the blends that had made it to my finalist list [for Sloane]. They gave me honest feedback,” she says, adding that her colleagues also provided valuable critiques on her branding for Sloane.
Paripoush first launched Sloane as a retail business but studying at George Brown close to culinary students inspired her to change her focus. “It caused a paradigm shift. I realized there’s a whole other type of business that needs to use tea for service to their patrons, and that’s the food and beverage world,” she says.
Today, Sloane Tea is carried by retailers across Canada and the U.S., as well as served in restaurants and hotels like the St. Regis Toronto and even on Porter Airlines’ flights. Before the pandemic, Paripoush says one of the highlights of her job was building new tea programs for restaurants and hotels. “That required a lot of on-site time and training their staff and team members,” she says.
Tea has been a grounding force for Paripoush as she doubled down on her online business amid the pandemic. For example, her Toronto cupping studio, which was intended to become a hub for education, will soon be launching a video series to replace in-person events.
“We are going to bring people from all different industries that we’ve worked with that are changemakers and tastemakers and just inspiring humans over tea [to tell their stories],” she says, adding that the program will also include “how-to guides” to help customers learn to master skills like making tea lattes or creating their own blends at home. “George Brown was really fundamental in how I redirected the business,” she says. “It helped me realize that consumers do want to know more about tea [that they drink].”
Paripoush says her goal now is to bring these intimate, informative cupping studio conversations into people’s homes virtually, thus making them available to a wider audience. “I firmly believe there’s nothing a cup of tea can’t at least ameliorate. It’s not going to solve the world’s problems but it’s going to put you in that much better of a place to deal with your world and your problems,” she says.
Want to know more about the variety of programs that George Brown Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts offers? Check out our profile on Stephanie Guth, graduate of the Italian Culinary Arts program or our profile on Katie Wilson, graduate of the Professional Chocolatier program.