Coffee lovers need never worry – whenever the need for an espresso strikes, they’re never further than a block away from their heart’s desire in Montreal. For years, tea drinkers didn’t enjoy the same luxury. But times are changing! Tea is taking the city by storm (in a teacup?) as expert tea providers pop up left, right and centre. And not only that: our fair city offers some Kate Middleton-worthy high tea spreads…
Fairmont Hotels worldwide are renowned for their luxurious afternoon tea experience, and Montreal’s Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is no exception. Get the royal treatment with a choice of signature house teas and a tiered cake plate loaded with petits fours and sandwiches at the hotel’s restaurant, Le Montréalais. Feeling extra celebratory? Splurge for a flute of Orpailleur Brut to click cheers in style.
Encased within the city’s foremost jewellery store, Birks Café offers an appropriately haute affair, with teas from the French brand Mariage Frères, scones with proper Devonshire cream, myriad sandwiches (duck foie gras, anyone?) and best of all, one of their beautiful French macarons, the very best in town.
The Ritz-Carlton Montreal is another high-class destination for high tea lovers – sit in a rose-coloured circular armchair amid the opulence of the Palm Court, recently redecorated by internationally renowned designer J. Lee Rofkind, and choose from eight house blends. Then, the real tough choice: what to start munching on! Three-tiered towers offer a selection of sandwiches, sweets and pastries – including the classic cucumber sandwiches, except these are also made with cream cheese. Even the classics must be open to progress!
The growing crop of teahouses also tends to reinvent the treat of high tea, starting with the new kid on the block, Cardinal Tea Room. Located upstairs from the popular Mile End bar Sparrow, it’s only open a few days a week, but it’s worth the wait: the charmingly Victorian space (including a baby grand piano) is a perfect place to nestle away an afternoon munching on scones and sipping strong black tea out of floral patterned porcelain.
You’ll never find cuter cookies than those baked at Nocochi, in the Golden Square Mile – most of them are no bigger than a loonie! But they’re amazingly flavourful, and they’re so tiny it gives you licence to try 20 different kinds. The all-over white décor with comfortable banquettes make this a lovely place to while away an afternoon with a friend and a pot of one of their creative signature blends.
In the west end of town, in NDG, Gryphon d’Or Tea Room makes the best scones in the city, and serves them with a side of homemade lemon curd, sweet cream, raspberry jam, peach whiskey marmalade or dark caramel. It’s a cornucopia! The full high tea experience includes delicious classic sandwiches (egg, straight-up cucumber) as well as a selection of sweets, but you can also go in for a quickie: a pot of tea and one or two treats chosen à la carte.
Cha Noir Tea House on Wellington in Verdun is a tea shop that offers dozens of varieties, from green to black to smoked to floral to herbal. As you wait for them to pack your choices, try one of the chocolates by Chocobel and Chocolat Privilège.
The pint-sized Maison de Thé Camellia Sinensis boutique at the Jean-Talon Market (one of a couple of locations) offers a wall-full of shiny silver canisters filled with teas from all over the globe and all colours, including red, white and yellow. They take their tea seriously – they have a whole team of tasters on staff! Let them guide you like sommeliers would suggest a fine wine.
Finally, the Montreal-based David’s Tea is taking over the world and giving megabrands like Starbucks a run for their money. It’s many Montreal locations offer a welcome stop for travelers for a cup of comfort and some purchases to go, like their limited edition spring teas, which include Cool Cucumber (a refreshing black tea flavoured with cucumber and melon) and Pom Tango (black tea with pomegranate and mango).
Photo credit: Rachel Côté (Gryphon D’Or) and Laure Juilliard (Cardinal tea room)
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