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Monday Morning "MUG"ing: When only a mug of the best tea will do (10 photos)

This week’s Monday Morning MUGing is about the International House of Tea, which has the largest selection of loose teas and blends in town.

THUNDER BAY -- Terri Lynn Fucile wasn’t trying to start a business when she helped fundraise for local charities by renting out some space she had to package tea they were selling. It wasn’t long before people started trickling in, trying to buy tea directly from her.

She wasn’t in the tea business at all (she has a background in nutrition,) but she took note of the customer demand and in November 2006, she started selling tea on her own. Initially, it was only 12 kinds of tea on a shelf - but soon she was stocking more.

She moved to her current location on Algoma Street in June 2011. The shop sells tea and accessories such as mugs, teapots and strainers, and there is also a small seating area where you can quietly enjoy your favourite brew and a scone if you’re hungry. There is even parking in the back. 

David’s Tea, which opened in the mall a few months after she moved International House of Tea to its present location on Algoma Street has actually been a benefit to her business, rather than competing with it. “Our first five years in business was a lot of education,” she says.

In the beginning, it was not easy to convince people to try loose leaf tea. Restaurants did not want to get into it, since employees were used to the convenience of tea bags. However, as David’s Tea grew in popularity, more people realized that there’s more to tea than the pulverized stuff found in cheap teabags and started demanding better quality. “They (David’s Tea) took a lot of the mystery out of tea, which made us more accessible.”

At first, she was a little bewildered by customers coming in and asking what these teas were good for. “Well, it’s good for drinking? I thought. I mean, you don’t go to a grocery store and ask the grocer what asparagus is good for,” she laughed. However, she soon realized there was something there.

In 2009 she began learning about herbal teas and started mixing batches at customers’ requests. Now she has a whole section of her wall shelves devoted to Elixirs, each for a different ailment or effect. There are more than 50 kinds; for sleep, allergies, beautiful hair, digestion, arthritis pain, PMS, and even one for hangovers. None of the herbs she carries are medicinal (such as St. John’s Wort) or things that could interfere with medication, so that people can enjoy them without concern.

One tip - if you get loose leaf tea at IHOT and want the same kind again, bring back the black ziplock pouch it came in for a $0.50 discount.