GLEN ELLYN – Malek Zoubi developed an interest in tea at a young age.
"Growing up, my grandfather was an herbalist," said the 29-year-old Lombard resident, who is originally from Jordan and came to the United States when he was 10 years old. "He planted the love of herbs in our lives. He would always say that herbs and teas were a gift to mankind. He always used to say, 'Your head hurts? There's a tea for that. Your stomach hurts? There's a tea for that. Your girlfriend broke up with you? There's a tea for that too.'''
Zoubi is now sharing that love for tea through his store, Tea Canal, which opened in November 2016 at 678 Roosevelt Road, Glen Ellyn, in the Pickwick Place shopping center.
He hopes his customers have a good experience while at his store, which features about 100 teas from countries around the world, including China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Kenya.
"The tea business is a happy business," Zoubi said. "Customers walk in happy, and they leave happy. Nobody's upset at a tea store. It's not like getting a cup of coffee on the run. You slow down, relax and have a cup of tea. There's a very positive feel. And I love to be a part of a business that brings positivity to people's lives."
For those who want to sit down and relax while drinking a cup of tea, the store has plenty of seating. Customers also can get a cup of tea to go or buy tea to take home.
Zoubi also has opinions on what country has the best tea. In his opinion, Japan produces the best green tea.
"That tea is grown on the highest mountains, not on flat, low ground," he said. "The greatest teas in the world are only harvested four times a year, and they grow on mountain tops."
Zoubi believes it is important to educate his customers about teas. He regularly hosts tea classes and tastings at the store.
"We talk about how to make the perfect cup of tea," he said. "Each tea is made differently. No matter how expensive the tea is, if it is not made the right way, it's not going to taste good. We educate them on how to make that cup the right way."
They are taught things like how water temperature and quality will affect the quality of the tea.
"We educate them on why these things are important and how it makes a difference in what kind of cup of tea they are going to have," Zoubi said.
Tea Canal also sells accessories like tea pots and tea cups. Customers can sample any of the teas in the store.
"We want people to buy something they know they love," he said.
In March, Zoubi plans to open a second location in the Yorktown Center in Lombard that will offer high tea, which is a meal eaten in the late afternoon or early evening, typically consisting of a cooked dish, bread and butter, and tea.
"Our customers who came in here were asking about high tea," Zoubi said. "We're going to actually do that in Yorktown Mall."
Zoubi has restaurant experience. From 2005 to 2010, he was general manager of Reza's restaurant in Oak Brook.
He has seen tea's popularity increase in the last few years. According to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc., tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water, and can be found in almost 80 percent of all U.S. households.
In 2015, Americans consumed well over 80 billion servings of tea, or more than 3.6 billion gallons, according to association statistics.
"Tea has different varieties and many, many different tastes," Zoubi said. "So you cannot say that you don't like tea. You could say that you don't like that tea because there are over 1,500 varieties of it."
He said the area has been embracing the store since it opened.
"I know I have a passion for tea," Zoubi said. "I know that I love this business. But finding a home in Glen Ellyn has been really wonderful."
If you go
What: Tea Canal
Where: 678 Roosevelt Road, Glen Ellyn
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily