I’m surprised to find skater dudes in a tea shop, even a way-cool one in Calgary, AB’s trendy Kensington neighbourhood. Then again, the store’s name, The Naked Leaf, does sound pretty rad.
So I ask the owner, what gives?Turns out they’re not just any skater dudes, they’re speed skater dudes training at Calgary’s Olympic Oval, site of the 1988 Olympic Games. But still, tea? And not cheap tea, either. Each of them hands over a big wad of money for some of the shop’s high-end, loose-leaf tea. Apparently the dudes recently met a bunch of kick-ass skaters from Asia who were in phenomenal shape, and claimed tea was a big part of the reason.
“They’ve been coming in for tea ever since,” Naked Leaf owner Jonathan Kane says.
It must be working for them, too. Kane answers tea questions from a steady flow customers—upscale housewives, purse-poor grad students and curious tourists. The guy knows his stuff—he’s even used a “tea diet” to maintain his weight (he can tell you all about its health benefits alongside selling glorious, locally made teapots and accessories). Turns out Kane, a former pro dancer, has been hooked on tea’s purported health qualities for nearly 25 years.
Of course he’s great with the up-sell—adding value by including reusable storage tins with 100-gr (3.5-oz) loose-tea purchases. The tins are tastefully decorated with some 30 different labels created by local artists. Customizing is available, too: business cards or a family portrait can be made into special labels for corporate or family gifts.
“I want the naked man,” a female customer announces, as she considers a label showing a hunky guy in a garden.
I can’t resist answering, “Who doesn’t?” It’s a friendly place; everyone chuckles.
The shop is not licensed as a restaurant, so the proprietor can only sell tea-to-go in a paper cup, or serve free samples in tiny Japanese-style ceramic cups. Milky oolong is my choice—its natural bouquet is practically orgasmic (and it’s his biggest seller).
No surprise, Naked Leaf’s teas are the best and freshest Kane can find. But it’s his passion for the product that makes a pit stop at this Calgary shop worth your time. Weeks later, I’m still enjoying my oolong at home, hoping it makes me as lean as a skater dude—or as sexy as the naked man on the tin.
What I love nearby in Kensington:
- The feeling I’m in a trendy Italian pizzeria at Pulcinella.
- Hearing “opa!” when the odd plate is smashed to the floor at delicious Greek eatery The Broken Plate.
- Strolling along the Bow River pathways with my tea in a paper cup, enjoying vistas of Calgary’s substantial skyline.
- Catching an art film or documentary at the worn-but-beloved Plaza Theatre.