Tea master Daniela Cubelic brings a modern sensibility to the ancient “elixir of immortality.”
Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world. The quote from eighth-century Chinese sage T’ien Yiheng is embossed on a simple linen towel on display among the teaware at Silk Road, a tea house in Victoria’s Chinatown. I wonder if Yiheng could have imagined the cacophony of 2017.
Of course, putting on a pot of tea has been the natural reaction to crisis in my family for generations.
“Tea is the yoga of beverages,” explains Silk Road’s owner and tea master Daniela Cubelic. Cubelic launched her tea house and shop 25 years ago and has since earned an international reputation as Canada’s Queen of Tea.
“Yoga is a form of exercise, but it is more than that – as tea is more than a beverage,” she says. “Both have a connection to overall wellness: physical, mental and stress management. There is also a spiritual component and culture and history as well.”
Cubelic doesn’t necessarily fit one’s expectations for the Queen of Tea. No frumpy tweed or wire-rimmed glasses. She cuts a distinctive figure around Victoria, in her uniform of sleek black dresses, sharp dark bob and dramatic red lipstick. But she has always been fascinated by tea and its culture, starting her tea studies when she was 15 and opening Silk Road when she was 22. The shop is a modern mecca for tea, a light-infused sanctuary offering more than 25 varietals and a dedicated staff to explain the difference between green, black, oolong, white and pu-erh teas. The business has expanded to a spa, two more storefronts in B.C. and a booming online commerce.
Over the years, Cubelic has learned many things from tea’s ancient traditions, but there are also the things she is discovering about tea through lived experience.
“When I was first studying tea, I would hear about all of these health benefits,” Cubelic says. “One of the things that they talk about in the ancient traditions is that tea is the elixir of immortality and that it makes you more youthful. What I’ve really noticed is that I don’t seem to be aging at the same rate as other people. I’m turning 48 at the end of December and I don’t feel like your average 48-year-old. When I spend time with people my own age, I notice that I am operating at a different level of vitality.”
These ancient beliefs about tea are also being backed up by scientific research. Cubelic points to a recent study out of China that shows tea makes you younger on a DNA level. The study found that Asian tea drinkers (and Cubelic notes that this is an important distinction to make because the quality of tea is crucial) exhibit DNA that is on average five years younger than the regular population.
“Exercise does the same thing,” she says. “I’m choosing to