Photo Credit: Sophia Hsin
Pedro Villalon is a founding partner of O5 Tea, a company dedicated to curating rare tea menus at third wave coffee bars, boutique hotels and O5’s iconic Vancouver tea bar. He is also a director at Two Hills Tea, a pioneer in the North American organic tea market since the 1990’s and developer of health-oriented drinks.
A chemical engineer with two decades of experience in marketing and business management, a love for exploration and a passion for tea, Pedro travels to remote villages to learn from the locals. By touching soil, picking the leaves and living with the people who handcraft the tea, he looks to discover the rich history behind this beautiful drink. He believes that tea is grown, not manufactured; the quality of each batch is a function of space (origin) and time. If you have healthy leaves, carefully handcrafted, it is easy to create drinks that will make people smile.
Founded in 2011 in Vancouver, O5 Tea Company is the National Geographic of tea—it’s about discovering. Born and raised in Mexico, and having lived and worked in China, the U.S., and Canada, Pedro has a passion for learning about different cultures and traditions. He documents his experiences of making friends, sharing local foods, and building friendships. “It’s a fun job,” he says. “We learn about the soil in which our tea grows and the people who care for it.”
He is also proving that tea can be a profitable. The company works with boutique hotels and third wave coffee bars—those who believe in transparent origins and meticulous handcrafting. The goal is to take their programs and elevate them to the standards of their wine, craft beer, specialty coffee or cocktail menus. Pedro explains his goal to emulate the success of major 3W roasters. “Blue Bottle was one of the pioneers that elevated the standards for coffee in North America. They were recently purchased by Nestle for 500 million; Intelligentsia and Stumptown were also acquired for hefty sums. Third wave coffee is no longer a niche industry. This is our goal with tea; I would like to see more people enjoying the really good stuff!”
Pedro and his team work closely with their customers to develop tea programs that are right for their needs: offering delicious drinks while improving profitability. From sophisticated zero-proof cocktails to single dose solutions for paced environments, it is critical to understand the goals and resources of each customer.
Pedro began his career as an intern with Procter & Gamble while he was still in college in Mexico City. After he graduated, he joined P&G as assistant brand manager and moved to Cincinnati. During his decade with the company, working in marketing, he was transferred to China, where he was serendipitously exposed to the world of tea. “My best friend became my driver; he introduced me to tea. His wife, coincidentally, is from the most famous tea mountain in Guandong; during a trip to Phoenix Mountain I became fascinate by this plant.”
Pedro and his family decided to move to Canada; the mountains, ocean and a vibrant multi-cultural society made it an ideal place to live and build the project that became O5.
Pedro holds bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering from Universidad Iberoamericana, Ciudad de México. He is currently working on a documentary to be shot in the mountains of Gifu, Japan next year. “The idea is to document ancient traditions that are at risk of getting lost; we will explore calligraphy, martial arts, theatre… using tea as a viewing glass.”
President — O5 Tea Company Limited
2208 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V6K1N8
LinkedIn: Pedro Villalon
Download the Top 100 Canadian Professionals magazine and check out Pedro's feature on page 53.