Al right, all right. I get it. Vancouver adores its coffee.
Just like our Seattle neighbours, Vancouverites have a huge love affair with java. You can find a busy café on every other street in the city, both independent hidden gems (like Kitsilano’s Sweet Barrel) and bigger operations with several locations spread across the city (looking at you, J.J. Bean and Milano Coffee). And we haven’t even mentioned the number of Tim’s and Starbucks here.
A cup of joe is certainly Vancouver’s love language.
But we're here to make a case for the sibling beverage: tea.
Listen, it’s the superior drink. Where coffee brings on the jitters, tea can make you calm. Where coffee can upset a stomach, a tea can soothe it. While coffee really only has two moves—caffeinated or decaf—tea has countless: chai, matcha, green, black, white, rooibos, oolong…iced or hot.
Tea is better than coffee, and we’re not afraid to say so. And in case you don’t believe us, we’ve scoured our city for five locations that serve great tea to convince you otherwise.
For this list, we’re including any Vancouver or B.C.-based establishment that produces its own tea and has a takeout drink option (that means we’re excluding those who only sell their dried tea leaves for retail). We’re also not including any national or worldwide-recognized brands (sorry to any David’s Tea connoisseurs).
And with that, let’s explore the city for a cuppa.
Naturally, we’re starting with Murchie’s. With nine locations in the province and a history dating back to the 19th century, this local favourite is the most established and best-known tea shop in Vancouver.
According to legend, founder John Murchie delivered tea to Queen Victoria while he worked for a prestigious importer in Britain. Over time, Murchie became familiar with which blends the Queen enjoyed best and began experimenting with flavours and mixes of his own. Eventually, he immigrated to Canada and brought all his knowledge to establish Murchie’s Tea company in 1894.
Murchie’s leans heavily into its rich British and Canadian history and trademarks when it comes to creating names and flavour profiles of teas. Classic Canadian nods are showcased in blends like their Sugar Maple tea, a maple-flavoured fan favourite, and their rich and malty Rocky Mountain black tea. Royal milestones also find a place in Murchie’s wall of blends, such as Prince Charles Blend, a mix of black teas originally created in 1981 to celebrate the future king’s wedding to Princess Diana.
If that all seems a bit stuffy or pompous to you, not to worry. Murchie's teas are packed with flavour—no matter what they're called.
A must-try brew this spring from Murchie’s is their jammy, sweetly fragrant, herbal Bumbleberry Rooibos. This is caffeine-free with no added sugar, making it a perfect, post-dinner beverage. Sweet and aromatic, a cup of this reminds us of summertime and delicious bumbleberry pie.
Treasure Green Tea Company
Located in historic Chinatown, Treasure Green Tea Company is a small, family-run business with tradition steeped in every cup.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, authentic Chinese tea was difficult to find in Vancouver as importing was difficult. Founder Kwok Sun Cheung had a dream to bring high-quality, genuine Chinese tea to Vancouver and opened Super Fine Tea Co. in 1981, importing first-class ingredients directly from suppliers in China.
Today, his daughter Olivia owns the store—on the same street where it originally opened. It is now called Treasure Green Tea Company still uses only superior ingredients, continues to focus on traditional brewing, and provides friendly customer service.
Because of the old-school steeping process, you will not find “grab-n-go” service here. You will find no tea bags run under a hot-water dispenser here. Each drink, whether it’s made for in-house tasting or takeout, is made at the counter; tea leaves are carefully strained, steeped, and poured into your cup in front of you.
A bestseller right now is their deliciously refreshing Iced White Mojito tea, made from an organic white tea base and infused with lemon, mint, and honey. A satisfying mix of sweet and herbal, this is a perfect summer drink. With the weather starting to heat up, we’re definitely coming back here for seconds. And thirds. And fourths.
Tree’s Organic Coffee
Are you surprised to see this one made the list? Don’t get us wrong- we know the coffee and cheesecake are the hotshots at Tree’s. But we urge you to take a peek at their tea lists the next time you’re there.
Much like Tree’s dedication to serving excellent coffee drinks, the teas they produce are aromatic and full-bodied. Most are organic, as well, if that’s your thing. In fact, their South Granville store exclusively only sells certified organic blends.
If you’re looking for a wide range of teas to choose from, head to their flagship Granville location (near the Waterfront SkyTrain entrance) that features a menu twice the size of those at the company’s four other Vancouver locations.
Our favourite right now is their Candied Ginger Peach, a sticky/sweet rooibos tea that is as soothing on your stomach as it is delicious to sip.
Trust us on this one, the cheesecake and coffee—while delicious—is not the only thing this place has going for it. Next time you’re taking in a Tree’s Organic open mic night or catching up with your friend at the café (so, how did you spend your time in lockdown?) opt for a tea instead. We swear you won’t be disappointed.
Secret Garden Tea Company
Pinkies up! It would feel wrong to make a list about tea in Vancouver and not mention any of the many fantastical high-tea establishments that our city is home to.
While there are many spots that we love to visit, Secret Garden has earned its spot on our list for its wide selection of teas, scrumptious treats, and superior takeout service.
Secret Garden Tea Company was created in 1995 by Kathy and Erin Wyder, two sister-in-laws with a big love of tea parties, grown out of the treasured time spent with their grandmothers. For more than 20 years, the Wyders have tried to replicate that experience for their customers, whether you’re dining in or taking out.
If you have the time, we encourage you to stay for an afternoon service filled with tiny cakes, croissant sandwiches, scones and fruit tarts—an experience that would make any fan of Alice in Wonderland tickled pink.
If you’re in a hurry to go, the Secret Garden Tea Company still gives you a bit of the tea party experience by serving you a tiny pitcher of milk and cubes of sugar in a small painted bowl alongside your paper cup.
We recommend trying the shop’s beloved Secret Garden Secret—a black tea with a vanilla and secret fruit profile. Upon your next arrival to this charming storybook teahouse, can you guess what that secret flavour is?
Granville Island Tea Company
Tucked into the Granville Island market amongst sweet shops, fish vendors, Lee’s donuts, and fresh fruit stands, sits Granville Island Tea Company.
Founded in 1999 by Deborah and Mark Mercier, this market vendor has become a hot spot for those looking for unique, flavourful teas—customers range from first time buyers looking to purchase a 50g pack of Cranberry Apple tisane for an upcoming baby shower, to loyal fans of the Tea Company who are determined to try every blend on the infamous tea-tin wall.
Take a closer look at the names on the tea list and you'll see that Granville Island Tea’s flavours range from traditional to deliciously kooky. There are an impressive 200-plus blends to choose from, and with flavours ranging from classic black teas like Creamy Earl Grey to one-of-a-kind mixes like the rooibos Banana Cupcake, there is a blend for everyone here.
A must-try on your next visit to Granville Island Tea Company is their Masala Chai tea latte. A top-secret recipe which any coffee shop would die to get their hands on; this heavenly concoction is delightfully creamy and rich with cinnamon and cardamom. Truly, this tea latte could warm even the coldest heart of an iced-coffee lover.
But, hey, if the Masala Chai isn’t your thing, there are more than a hundred others you could try. The real question is: Where to begin?