One of the sweetest, but most passionate people I’ve connected with in the Instagram tea community is Deb Wong, from The Sugared Teacup. She makes really cute monthly tea boxes, and is always cheerful and inspiring. Today I’m sharing an exclusive Q&A with this awesome tea lady.
1. Tell me your tea story. How long have you been a tea lover, and how did you get into tea?
I’ve been a tea drinker since I was little! Going out to dim sum with family was my first experience with tea growing up so Chinese oolong and puerh tea was what I was first exposed to and when I was a little older, I’d drink green tea at home. It wasn’t until around 2009 though that I started to branch out and try different teas and to really have a lot of fun exploring tea places in the city! I’d say David’s Tea and Tea Forte were the first brands and companies that made me enjoy tea on another level and going to my first afternoon tea in 2010 (a chocolate themed one!) was what made me fall head over heels for afternoon tea in general.
2. What is your favorite kind of tea?
I’m a green tea lover through and through! In terms of flavours I love dessert inspired blends, maple, caramel, coconut, and lately, I’ve been loving florals and Earl Greys.
3. Do you like your tea plain, or do you add some sort of sweeteners/milk to it?
I loooove my tea with honey. The only time I have tea with milk is when I’m having an Earl Grey (which sometimes I will drink plain too) and I typically leave the roasted and more savoury green teas (like Genmaicha) plain.
4. Where did you get the idea for The Sugared Teacup?
The Sugared Teacup tea box business was born purely out of a love for trying different types of tea from different cities! I came up with the idea in September 2016 when I was literally laying on my bed staring up at the ceiling one afternoon daydreaming. I thought, as a tea lover, how great it would be to be able to try a bunch of different teas from a bunch of different tea shops and companies from the same city, in a box. And I thought, “wait a minute, why don’t I do this for Toronto?!” And The Sugared Teacup business was born!
5. Are your tea boxes both subscription-based and available for individual sale?
Yes! Folks can sign up for 3-month and 6-month tea box subscriptions and also purchase tea boxes individually. I also do custom orders and I ship within Canada and the US, as well as offer local pickup and delivery within Toronto.
6. How much planning goes into each box you create?
Quite a bit! There’s planning in every stage: colour combinations in wrapping, the teas that I pick to go inside the box, even the colour of the tissue paper and paper shred inside! But a lot of the planning is guided by season, special occasion, and also by the customer. For example, I keep records of the teas I put into the boxes so if a customer has ordered from me before and is purchasing another one for themselves, I make sure I’m not giving them teas that I’ve given them in the past so that they’ll have something new and exciting to try!
7. Tell me about your decision to make The Sugared Teacup your full-time gig?
The decision to make The Sugared Teacup my full-time job was honestly based on two things: time and passion. I was working a day job as a freelancer when I soft launched The Sugared Teacup during the 2016 holiday season. I continued to do both in the new year but quickly realized that doing both was not going to be sustainable for me long term. When I was at work I was thinking about the tea boxes and when I was working on the boxes I was thinking about my deadlines at work. And I knew that if I wanted to see The Sugared Teacup grow the way I wanted it to, I had to give 110% of myself to it. So I made the decision in March 2017 (one year ago!) to quit my day job and do The Sugared Teacup full time and I have never had a single regret.
8. What do you most enjoy about putting the tea boxes together?
I love picking out the teas! Curating the teas and picking out ones I think people will like based on their preferences or the theme is the funnest part!
9. How long does it take you to choose what will go in each one?
It actually doesn’t take as long as people might think! I have a general idea of what I have in my current inventory at any given time so it’s just a matter of putting together a selection that I’m happy with and making sure I’m not duplicating if it’s for a repeat customer, less than 10 minutes, tops!
10. What feedback have you gotten from people about your tea boxes?
The feedback has been so wonderful and heartwarming. Aside from tea lovers just enjoying the fact that they can get their hands on teas they might otherwise have difficulty obtaining (due to location, accessibility, or simply just not knowing about the brand or company prior to receiving a box), people have told me they’ve been able to connect with and share these experiences with their friends and family, they’ve broadened their tastes, they’re become more adventurous, so many things! I strive to give everyone a fun, local Toronto tea experience through these boxes and I love that people get and appreciate what I do!
11. Is there a story behind the name “The Sugared Teacup”?
Ah, the name was really just inspired by a love of cute and dainty things! That and sugar cubes because they are also cute and dainty and very much tea related! So in keeping with that, I kept the “sugar” part and as I was going back and forth on what to name my new blog (because The Sugared Teacup started as a blog before it became a tea box business!), I was having a conversation about it with a close friend and I asked her if I should go with teacup or teapot as the 2nd part of the name and she said, “teacup!” and I went with it!