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high tea

Edith Wharton blend from Simpson and Vail

This lovely tea has been sitting on my tea shelf for a while, just waiting for the right day.  Well today was the day. This darjeeling blend was created in honor of author Edith Wharton at the Simpson and Vail tea shop.

I don’t know what it is, but darjeeling and earl grey teas always make me think of ladylike tea parties with finger sandwiches and sugar cubes.  This darjeeling blend is crisp and and could fit into the high tea setting, but it also has a lot more to bring to your cup.

In both scent and taste this blend is pleasantly bright and playful with plenty of grapefruit citrus.  This tartness feels satisfying like having the perfect biting witty comment ready to go on your tongue.  Beyond the grapefruit there is a bit of ginger heat, quickly followed by the smooth, vanilla tones of the mallow blossoms at the end.

Bold but ladylike, sharp but playful.  This is a great tea for that favorite smart and sassy friend in your life, or for any literary tea aficionado.

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Simpson and Vail

For our Edith Wharton blend we pay homage to her descriptions of the undercurrents rippling through fashionable society. We have combined a refined, high-grown Darjeeling black tea with a little passionfruit and citrus flavor, a dash of spice and lovely flower petals to create a taste that is smooth and elegant. Perfect for an afternoon tête-à-tête.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Victorian Afternoon Tea at Annvita Tea Room. . . . . .

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

Our Sister checks out the Jam and Tea Service at the Kitten and the Bear . . . .

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!

logo-1Where to Learn More:  Kitten and the Bear