Toronto’s Best Tea Places
By Elli Davis, October 31, 2012
The weather is getting colder and we most likely will not be able to wear our summer dresses until May/June 2013. I think we can also say goodbye to ice cream and cold lemonade for now. Do not be upset, though; the tea season is upon us! Tea lovers would probably point out that tea drinking is not dependent on the season and while I partly agree and can enjoy tea anytime, I have to admit that cold weather is just ideal for this delicious hot beverage. As researchers from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in London found out, tea also hydrates very well and it is its "flavonoids that promote health." Let's boost our health in Toronto! What places should you visit for an unforgettable tea experience? Here are some ideas.
1015-1017 Yonge Street
I am pretty certain that most tea-loving Torontonians have heard of (and even visited) the House of Tea. This amazing company, owned by Marisha and Michael E. Golla, was established in 1997, and I daresay it is one of the most popular tea shops in our city. The combination of its unbelievable (trust me, it truly is impressive) variety of tea, lovely atmosphere, and knowledgeable and friendly staff does the trick. As Marisha Golla noted, House of Tea "emphasizes on classic black and green teas from the traditional countries of origin like India, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, and Japan" but blends and flavoured teas can be found it the shop as well.
House of Tea offers more than 300 kinds of loose-leaf tea, all of which are free of any artificial additives. As Marisha Golla points out, no other tea shop in Ontario has a wider variety. Furthermore, a broad selection of tea accessories and porcelain is available for customers. Products you can find in the shop are imported from all over the world, ensuring you can even take some of the finest teas in the world home with you. The Deluxe gift package (available for $119.95) that contains 100g of six different kinds of tea from all over the world (two black, two green, one herbal infusion, and one fruit blend), a stainless steel strainer that fits in a mug or pot, and 300g of brown rock sugar. Too busy to visit to shop, or would you like to send a gift to someone? Although I strongly recommend you pay a visit, it is also possible to order online or by phone, and shipping is available anywhere in the world. From my personal experience I can say that Marisha knows just about everything there is to know about tea, and she is ready to answer all your questions.
100 King Street West
351 Eglinton Avenue West
337 Danforth Avenue
60 Carlton Street
The impulse to open The Tea Emporium came from the sudden realization of its owner, Shabnam Weber, that (even in 2000) it was extremely difficult to find a good tea shop in Toronto. The main aim of this lovely shop was thus to “introduce people to the wonders of tea.” Thanks to the wide selection of teas and genuine interest in helping people understand tea-drinking culture, this certainly is the place to go if you are looking for a tiny retreat where you will be surrounded by your favourite beverage. You can enjoy freshly brewed tea right on the spot, take it away with you and have a peaceful walk with a cup of good tea, or purchase some of their loose-leaf teas to drink at home. Whether you prefer fruit, herbal, black, white, green, Pu-ehr, iced, or decaf tea, this place has it all.
The Tea Emporium offers a lot more than a delicious cup of tea: amazingly enough, it has its own School of Tea. It is the very first school of tea in Canada, which is a gift to all passionate fans of tea. Tea seminars and tastings are offered on a bi-weekly basis for all enthusiastic tea drinkers. The seminars (starting at $25.00 per person) include sampling, course materials, and a small present. If you would like to enjoy a tea tasting with a few of your friends, private sampling can be arranged for groups of eight and more. Furthermore, it is now possible to obtain The Tea Specialist Certificate. With this certificate, you can be sure you understand tea, its origins, preparation, and its many health benefits. If you are not the greatest fan of tea but would like to make a tea junkie dear to you happy, you can surprise her with some of the available gift packages or fabulous tea accessories.
2098 Queen St. East
Pippins Tea Company is an independent tea shop focused on quality that only offers “first-grade tea imported from all around the world and herbals with natural ingredients,” its representatives say. Once you visit Pippins, you might have a bit of trouble choosing which tea to purchase, as the selection is fantastic. Pippins offers more than 150 kinds of both loose-leaf and bagged tea of all kinds. Whether you prefer your tea the British way (black tea with milk) or you like fresh, fruity deliciousness, this place will satisfy your taste buds. Yummy sweets and treats you might want to take with your tea are prepared for customers throughout the day.
What Pippins can be quite proud of is its selection of tea accessories. If you have not found your special mug yet, I am almost certain you will get it at Pippins. There is more than 80 different teapots, 80 different mugs, and hundreds of other gadgets to pick from. Should you have any special requests concerning the world of tea, Pippins will do their best to fulfill your wishes.
18 St Thomas Street
In the mood for a fancy afternoon tea? You just have to visit the Windsor Arms Tea Room. The sophistication, elegance, and highest-quality service this tea rooms offers will have you feeling like royalty. This tea room has been a well respected shop since 1927 and if all those years of existence are not a proof of quality, I do not know what is. George Friedmann, its owner, reminded me of the fact that “in the 1960s Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor in our very own Tea Room." The atmosphere truly is something special!
Afternoon tea is served every day 12:30 to 6:00 P.M. and consists of a loose-leaf tea of your choice, scones, fresh sandwiches, a tart and berries with whipped cream. The selection of teas is outstanding, the cute little sandwiches and sweets offered with the tea are perfect and I could go on about their delicious scones for hours. All this costs $35.00 per person on weekdays, $42.00 on weekends and $50.00 during holidays. If you would like an alcoholic beverage, it is a bit more expensive: $42.00/$49.00/$57.00.
Although this place might seem a but pricey to some, I strongly recommend you reserve a table well in advance because it is always quite full. You should also call in advance (at least 24 hours) if you would like to get a gluten-free menu. Do you want to throw a party, a baby shower, or have a little get-together with your friends in this special shop? All you need to do is talk to the manager.
133 Richmond Street West, Suite 602
The Toronto-based Tea Association of Canada was established in 1954 to promote tea in our country. The association represents “the entire tea industry in Canada from the bush to the cup.” You can use the services of TAC too; just sign up for the Tea Sommelier Program and become an expert. If you want to be well informed about the current events of the association, keep checking its website.
As Marisha Golla of House of Tea says, drinking loose-leaf tea has "become an issue and it has certainly lost its 'British Tea Time' reputation." While to an average person it might seem that all teas have the same taste, anyone who truly enjoys the taste of this drink would tell you they could not be further from the truth. In a way, tea is actually a lot like wine: many people drink it, but only few can truly enjoy the experience and the variety of tastes it offers. If you want to have a cup of truly good and high-quality tea, loose-leaf tea is the only option. Those who only drink supermarket-bought bagged tea (often made out of leftover pieces) will never understand what tea drinking is really about.
All the places I mentioned above truly appreciate this wonderful drink and can satisfy your craving completely. I hope I inspired you and that you will enjoy a good cup of healthy tea at one of these locations soon. If you do, please share your experience in a comment. Cheers!