While Vancouver has long been dominated by its devotion coffee, the number of tea shops has also steadily increased.
One of the latest entries into the local tea market is a spot that might otherwise fly under the radar in the West End. And it's one that's a haven for those seeking to explore tea-forward cuisine.
Set back from the bustle of Davie Street, TeaTure Tea Lounge (1220 Bute Street) opened up on April 7 right at Jim Deva Plaza, in the heart of the Davie Village (the former premises of Exile Bistro).
Chef Tiffany Lee, who is originally from Taichung, Taiwan, and has lived in Vancouver for four years, sat down with the Georgia Straight at the petite spot, which can accomodate up to 25 people at tables and a bar.
She explained that she and the owners love tea—so why not put tea in everything? Why not, indeed.
The menu is draws upon elements of Taiwanese cuisine with French, Japanese, and other international influences peppered throughout.
Lee said they initially began with just tea and desserts on the menu but have since expanded to include lunch and dinner items, which are geared towards snacking or light meals, with items such as bruschetta ($8) or mushroom caps stuffed with cream cheese ($9).
Theres's a variety of toast toast (or toasted sandwiches), such as their signature sandwich ($12.95), with tea-smoked chicken; vegetarian options ($12.95); or lobster deluxe ($24.95).
All toast toast and quiche (available as daily special or vegetarian versions) come with a seasonal salad, a daily soup, and either a regular black or green tea or an iced or hot coffee.
Like most Asian desserts, the flavours here lean toward the savoury, the subtle, and the only lightly sugared. And so, these takes on Western classic sweets downplay the saccharine and enhance the ethereal.
Oolong milky panna cotta ($7.50), infused with charcoal oolong, is like a deconstructed bubble tea—it's accompanied by oolong ice cream and a topping of bubble tea pearls. With only minimal sugar and subtle flavours, it's also beautifully light, making it easy to accommodate even after a heavy meal. (An Earl Grey version is also available.)
There's also a sakura tea lemon tart, with a caramel cookie; a black honey opera cake, with Sri Lanka black tea and brûlée; a Pinky Pyramid, made of matcha sponge cake and raspberry mousse; and a Mrs. Rose cheesecake, infused with rose black tea (all $8).
Other tea-enhanced desserts include an Earl Grey mille-feuille ($7.50); passionfruit oolong Swiss roll ($6); and macarons ($3), including oolong and matcha flavours.
Because this is a Taiwanese establishment, there's a full range of smoothie, slushie, and bubble tea flavours and add ons, including housemade tea-flavoured jelly.
And though this may ostensibly be a modern teahouse, coffee lovers won't feel left out. (This is Coffeecouver, after all.) In fact, the specialty coffees go beyond the usual routine.
The crème brûlée latte ($5) isn't just flavouring but features a crackling sugar topping. There's also a mallow mocha ($5.50), with marshmallows, and a ginger man latte ($6), with cinnamon and ginger syrup.
The cold brew coffee mixed with oolong ($6) lightens the body of the drink, making it a suitable refreshment for a balmy day.
An intriguing array of tea cocktails ($8 single shot; $10 double shot) is also available. The Southern Tropical is made of jasmine green tea, citrus, and Malibu rum; the Yuzu Assam martin consists of Assam black tea, vodka, and yuzu; and Bamboo Zen includes sakura black tea, kiwi, kumquat, and Soho lychee liqueur.
The Oolong Mojito, with Li Shan oolong, mint, lime, and gin is fresh and uplifting, ideal for a sweltering summer.
Beer bombs ($9.95) combine fruit frappes with beer, such as the yellow tropical mango frappe with Corona; red strawberry frappe with Stanley Park Brewing; orange grapefruit frappe with Kokanee; or the brown chocolate mint frappe with Hobgoblin Ruby.
There's actually quite a lot to try out on the menu, including macarons, scones, pancakes, and all the various flavour options. It's a smart move, to ensure repeat visits from patrons as they explore the diverse offerings.
Of course, this is all to say that with such innovative recipes, if you're interested in a spot of tea, it's no longer necessary to only have it in a cup.