Foodists at The Urban Tea MerchantPosted by Brenda Lowe on Monday, December 5th, 2011
Tags for this Article: afternoon tea, beverage, luxury, tea, urban tea merchant, vancouver
‘Luxury’ isn’t often the first word that comes to mind when you think of tea. Unlike a Cartier watch, Louis Vuitton purse or Harry Winston diamonds, high end tea is feasible as an everyday indulgence. It’s the second most consumed beverage after water, drank by billions worldwide. People drink it to quench their thirst, for health reasons, when they’re sick, or just because they like it. Tea is a beverage, a plant, and sometimes an afternoon snack (afternoon tea) or an early evening meal (high tea).
If we’re just talking about the beverage, technically it’s not tea unless the leaves are from the Camellia sinensis plant. White, yellow, green, oolong, pu-erh, and black teas are all from this species of plant but are processed differently. The teas that are commonly known as chamomile, rooibos, yerba maté, and echinacea are classified as herbal teas or tisanes. There’s a lot of tea out there and to help you wade through it all, it’s best to have a specialist on hand.
The Urban Tea Merchant recently invited several members of Foodists to visit their flagship location in downtown Vancouver. We were hosted by a husband and wife team, Casey James and Reza Nasooti. You may have seen them at their other location at Park Royal in West Vancouver. The Urban Tea Merchant is owned and operated by a local family that is the sole distributor for the TWG Tea Company in Canada, and Casey is the daughter of the founders. Reza is also the resident certified Tea Sommelier (yes there really is such a thing!) and he took us through a ‘smelling’ of some very aromatic and intriguing teas in the retail portion of the store. For customers that want an in depth session, you can also book a private tasting.
We then moved upstairs to their dining area, a pleasant room with music and a beautiful water fountain that gave it a subtle spa-like atmosphere. Urban Tea has recently hired a new chef, Michael Batoux. Canadian born and European trained, Chef Michael is in the process of reworking the menu and has incorporated tea into many of the afternoon tea items and a la carte dishes. The savoury items and scones are made in house while desserts and chocolate are sourced from Thomas Haas and Chocolate Arts. Macarons are flown in from TWG.
In keeping with the holiday season, Urban Tea is featuring four specialty tea blends: Red Christmas, Christmas Lights, Holiday Spirit and Festive Night. We sampled each of these along with two a la carte dishes and their Signature Holiday Afternoon Tea Service. All of us drank the teas without sugar so that we could get the pure tea flavours.
Festive Night is a green tea that was smooth and light, with citrus, cherry, light nuttiness and spicy flavours – it was a great way to start the service before the food came. Red Christmas is a robust red rooibos with traditional holiday winter spice flavours, wonderful to inhale and savour. Holiday Spirit is a lovely black tea with spicy apple notes that had more astringency on the palate but it was smoothed out with the addition of a little milk. (These two teas paired well with the savoury afternoon tea items and the two a la carte dishes.) Christmas Lights was also a green tea but with a completely different character: very dominant in almond and marzipan with spices as the secondary flavour, and it was the perfect pairing with the sweet afternoon tea items.
The Signature afternoon tea comes on a tall three-tiered tray with a variety of unique sandwiches and savoury bites on the bottom, scones with whipped Devonshire cream & jam in the middle, and sweets on the top. Each of the sandwiches incorporated a different type of tea and using a different technique: Yunnan tea-infused chestnuts with roasted venison, smoked salmon poached in Russian Earl Grey & made into rillette, apple & prawns infused with Tokyo-Singapore tea, Tiger Hill tea-infused egg salad. The scones were superb – deliciously browned and crunchy on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside.
Each of the Foodists had varying prior experiences with afternoon teas and we all really enjoyed the Signature service. While the food was quite good, the teas were definitely the star of the show. Though the Signature is quite expensive at $48, there is a $25 alternative available and it would be a great to have a quality tea experience.
The Urban Tea Merchant
1070 West Georgia Street