Next to water, it’s the drink that is most consumed from coaster to coaster, all around the world – tea. Black, green, white, yellow, oolong, pu-erh and herbal varieties offer a slew of health benefits and a welcomed change to the regular double-double coffee run. As the winter months quickly begin to steep into our bones, cozy up with an old friend or a good book over a pot of loose leaf at some of the city’s warmest tea houses.
1. World of Tea
Specialty: Rare and aged terroir artisan teas
This Westboro gem boasts an air of authenticity that is instantly experienced upon entering. The Spring-time aromas that linger in the hills of Japan, Nepal and India also linger from tin jars that house specialty terroirs – artisinal teas. You can buy by weight, pot or cup and sit n’ sip while you Westoboro-people-watch or in the event that you’re an aficionado and prefer a more full-bodied approach, you can schedule a tea-boat testing in the company of 2-3 people for an equally interesting experience.
The owners, husband Jean and his wife, are both masters of the craft, walking their customers through traditional methods that help uncover the intricate layers and properties of the plant. Decide on one class of tea and they’ll set up an evening of five different testers, all served traditionally and to perfection. For the chai-connoisseur, make sure to check out the Masala chai signature that the owner hand mixes himself – it’s like no other!
World of Tea is located at 298 Richmond Road. They are open Mon – Sat from 10am to 6pm and Sun from 11am – 5pm.
2. Cha Yi
Specialty: Terroir artisanal teas and traditional infusions
Cross the bridge to the Hull-side and discover the (tea) “light” at this tiny corner shop that makes up for its size by offering over 200 varieties of loose leaf and herbal teas. Its Montreal charm is most welcoming and the staff are super friendly, knowlegable and forth-coming to help you find what you’re looking for- in French… and in English. Oui!
The menu can be intimidating to navigate, especially for those who don’t quite know what they like, but don’t fear, they take pleasure in steering you in the right direction. The owner travels to Japan and China every Spring to handpick and harvest quality product and offers tailored tea testings, coaching activities and workshops that you can sign up for on the store’s website.
Share a sweet treat with a new friend and pair it with a pot from the Oolong selection. Feel free to have conversation or work on your laptop in this casual and calm setting. Before making moves, scope out the tea accessory selection for some beautifully handcrafted tea wear or buy your mom a jar of the Certified Organic Wildberry honey. Trust me, she’ll really appreciate the sweet gesture!
Cha Yi is located at 61 Eddy Street, in Hull. They open daily. Check their website for hours.
Specialty: High Tea, served from 12-5pm daily
This teahouse is located in the heart of the market and can be spotted by a sign with an American Mad Hatter chucking a pot of tea, reminiscent of the Boston Tea Party act of protest in the 1700s.
The space is a converted turn of the century home that offers a laid-back cozy atmosphere to hang-out or work in. Catering to the eclectic needs and tastes of a downtown crowd, it breaks down the social barriers between hardcore coffee and tea drinkers by welcoming both to the table. You can buy by bag or cup from over 150 kinds of loose leaf and teabag products.
Their coffee is fair trade and organic but the selection is somewhat limited, which some would argue to be a good thing in a tea house! This spot is great to come to if you’re into hanging out window or fireplace-side and grabbing a bite with your chai. They have a great lunch menu, sandwich selection and some tasty vegan-friendly curries – try the chickpea one! Check out their online store for more info on their products and special Tea Party originals.
The Tea Party is located at 119 York Street. They open daily from 10am. Check their website for more info.
Vanessa Rotondo is an Ottawa-based freelance writer, National spoken word artist and youth educator. You can follow her on Twitter.