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Hoda Paripoush pours her heart and art into every cup

Hoda Paripoush trained her nose for tea by studying scents in the perfume capital of Grasse, France. ‘Incorporating the right scent with the right ingredients is a blend of science and art, so it all makes perfect sense that this is what I’d dedicate myself to,’ the tea sommelier says.

Born in India, the daughter of Persian émigrés who had escaped the 1979 Islamic Revolution in their native Iran, Hoda Paripoush grew up drinking tea, a habit she formed young and then continued after immigrating to Canada in 1984, at age 3.

"Being born into a Persian family and having a strong Indian influence growing up, tea was almost exclusively the only beverage consumed in the home," says the 31-year-old married mother of a young daughter. "It was the first beverage of the day and the last beverage at night, not to mention the multiple cupfuls consumed during the afternoon."

Eventually tea evolved to become an all-consuming passion, dictating the course of her life.

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Today a certified tea sommelier in Toronto, knowledgeable in the varieties and methods of tea from around the world, Paripoush launched Sloane Fine Tea Merchants in 2008 as a corporate gift-giving business, expanding into retail in 2011 with husband Dean Paripoush serving as chief executive officer.

Named for Sloane Square in London, the Canadian tea company, for which Paripoush serves as director and head tea sommelier, has in the intervening years gone from offering four aromatic blended teas to 27, a result of demand.

Sourced from around the world from artisan farmers and blended to fill ultrasonically sealed pyramid-shaped sachets, the teas are sold across Canada through 120 independent boutiques, cafés and restaurants, in addition to Indigo and Chapters bookstores and online at sloanetea.com.

Paripoush created the company's distinctive heritage-look tin caddies, inspired by her world travels as a tea connoisseur.

"As an active collector, I'm constantly searching for things that strike a chord and make the heart giggle, to create an emotional response," she says. "It might be a discovery in an antique shop in Darjeeling, [India], or an item from a local market. In either case, it has to be meaningful and tell a story."

Her own story, about how she came to steep herself so determinedly in the art of tea, itself reads like a global adventure in search of personal meaning.

Her parents, who had settled in Brockville, Ont., had wanted their daughter to become a doctor, and at 20 she dutifully enrolled in a pre-med program, thinking to become a naturopath. But soon after, she had, as she puts it, an epiphany.

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"I've never been one to take the easy road, or to be afraid of hard work, but I couldn't accept the absence of passion in my career," Paripoush says, reflecting back on her life's journey. "I knew that I would be a poor physician, even on the best of days, if I did not truly love what I did."

Deciding to follow her heart, Paripoush, an avid collector of bottled fragrances, soon after travelled to Grasse, France, perfume capital of the world, where she studied scent with the express purpose of applying it to the biggest constant in her life – tea.

"The goal was always clear – how to apply the principles of perfumery to tea so as to make each cup an exceptional experience," she says.

"Incorporating the right scent with the right ingredients is a blend of science and art, so it all makes perfect sense that this is what I'd dedicate myself to."

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