The afternoon tea is a much under-celebrated ritual in North America. The true experience, full of clotted cream and itty-bitty sandwiches, may not be a reasonable option for the modern working stiff, but there’s no reason why a few moments can’t be taken to enjoy a cup mid-day. Orange pekoe, Earl grey, and English breakfast are all nice, indeed, but a brew of something different—a fizzy kombucha, or a smoky oolong—is a more modern way to take a breath.
We’ve found three modern and unique takes on tea to help you wind down, or turn up, your afternoon.
Main Street’s Cultivate Tea, perched at the top of Mount Pleasant at 20th Avenue, is a quiet oasis. Specializing in rare, terroir-based teas from small farms in China, Taiwan, and Japan, the shop is an intimate space where helpful and knowledgeable keepers can guide one through a long list of green, oolong, black, herbal, and more. A rich Oolong – Shui Xian is perfect for a rainy afternoon; on a hot summer day, stop by for small-batch kombucha in a range of flavours including tart green tea and ginger, available in 12-ounce bottles or on tap for a growler fill. For the true kombucha enthusiast, Cultivate offers some of the most interesting brews available in the city.
Cha Le Tea Merchant
For an even more modern take on tea brewing, Yaletown’s slick Cha Le Tea Merchant, designed by Leckie Studio, is tea time gone minimalist. Featuring unusual blends like Tangerine Pu’er with unripe orange for flavour, and presented in an unconventional pearl shape, the shop also offers a few more easily recognizable teas, like a flowering chamomile and a bold, highly caffeinated black tea called The Edge of the City from Chongqing, China. The location also features a cafe with a selection of toasts—shrimp and avocado, prosciutto with avocado and egg, and more—to pair with drinks like a matcha cortado or a cold brew.
Looking for something in between coffee and tea? Wize Monkey, headquartered in Vancouver, may just have the perfect option. Made from the leaves of coffee plants, the steeped tea comes in a variety of flavours like Earl grey and mango. The company was born from a grad project between Max Rivest (Vancouver), Arnaud Petitvallet (France), and Enrique Ferrufino (Nicaragua), who were looking for a year-long income for Nicaragua’s often cash-strapped coffee farmers. The coffee bean’s harvesting schedule is short (typically three months), but cultivating the leaves from the plants can be done year-round. In addition to the good it does for the farmers, a cup of coffee leaf tea has more antioxidants than green tea, with a similarly mellow taste.
Served hot or on ice, tea is a powerful tool for community and for self.