There was a time when I had my tea shop in Vancouver, BC. I was in Chinatown. It was an interesting time in my life. The shop, somewhat off the beaten track drew in all kinds of characters. Most days I would be sitting in my shop writing on my collection of typewriters. I would be writing the stories of my experiences. I will write more in time, but for now I will post these pictures.
During my years at Liberal Arts College I became an educated consumer of Western ideas, art and culture. There was so much on the table, and I, hungry, spooned in as much as I could from that intellectual buffet. It has taken so much time and experience to digest what I had learned. Eventually, I found myself in Korea completely unprepared. Everything rational was useless. And so, like the Futurists, I too had to throw overboard all the old perceptions I carried in my suitcase. I dove right in and learned to swim with the currents of people and cultural traditions. In the course of my time spent there I must have had just a little too much green tea to drink, because I found myself transforming. When the current brought me back to these shores it was in the form of a Tea Master, and I found myself a cultural cross dresser. I had traded in my Polish folkloric costumes for a Korean one and set up a traditional tearoom in Vancouver’s Historic Chinatown (also known as the down town East side). So now with my background in Liberal Arts: Western Society and Culture and Russian Studies, I sell tea to the Chinese!
As I continue to bridge East and West I realize that the tea room, and the process of drinking tea in communion, serves to bring together idea’s and dialogue, something we all enjoyed at the college; in the classrooms, in our own small personalized “study” groups and on Thursdays during coffee hour. Upon graduation I felt somewhat isolated and actively sought out other “intellectual consumers”. And so I decided to create an environment where the intellect can grow and blossom, my cross-cultural “Tea Womb” a place to nurture thinking articulate minds. These days I strive to live like water and to create cultural waterways of understanding between East and West, keeping the dialogue and ideas flowing. It is with fondness that I look back at the people and the time I spent at the college. And one day I’ll probably enroll and start it all over again.
– Michael the Teaman
It is with great sadness that I write that Angelo Tosi’s grocery story in Vancouver’s Chinatown is now closed and up for sale. Apparently, the property taxes have soared from $23 000 to $40 000. In honor of Angelo’s legacy I repost this post. I am happy to have had my Live Like Water tea shop across the street, and to have been part of his world. Cheers Angelo I still miss you. And thank you for all your advice and letting me photography your world.
Cozy: that’s the warm kind of relationship you’ll develop with Angelo once you’ve tried his cheeses, olives and pasta. His reputation is well established in the community, but it is only though word of mouth that new people discover all he has to offer in his Historic store located at 624 Main Street. I know many have walked passed his darkened shop wondering what goes on in there. And so I want to introduce him to all of you: now it’s up to you to summon your courage and ring the bell to the darkened shop. You must be patient because Angelo is a very hard working man and he is usually busy either in his office or out back preparing wholesale orders for many of the Italian restaurants and cafes in the city. I have had the pleasure of helping him with the local deliveries. It was quiet an amazing feeling driving around in the 1967 green 1 ton truck with a canvas trap. As we drove through the Commercial Drive neighborhood, and along Hastings, many would see the truck and wave. The delivery truck symbolizes the community that the Tosi family has serviced since 1913.
Seeing Angelo in the morning sweeping the front of his store, his eyes sparkling when he sees you coming down the street is a special feeling and this reminds me of my childhood: the days of shopkeepers and buying from the independent merchants along The Main in Montreal. Each shop had its specialty products: bread here, meats there, bagels over there. It wasn’t the one stop shopping like it is now in some wear house that sells everything. For me Angelo is a role model, I fully understand and embrace his work ethic. This man is genuine through and through. Since I have gotten to know Angelo I have realized some of the similarities between us: both of us have created our own personal worlds, the environment in which we work, cool, low lit and we serve with warm hearts because there is a deep love in what we do, and how we do it in this very modern world.
Now that I have joined the ranks of specialty shops, I realize that I am exposing all those who come though the door to a very authentic experience. I am planting memories and smells that will leave an imprint for the next generation. I can only imagine how the young Chinese children will remember the day when their parents brought them to buy tea from the Polish man who dressed in Korean traditional clothing.
Here in our shops, in the environment we have created, we reflect our commitment to a more tradition way of doing business: I can only hope that more people follow their passion and continue to create and share with the community.