The Old Port in Montreal is a central location that reflects the meeting of old and new. Boutiques line the narrow cobblestone streets while restaurants vie for your attention. There are various ways to escape the hustle and bustle. Spas are a plentiful option or grab a bench along the pier to people watch. A less obvious choice is to go down Rue St Sulpice and visit an exquisite tea shop.
Ming Tao Xuan is part store and part tea tutorial. If you wish to stay and drink tea you will be seated at a beautiful oversized wooden table and given a bible size tea menu. All types of teas are represented from whites and greens to oolongs and reds. Once you choose your tea the store proprietor will bring you a full tea set and go through the step by step process of heating the vessels, seeping and pouring. The process is specific with each step meant to bring out the best in each cup. They also have a small vegetarian menu that pairs perfectly with the tea. Ming Tao Xuan doesn't just offer tea it offers a place to take a step back and relax, a true escape from the outside world.
Living in New York, it's not difficult to find this traditional tea even though it won't be a truly authentic experience. The butter tea made here is usually made with cow's milk butter since Yak butter isn't readily available. A variety of Tibetan restaurants have opened particularly in the Queens area all offering this traditional tea. If you've never experienced homemade butter tea before I highly recommend seeking it out. It's unique in both texture and taste but it also has a long history and slight variations on taste depending on the recipe.
Here are some places in New York to enjoy a taste of this unique beverage:
1510 Cortelyou Rd
Brooklyn, NY 11226
37-65 74th St
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
78 E 1st St
New York, NY 10009
7504 Roosevelt Ave
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Tibetan Dumpling Café
49-08 Queens Blvd
Woodside, NY 11377
Our tea tasting guide Cynthia led us through each tea like a fine wine. We first smelled the wet tea leaves setting the stage for our initial taste. Each tea had their own notes and flavor profile with words like nutty, grassy, earthy and astringent being used to describe the mouth feel and flavors that permeated the tongue with each sip. As we tasted the teas Cynthia would bring other examples to the table for us to smell and compare. It became an education for all the senses. It was also an ideal way to discover how to properly brew each variety for the optimal cup. Classes’ specific to green and black tea are also offered as is a grand cru tasting which focuses on the highest quality and most sought after teas.
Tasting included the following teas:
Bai Mu Dan – Chinese White Tea (8-10 min seeping time at 175◦)
Sencha Ariake – Japanese Green Tea (2 min seeping time at 170◦)
Bao Zhong Imperial – Chinese Oolong Tea (6 min seeping time at 203◦)
Darjeeling Margaret’s Hope – Indian Black Tea (4 min seeping time at 195◦)
Upcoming Tea Events for May 2015
Tickets range from $32.50-$500
Mother’s Day Tea Ceremony May 10th - Shofuso Japanese House & Garden - Philadelphia, PA
Price for members $30/non-members $35
Mixology: Learn to Create Tea-infused Cocktails with Sanctuary T May 18th – New York, NY
Price through Coursehorse is $75
World Tea Expo May 6th-8th – Long Beach Convention Center – Long Beach, CA
Prices vary depending on ticket package
Tea and Cheese with Silk Road Tea May 14th – Murray’s Cheese – New York, NY
Price through Coursehorse is $70
*Please note that prices and dates are subject to change
Leslie takes her concoctions to new heights by mixing her own mocktails. She has a spin for everything like the Tomatillo Margarito and the Basil Daiquiri. Leslie’s passion not only has propelled her into a successful small business but has been recognized by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The brew can be found at stores and restaurants across Virginia. It is also available for purchase at her bar and online at Kombuchick.com in 12oz bottles, 32oz and 64oz growlers. She is a great example of what makes Norfolk so special; a cool vibe, a passion for life and a sense of community.
The menu is small and the majority of the beverages are green tea based. They also serve sushi and small snacks. To keep it simple I recommend the Green Tea Matcha, subtle in sweetness and very warming when the temperatures drop. For a taste of something slightly more decadent there is the Matcha Float with Azuki. A Japanese version of an ice cream float with the added surprise of red bean paste on the bottom. If what you desire is more hands on you can register for one of many workshops offered. Classes include everything from making soba noodles to learning basic Japanese from Anime. These are affordable ways to spend a few hours trying something completely different. Resobox is a perfect way to relax and broaden your mind during these cold and dreary New York winter days.
Astoria Coffee House
Walking into the store I'm struck by the long counter were people can taste or purchase teas and even take part in a Ku Fu tea ceremony. There is also a small retail section of the shop dedicated to beautifully hand crafted tea service sets. The back area serves as a dim sum cafe with plenty of items to choose from including a wonton soup that was complex and texturally unique to fried tofu cubes that had a custard like interior. They also have a variety of dumplings including soup and shao mai. Pots of any of their teas are perfectly brewed and available to order.
Meeting Lily Lin who is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about her products is a real thrill. We spent a while just discussing the quality of tea she had and also the direction she hopes to take the company in the future. She is an excellent resource when deciding what types of teas you want and how to best prepare each one for consumption. The Lin family is doing something very rare in the United States by growing and eventually selling their own tea. Mrs. Lin swears to me that the northern climate will benefit the tea plants. Unlike the southern climate where it's sunnier and the tea can mature too fast on the outside before fully maturing on the inside the northern climate allows the leaves to mature both inside and outside equally. She stressed the patience it takes to grow the plants but she feels the end result will be worth the time and effort. The Lin family has created a business worth seeking out. When visiting the Finger Lakes make sure to put aside some time to stop by and enjoy all that the Finger Lakes Tea Company has to offer. Your time will be rewarded with a wonderful experience brought to you by a wonderful family.
Dallywater’s is a British eatery that relishes in its authenticity, especially when it comes to their afternoon tea service. The owner Janice Dallywater-Harwood was proud to inform me that everything except the Devonshire clotted cream is homemade. She offers four different tea services along with an a la carte menu and a wide selection of fair trade teas. Me and my husband soon learned that smell and sight are two strong elements of Dallywater’s. A rotating tea rack is brought to our table containing 18 various teas. We are encouraged to smell each one before making our final decision. Also arriving at our table is a four tiered dessert tray with all the homemade goodies of the day. Any sense of restraint quickly leaves my body as I decide to try each one.
The Finger Lakes are filled with plenty of places to see and things to do. Dallywater's is a great in between, allowing you to take some time to relax and collect your thoughts. Simply put it feels like someones home. A warm and inviting atmosphere you can't help but succumb to. I wasn't looking for the British eatery when I drove through Geneva but I know now that finding this place made for a richer and more fulfilling trip.
They have shelves filled with everything from a smooth chocolate chai to a well-balanced majestic earl grey. Since most bags are in 2oz portions and average around $3.99 per bag one can experiment with a variety of types and flavors. They also sell a variety of tea brewing items and a beautiful selection of teapots.
If you don’t find yourself heading to South Jersey, Cook’s Corner has a great retail site. They list over a hundred different teas for purchase and many herbal and fruit teas as well. They’re a cozy store that offers great products and just one more reason to try something new.
Flavors like Newport News Ship Builders Brew and Irish Mocha La’Tea will wake you up and introduce you to flavors beyond green and black. Once you meet Robert you will be hard pressed to not take his recommendations. He is the heart and soul of this shop and has a deep appreciation and knowledge of his product. He knows were all his teas come from and on this particular trip he mentioned he would soon be traveling to visit his suppliers. Discover Teas is not just about taste but puts a strong emphasis on smell. The centerpiece of the store is a huge table filed with airtight containers of many of the teas they sell. The purpose is to give customers a chance to take in the smells and individuality of each tea. This tool wakes up the senses and helps the customer discover new and interesting varieties and blends. If after smelling and speaking with Kenneth you are still undecided have him brew a cup for you and relax in their lounge. It's a perfect way to unwind and discover something new.
Communitea specializes in all varieties of tea from Green to Oolong and custom blends like Rooibos Chai and English Breakfast. Tea can be purchased in 12oz or 16oz sizes and also pots for two. A standout at this Long Island City shop is the tea service. A traditional three tiered tray is served with savory sandwiches and sweet pastries and accompanied by the tea of your choosing. Keep in mind they are a cash only establishment but they do have an ATM in store. Communitea is not the best tea house I've been to but for high quality tea it's worth the trip if your close by.
Coffee and tea are everywhere in Old Town. Mostly the emphasis is on coffee and tea plays second fiddle. One place I seem to always visit is Teaism. Located on N. St. Asaph St. as well as a few other locations they specialize in loose teas and have a well-assembled menu of lighter fare, desserts and snacks. My main focus when I go is always the tea that is served perfectly brewed and ready to drink. On my most recent trip last week I tried Dragon Well a popular green tea and Bai Mu Dan a white tea. The cost for a pot ranged from $2.75 to $3.00 and you easily could fill your cup 4-5 times before the pot was empty. The Dragon Well had a strong earthy aroma but was well balanced and not at all bitter. The Bai Mu Dan was not my favorite but it was mild and had a subtle sweetness that was enjoyable. They did not need sweetener and both drank easily going well with our food. The pictures below look the same but they are different the green tea is darker in color. Teaism sells a wide selection of teas in various ounces for home brewing and other tea paraphernalia.