Hoda Paripoush, Founder of Sloane Tea, on Sustainable Practices and Having Affection For What you do
Photography by SATY + PRATHA
Sloane Fine Tea, and other Toronto makers, are featured in Randi Bergman’s book Toronto Makes: The Things We Love and the People Who Make Them. Makejoy is the book’s creative director.
For Hoda Paripoush, founder of Sloane Fine Tea Merchants, growing a business starts with integrity and passion.
When Hoda Paripoush pours tea, she does so with reverence. When she speaks, she doesn’t waste a single word, weaving a beautiful story about her travels or her daughter with care and light. As the sole founder of Sloane Fine Tea Merchants, a direct trade company, Paripoush is a wonder to behold. She is kind, breathtakingly intelligent, responsible, a certified tea sommelier, and a savvy entrepreneur.
A passion for tea was ingrained in her at a young age. Her family came to Ontario as religious refugees, and tea was a means to anchor themselves in their new home through a beloved tradition. No matter what anyone in her family was doing, all would gather for tea — it was something to be counted on. So it wasn’t surprising when, in her post-graduate studies in naturopathic medicine, Paripoush had an epiphany, realizing her destiny lay in tea. And thus Sloane was born.
When Paripoush goes to tea farms in India — farms from which Sloane sources its tea — she stays with the families of the farmers. “They call me chhotee bahan,” Paripoush says. It means little sister. She walks around with pen and paper, asking countless questions about how every little thing is done. “I’m not a journalist, but I just want to know everything,” she says.
This desire to know, to be invested in the process, is driven by affection for what she does. Sloane wouldn’t exist without it. Every farm that Paripoush works with is a farm that she’s personally visited, and she makes sure to work with tea plantations that are benefiting their communities. For example, a farm that provides schooling for the children of its workers. “We can’t put our name behind something that we don’t believe in, and it starts at the roots,” she says.
Paripoush’s passion doesn’t keep her from knowledge of the more sobering facts of the world of tea production. She is aware, for example, of the increase in tea pluckers’ wages, and the inability of certain plantations to afford to pay their workers. Consequently, fewer pluckers are hired and less tea is produced. This leads to an increase in the price of tea, she says. Paripoush hopes to lead by example, to put her money where her mouth is, by working with farms that employ sustainable practices.
Now, in addition to selling teas through their site, Sloane has a food service line, which caters to restaurants and hotels. Paripoush says that Sloane offers about 45 different teas, depending on the time of year. Going forward, Paripoush wants to educate. Her tea cupping studio in Toronto’s East end is an airy room that smells faintly of jasmine and is stocked with the myriad teacups and pots collected during her travels. Her goal for this studio is to host workshops, and to conduct video interviews with industry-insiders she’s worked with and whom she respects no end.
“The Alchemist came into my life at a very pivotal point. The lesson is simple but profound: When you pursue your personal destiny, the soul of the world conspires to help you along in achieving it. The amount of comfort and courage that these words have brought me is tremendous. For this reason, I hold The Alchemist very dear to my heart.”
“My camera is my favourite app because it allows me to capture beauty and inspiration. Whether it’s a video of my kids playing or photos I’ve taken for design inspiration, I’m able to relive a part of that moment at my own pace as often I like.”
“I really connect with TedTalks. The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown is a must.”