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Introducing: One Hour, Chinatown’s first minimalist tea shop

Inside One Hour (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

The leap from architect to restaurateur is probably not a traditional career trajectory, but that’s the route Han Shao has taken. After moving to Toronto from mainland China in 2005, Shao earned a master’s degree from U of T’s architecture program and went on to work for a local firm. But that didn’t last long. Fed up with the mind-numbing computer work he faced every day, Shao decided to quit his job and open up a bright new tea house in the heart of Chinatown.

A lengthy passage printed in the entranceway greets customers with a little philosophy. Shao condenses it for us: “There are 24 hours in a day—just one hour can make a difference in your life.” He hopes that his spot will act as a place where people—especially university kids—can take a meaningful break from their stressful lives, grab a drink and chat with their friends (the beanbag seats will probably keep some longer than a single hour). While Shao is passionate about his new career, his previous world hasn’t quite escaped him: he designed both the streamlined interior and the simple but recognizable logo. He tells us he’s “addicted to minimalism,” not exactly a first for tea or coffee shops, but more than a little unorthodox in the middle of Spadina’s bustle.

The menu focuses mainly on drinks, like the mango or white gourd slushes, although Shao tells us the ladies fall hard for the taro root version. Shao also serves beef noodle soup, a traditional Chinese comfort food that is “totally homemade” and is available in small or large portions. Eventually, he’d like to expand the edible part of the menu with more continental fare like fried chicken and french fries. Plans for dessert—cheesecakes, crème brûlée and blueberry pancakes—are in the works too.

One Hour, 435 Spadina Ave., 647-346-2172, onehour.cc

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