My family knows my love of tea. They know it well and consequently they also know that when they need to get me a gift, tea is a pretty safe way to go. Unfortunately no one in the family really drinks tea so picking out individual teas is usually harder for them since they don’t know what to look for. However, they have found a way around this issue by buying tea-related gifts such as a Groupon for Afternoon Tea for two at the Annvita Tea Room, a relatively new establishment in Toronto, Canada.
Since the gift came from my sister, I decided to take her with me. That plus I think my tea love is wearing off on her so I take any opportunity I get to have her drink it. Together we walked into the sea of blue and gold that was Annvita. Clean, bright, and very inviting. The front room through which you enter is actually part of their shop so the walls are filled with their selection of teas being sold in bright colored 125g tins and beautiful teaware fit for the Queen herself.
The tearoom is lined with wooden tables and vibrant periwinkle velour seating. Gold plaques with tea names written in all the colors of the rainbow cover the walls, acting as both decor and a means of advertising their many different offerings.
We took a seat and immediately had our Groupon scanned. It seemed they had two offerings going on at the same time so the menus we were initially given were taken away and instead replaced with a much smaller tea menu comprised of a mere eight tea (they tried to make this seem like a positive change by telling us there were much fewer choices we had to make). The staff gave us a brief explanation of each tea and left us to sniff the samples. Among the mix was three black teas, three herbal infusions, one rooibos, and a green tea. All seemed to be pretty standard fair such as an earl grey (which they named Monk’s black tea), fruity rooibos, gunpowder green, etc though a couple of the teas could be prepared as milk teas which I think was a nice touch. Once we made our selection, they brought us a finger bowl of hot water, lemon, and rose oil to keep our hands clean and then the food started coming…and just kept coming.
When our cup and saucer/plate arrived, we got a small white chocolate mousse topped with tropical fruit jelly to start. They also set down a dish of tea cookies with buttercream just before bringing us our pots of tea. I went with the cinnamon black tea as a milk tea and my sister got the Mango and Passionfruit Rooibos. The milk and cinnamon blended nicely to make a creamy yet warming cup. As for my sister’s tea, well her pot disappeared before the rest of the food even came. I worried the rooibos base would be too overpowering since it was in the scent but I snagged a sip of hers and it was sweet and fruity. Nothing special but she liked it enough to buy some before we left.
Anyways, as we sipped our tea, the traditional tower arrived and was placed on a side table next to us. A selection of tea sandwiches and savory treats on the bottom; scones with jam and buttercream, madelines, and fruit salad in the middle; and petit fours on top. Our waiter explained the offerings presented before us and then told us “only two more things are coming”. I turned to my sister and went “what?!” because at this point I thought we had more than enough already. Nonetheless, mango mousse and a plate full of belgian waffles topped with fruit and ice cream appeared before us and our whole meal was now served.
We got to work and as far as the food goes, it was some of the best tea time treats I have had. The sandwiches were probably my favorite part as they were full of flavor and rather unique with options like miso-steak on a cracker or mushroom cream cheese with cherry tomatoes. My sister was quite a fan of the mango sauce on the mango mousse and we both agreed that the pavlovas were delish. By the time we got to the Belgian Waffle we were pretty stuffed but luckily it was a pretty run-of-the-mill type dish. I will say I did think the buttercream with the scones was a bit of a miss for me just because I like the more traditional clotted cream but the jam was fruity and sugary and all the things a good jam should be so I was still happy overall. Plus the scones were buttery and soft so it was not too much of an upset.
After attempting (and failing) to finish all the food, we rolled our way back into the shop to take a look around at their full tea selection. Not wanting to commit to a full 125g tin of a tea we never tried, we inquired as to whether you could get smaller sizes. We learned they offered smaller 20 g tins so I grabbed some Rhubarb and Cream Black Tea and some Sticky Toffee Pudding Black Tea and, like I said before, my sister got some of her Mango and Passionfruit Rooibos.
One thing that I should mention is that at about $9-$10 for each 20 g tin, the price is a bit steep. As for the Afternoon Tea, I don’t know the exact price point so I can’t attest to whether that was costly or not. I will say you get your money’s worth food-wise and though the tea came in small pots, they did offer to refill them for us which is not something all tearoom’s offer. It is unfortunate that they limit you to such a small portion of their overall collection just because you have a groupon. The staff is knowledgeable (although maybe a touch condescending since they clearly thought my sister and I have never been to an afternoon tea or even had a tea in our lives) and the atmosphere is lovely. Oh and when the restaurant started to get more full and a couple of guests were sat at the table next to us, one of the waiters tried to subtly place a decorative privacy screen between the two tables so that we didn’t feel like we were dining with strangers. It was a cute gesture that really shows they have considered the customer experience aspect of the whole thing.
Here’s the scoop!
Where to Find Out More Information: Annvita Tea Room
When I started getting into teas, I learned the joys of a High Tea service. Mini sandwiches, petit fours, and the delicious scones, all hanging out on their stacked plates and there to devour as you sip on some tea. Living in Toronto, I have no shortage of High Tea options. From the Tea & Hats Service at the Windsor Arms to the Chocolate High Tea at Moroco, the possibilities are endless.
Today I found a new option in the form of Kitten and the Bear, a jam company that hosts a Jam and Tea Service in their adorable shop. Tucked away on Queen West, they have two tiny tables tucked to the side where they serve a small tasting of their fresh jams and signature buttermilk scones along with their selection of Sloane Teas. They don’t take reservations but we were lucky enough to nab the table with the cute little window bench. Oh and speaking of cute, the decor is bright yet cozy, and just like the women who work there, it is extremely welcoming.
Now, being a jam company, the focus of Kitten and the Bear’s tea service is actually the variety of jams they serve with their huge, yet delicious scones. No sandwiches or petit fours here but to be honest, they weren’t missed. Each person gets one scone and clotted cream is provided as well but the star of the show are the jams: Strawberry, Raspberry & Cream; Red Nectarine & Garam Masala; Raspberry & Star Anise; and Niagara Golden Plum & Lavender.
The stand-out for me was the Raspberry & Star Anise. As someone who doesn’t love licorice flavor I had low expectations for this one. However, the licorice really worked in this jam. It added a candy sweetness to the raspberry that gave the whole jam a Swedish Fish taste.
As for the other jams…The Niagara Golden Plum & Lavender had a welcome tartness with a smooth floral note that provided a nice contrast to the sweeter jams on the plate. The Red Nectarine & Garam Masala had a bright citrus flavor that blended beautifully with the hint of Indian spices that crept in at the end. The more typical jam flavor was the Strawberry, Raspberry & Cream. I think this jam was most comforting because it wasn’t as out there as the other blends. With that said, it was still quite unique. The addition of the vanilla to create a cream flavor left the jam tasting like a decadent strawberry shortcake.
All the jams were washed down by a pot of Sloane Tea’s Heavenly Cream, a black tea with bergamot and vanilla. Just as it did in the jam, the vanilla of the tea made for a smooth creaminess that definitely made for easy drinking. Something that I find rather surprising since normally I am not a fan of Earl Greys. In this tea, the bergamot was subtle yet bright. There is no astringency or bitterness here, just velvet and cream. A perfect pair to a lovely service.
Here’s the scoop!
Where to Learn More: Kitten and the Bear
Where To Buy: Dragon Tea House
High grade handmade gongfu tea serving tray made with Sandalwood. Sandalwood is a fragrant wood from which an oil is derived for use in foods and cosmetics. The oil has been used widely in traditional Asian medicine and had been official in the United States at the turn of the century. Today, the oil finds little medicinal use but its widespread use as a popular fragrance continues. When pouring hot water on the tray, you could smell noticeable fragrance from it!
Chinese Gongfu style tea requires pouring away the water used to warm the teapot, tea brewer and cups, and the first rinse of the leaves is also discarded. Slatted trays with a water collection basin makes it easier to serve the tea. Preheat and rinse your cups and teapot using the interior of the tray to catch the waste water. Water then drains through the holes in the top, flowing down into the main part of the tray below. After your teatime, simply remove the cover and clean the interior easily.
This tray is suitable for Gongfu-style tea service for 4-6 people using Gongfu teaware.
Note: The depicted tea cups and accessories are shown for illustration purposes only. They must be purchased separately.
The tray is made with natural wood material, wood grain is different from one to another, you will not get exactly the same grain as pictured.
Learn more about this tea ware here.
Thanks to Dragon Tea House I absolutely adore this Large Grape Sandalwood Tea Table! I wanted one so badly but I was so particular as to what I wanted. Since this is not a small purchase in my household I was very selective in the tea tray I selected because it will be the only one I ever have, aside from the fact I really don’t see the need for more than one tea tray. Then again, they are so beautiful if I had a big home I would probably be prone to collecting them. Regardless, this is the tea tray I wanted and my hubby got it for me for Christmas. Good hubby.
I particularly like the size of this tray which is 48 by 33.5CM. I am sure there are even larger ones but this seems to be on the larger end of the spectrum from those I had scoped out. The detail and artwork in this tray are amazing! Also I love Sandalwood so when I considered the combined beauty and wood of this tray I knew it was the one for me. My tray is slightly lighter than the one pictured and I have included photos of my own personal tray here in the review.
My tray arrived very well packaged layered in bubble wrap and Styrofoam. There is not a nick or scratch on it. Its a solid piece and weighs heavy enough that it feels of high quality but on the other hand is not too heavy to move from place to place for use. It is also glossier than it looks in the photo provided from the website. The plastic basin is also of good quality and does not look as though it will crack or wear out anytime soon.
Tea Trays are of course a personal thing, everyone wants one that reflects their own taste and personality. One thing I can say about Dragon Tea House is that they have a really wide selection. One of the largest I have found.
My tray came with three tags which I can’t read although I wish I could. There is an artist mark on the tray as well but again I can’t read it. I did notice when I was looking around at tea trays that some of the artist marks looked better than others. What I mean is that some are really engraved into the table whereas others looked to be like they were stamped in. I would say that to me that makes a difference. The artist signature on my tray is indeed engraved. Now of course not everyone cares about the artistry in their tea tray, sometimes we are looking only for function but in my case I really wanted a piece that makes a statement and this tray certainly does that in my opinion.
When I had finished my selection of possible tea trays I would want, it came down to three trays, and all three happened to be from Dragon Tea House! Granted there were some pretty trays from other places but Dragon really does have one of the best selections out there, and are of excellent quality, so if you are in the market for a tea tray you should really check them out!