Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 15, 2017
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A spot of tea

Our coast-to-coast roundup of the most iconic places to have a cuppa

Forget prissy, pinkie-in-the-air tête-à-têtes at upper-crust salons, afternoon tea is being embraced by a growing number who have come to relish its civilized, not to mention energizing, cachet. Sharing a cuppa has gained a new-found popularity, and budding aficionados are developing their palates with fragrant varieties of oolong, black or green teas and herbal infusions served up in everything from fine porcelain to pottery mugs.

There's no doubt that tea can revitalize or soothe, and some studies have touted its healthful benefits. Whether it's the self-indulgence of slipping out for a much-needed break, or the relaxation of unwinding with a warm, aromatic brew, taking afternoon tea — along with delectable nibbles — blends a lovely therapy with mid-day sustenance. Here is a sampling of top-tier tearooms (from west to east) to perk you up.

Victorian Pleasures
Holding court over Victoria's Inner Harbour, the venerable Fairmont Empress Hotel (721 Government Street, Victoria, BC; tel: 250-389-2727; www.fairmont.com/empress) has perfected the British tea ritual since 1908. Over the last century, Queen Elizabeth II, Shirley Temple, Elizabeth Taylor, the King and Queen of Siam and Rudyard Kipling have partaken of its afternoon service. The Tea Lobby features classical music, silver service, fine china and tiered trays of sandwiches and petite pastries.

A favourite among its custom blends produced by the Metropolitan Tea Company is the Empress 1908, honouring Queen Victoria's "Empress of India" title. It's a heady, revitalizing concoction of leaves from Assam, Kenya, Ceylon and China — whose Keemun leaves are dubbed the Burgundy of teas.

Start with seasonal fruit topped with Chantilly cream, end with Chef D'Oyen Christie's delectable raisin scones slathered with Jersey cream from local farms and take away a souvenir cup-and-saucer designed for King George V. Divine.

Or for something a little breezier, the stately white-clapboard Gatsby Mansion (309 Belleville Street, Victoria, BC; tel: 800-563-9656/250-388-9191; www.bellevillepark.com/Gatsby.html) has elegant gardens and overlooks the harbour.

Vancouver boasts a host of tearooms where you can linger over a steaming pot while you're out touring the scenic city. The atmosphere is decadent romance at the Bacchus Restaurant in the Wedgewood Hotel (845 Hornby Street, Vancouver, BC; tel: 800-663-0666/604-689-7777; www.wedgewoodhotel.com). The Fleuri Restaurant in the Sutton Place Hotel (845 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC; tel: 604-682-5511; www.vancouver.suttonplace.com) offers a Japanese tea service. For traditional English tea, you can stray from your usual picks by sniffing out a new blend among its vials of tea essence.

After cycling around Stanley Park or walking the seawall, why not revive yourself in the wilds of the park with salmon sandwiches in the Fish House's (8901 Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver, BC; tel: 877-681-7275/ 604-681-7275; www.fishhousestanleypark.com) cushy surroundings?

Mountains of Scones
In the Canadian Rockies, teatime offers a chance to dreamily admire the views over a brew specially formulated for the fresh mountain water. The indulgence can begin with a flute of sparkling Okanagan wine and end with Saskatoon-berry scones. While sipping in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (111 Lake Louise Drive, Lake Louise, AB; tel: 403-522-3511; www.fairmont.com/lakelouise), I once witnessed an avalanche over Victoria Glacier in all its powdery thunder.

Athletic types who hike up to Lake Agnes or the Plain of Six Glaciers can enjoy savoury goodies at one of two mountain teahouses, originally constructed between 1901 and 1927.

At the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (405 Spray Avenue, Banff, AB; tel: 403-762-2211; www.fairmont.com/banffsprings), overlooking the expansive Bow Valley, you are ensconced in Scottish baronial grandeur while choosing from the seasonal blends of invigorating teas, hearty offerings like prosciutto and asparagus and delightful sweets like chocolate éclairs.

On the outskirts of Winnipeg, the Tea Room at the Costume Museum of Canada (Highway 15 at PR 206, Dugald, MB; tel: 866-853-2166; www.costumemuseum.com/Victorian.htm) is a uniquely kid-friendly space. Afternoon tea is served in Victorian style and children can dress up in period costumes while playing parlour games and indulging in yummy finger sandwiches and treats.

Such a Tease
For afternoon tea with all the pomp, fine china and silver the ritual deserves, three places in Toronto are iconic choices. The opulent Café Victoria in Le Royal Meridien King Edward Hotel (37 King Street East, Toronto, ON; tel: 416-863-4125; http://toronto.lemeridien.com) conveys that special-occasion mood, and you'll spot groups happily celebrating milestones there. The King's Tea Service, which commences with a chilled Lady Grey Tea Jelly, comes with tiered trays of mouthwatering bites, like smoked salmon on blinis with horseradish crème fraîche, duck confit and foie gras mousse with apple chutney, lobster with tarragon on sweet corn muffins, warm stilton and leek quiches and molten chocolate truffle cakes. For youngsters there are grilled cheese sandwiches, peanut butter-and-jelly pinwheels and chocolate brownies.

Celebrity spotting is part of the draw in the Lobby Bar of the Four Seasons Toronto (21 Avenue Road, Toronto, ON; tel: 416-964-0411; www.fourseasons.com/ toronto). Roshan, the charming tea server, pours flutes of Champagne or specially blended loose teas from the Metropolitan Tea Company. The seasonally inspired blends include hearty blacks for winter, fruitier infusions blended with oolongs for spring and summer and year-round offerings of antioxidant-rich green teas. I rarely leave without toting home a bag of my absolute favourite: the Nobu fruit blend of wild strawberries, raspberries and blackberries that never fails to soothe me when I have it at home.

 

You could easily make a meal of the sandwiches and sweets offered, from sliced beef filet, wedges of chilled English cucumber, watercress and cream cheese, applewood-smoked salmon and dilled cream cheese, Key lime tarts, raspberry chocolate Sacher torte slices and caramel-coffee profiteroles. Indulge in a flute of Delamotte Brut NV or Harvey's Bristol Cream for a gala event.

During school break this month (March 19-27), kids who tote a teddy for the Teddy Bear's Tea receive a special treat to take home.

A contemporary enclave in the venerable Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Epic (100 Front Street West, Toronto, ON; tel: 416-368-2511; www.fairmont.com/royalyork) caters to Toronto's high-powered financial and entertainment set, offering tea brewed in sculptural teapots. Hip imbibers often prefer the kick of a Mar-Tea-Ni (a fruit-tea infused vodka martini) to accompany the traditional sandwiches and warm chocolate Lindt tart drizzled with port syrup and champagne-marinated strawberries. Youngsters are delighted by tea Popsicles and caffeine-free brews.

A visit to Langdon Hall (1 Langdon Drive, Cambridge, ON; tel: 800-268-1898/519-740-2100; www.langdonhall.ca) in Cambridge, Ontario is one of the rites of the season during the Stratford Festival. Traditional afternoon tea is served in the conservatory or on the veranda overlooking the cloister garden. Add a mimosa or a glass of Champagne or sherry to the gourmet sandwiches, artisanal cheeses from Quebec, madeleines and ginger scones, and who needs dinner?

Live music muffles the conversations of international movers and shakers at Zoe's Lounge (1 Rideau Street, Ottawa, ON; tel: 613-241-1414, www.fairmont.com/laurier) in Ottawa's Fairmont Chëteau Laurier. Afternoon tea is a quintessential capital affair with loose-leaf blends brewed tableside on tea trolleys. The lavish Canadian High Tea and Champagne Tea may include Port-marinated peaches with whipped cream, Nova Scotia lox and bagels, goat cheese and figs, beef tenderloin and horseradish cream, Yukon gold blinis with Quebec sturgeon caviar, foie-gras-and-truffle mousse with onion marmalade or crab and bleu cheese on a baguette.

Champagne, tawny port or sherry are available to help mark a special occasion. For a family treat on Sundays, combine tea with a tour of the haunted nooks of this castle-like property led by guides dressed in period costume.

If you have time while in the capital region, spend a day communing with nature in the Gatineau Hills and cycle or hike the recreational trails to the former estate of William Lyon Mackenzie King (Gatineau Park, Chelsea, QC; tel: 819-827-3405; www.canadascapital.gc.ca/ gatineau), where the quaint Moorside Tearoom overlooks tranquil gardens.

The Finest in the East
Montreal's most iconic afternoon teas are served in hotels. The new Art Deco-clad Tea Room at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel (900 René-Lévesque Boulevard West, Montreal, QC; tel: 514-861-3511; www.fairmont.com/queenelizabeth) caters to those who like to linger over custom-brewed teas as well as javaphiles craving a Viennese-style kaffee klatsch. In either case, the mouth-watering finger sandwiches include chicken and watercress, and the pastry selection features delicate chocolate crisps, pistachio macaroons and strawberry tarts.

The Ritz-Carlton's Café de Paris (1228 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, QC; tel: 514-842-4212; www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/montreal) is a perennially chic spot for tea. And nothing says spring in Montreal like an elegant alfresco treat overlooking the duck pond of the Ritz gardens.

But the most fashionable new spot for a brew is in Old Montreal at the Hotel Le St-James (355 St-Jacques Street, Montreal, QC; tel: 514-841-3111; www.hotellestjames.com). High Tea is served daily under the crystal chandeliers in the double-height Grand Salon of this opulent 1870 property.

While countless cafés serve fragrant brews in Quebec City, La Maison de Thé Camellia Sinensis (624 Saint-Joseph Street East, Quebec, QC; tel: 418-525-0247; www.camellia-sinensis.com) is a sweet spot to catch up on the latest happenings in the city. It's located in the trendy Sait-Roch area which has seen a hip revitalization in the last decade and makes an interesting departure from the well-trod tourist trail.

Tea aficionados whose favourite memories include that cheery packet of Red Rose should head to Saint John, New Brunswick where the historic Red Rose Mansion (112 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Saint John, NB; tel: 888-711-5151/ 506-649-0913; www.redrosemansion.com) was once home to the former owner of the Red Rose Tea & Bond Company. Now a full-service B&B, the mansion serves up hot teas upon request.

Come summer, views of sandy beaches and endless seas add romance to the High Tea for Two at Prince Edward Island's renowned summer resort, Dalvay-by-the-Sea (Prince Edward National Park on Dalvay Beach; East Grand Tracadie, PEI; tel: 902-672-2048; www.dalvaybythesea.com). Presented on Royal Doulton plates, sandwiches include smoked salmon with caviar and cream cheese, fresh lobster and asparagus with mascarpone, English cucumber with mint and cream cheese, and the inn's signature sticky date pudding served with warm toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream.

In St. John's, Newfoundland, the Bloomin' Teapot at the MUN Botanical Garden (306 Mt. Scio Road, St. John's, NL; tel: 709-753-TEAS; www.mun.ca/botgarden) offers all the charm of a traditional English tearoom, including an extensive tea list, decadent deserts and fresh baked scones with clotted cream and jam.

 

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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