Friday, September 16, 2011

The Urban Tea Merchant (Downtown)


Check out my revisit post on the "Sakura Westcoast Tea" available during the sakura season.

Afternoon tea at The Urban Tea Merchant has been on my wish list for a while. I find it hard to justify the price without cause for celebration, so I've put off the visit until an opportunity arose. In celebration of my new job, I finally came here for a relaxing afternoon of tea sipping with my family. The front of the store is a tea shop with colourful tins of tea lining the walls and dazzling displays of tea sets and other tea brewing equipment.


There is also a reception area with macarons and petit fours gift boxes on display.


Following the aisle on the left, we arrived at the seating area in the back of the store. We got a window seat and could see the patio on Alberni.


Since we were there between 12 to 2 pm on a weekday, the petite afternoon tea ($25) was on promotion for $19. We were wondering about the difference between the petite and the signature afternoon tea ($48). One of the servers told us the petite is enough for a good-sized lunch, while the signature is good if there's something to celebrate. I immediately thought, "I do have something to celebrate! I must get the signature then!" And so we ordered a signature along with 2 sets of petite. The signature includes a glass of chilled white tea, but one of the waitresses was really nice and gave us an extra glass. The tea was extremely fragrant and I could seriously get drunk from the fruity and floral scent. The strong aftertaste of wild berries was very refreshing.


Another item that comes exclusively with the signature afternoon tea is the sorbet meant for cleansing the palate before beginning the meal. We got strawberry flavoured sorbet that was slightly tart with a smooth and creamy texture.


For our teas we all opted for the 1837 blend, but we each chose a different colour. Between the 3 of us, we tried the 1837 black ($5), the 1837 green ($5), and the 1837 white ($8). Each afternoon tea set includes $5 worth of tea, so the black and green tea were complimentary with the meal and the white tea was $3 extra. I had the 1837 white, but I would have ordered something else if I knew this was the same blend as the chilled white tea. It was still good, but not as fragrant as the chilled version.


The signature food tower had a bit more variety than the petite, but it's debatable whether the difference is worth $29. To be extremely exact, what the signature tower had that the petite didn't were 3 extra savouries, a chocolate sparkle cookie, a chocolate truffle and a gooseberry. It sounds like a lot, but it wasn't because the portions were all very small.


The server was right that the petite is definitely more than enough for a good-sized lunch.


The Petite:

On the bottom tier were 3 tea sandwiches with rather typical flavours — cucumber, smoked salmon, and egg salad. But there was a twist to them. The cucumber was combined with watercress and cracked black pepper for extra zest. The salmon was matched with cream cheese and the egg salad was lightly curried. The most unique item on this tier would be the tea-infused chicken salad cone. Creamy chicken salad was stuffed into a mini cone to create an interesting snack with contrasting textures. I actually thought the chicken was tuna because the texture was so soft and flaky. The menu says it's chicken, so I'll take their word for it.


There was only one scone on the middle tier with berry jam and clotted cream. The jam was infused with tea according to the menu, but I honestly could not taste any hint of tea. I must have an underdeveloped palate :P The waitress told us there were a number of flavours including plain, black currant, chocolate, cheddar cheese, and orange ginger. We got to try the black currant, chocolate and orange ginger. My favourite was the black currant, but they were all pretty good.


There were quite a few different fruits on the dessert tier including a chocolate dipped strawberry. There were also a tea-infused macaron and a petit four shaped like a gift box. I really enjoyed the macaron as it wasn't too sweet with the tart and chewy fruit filling. Again I could not taste the tea in the macaron, but I liked it anyway. The petit four had an overbearing almond taste. The dense texture of the cake combined with the super sweet icing was not appealing to me.


The Signature:

The smoked salmon sandwich was slightly different as it was open faced and decorated with capers. I found the salmon slices smoother and softer than the ones used in the petite, but it could just be my imagination. There were 2 extra savouries on this tier — the prawn cocktail sandwich, and the blue cheese and caramelized walnut endive. These 2 items were easily the most unique and tasty items in the whole tower. The prawn was super fresh and crunchy, and the blue cheese was unbelievably creamy and savoury that was perfectly complemented by the sweet crispy walnuts.


In addition to the scone, there was a cheese and mushroom quiche and a chocolate sparkle cookie. The quiche had a very puffy and flaky crust, but it was a bit mild in flavour. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the Thomas Haas chocolate sparkle cookie with an infusion of rich dark chocolate. It pretty much tasted like a brownie but with a slightly firmer texture similar to a soft chewy cookie or a dense cake.


The dessert tier was almost the same as the petite except for an extra chocolate truffle and a gooseberry. The chocolate dipped strawberry and the petit four were also a bit bigger in size.


This is going to be one of my new favourite venues for afternoon tea as the service is amazing and consistent among different servers. As I mentioned earlier, it really is debatable whether the signature afternoon tea is worth $48. But for celebration purposes, I think it's ok to splurge a little bit. Otherwise the petite is more than enough to satisfy the average appetite. The server mentioned the $19 promotion during lunch hours is ending soon, so take advantage of the discount while it lasts!

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4 comments:

KayCe on September 22, 2011 10:21 am said...

Woahh! I didn't know they had afternoon tea here. I passed by this place a couple of times thinking it was just a shop for tea... I want to go try it so bad :P Hopefully the promotion is still there when I go. Hehe~

krispymilk on September 22, 2011 11:24 am said...

Ahhh unfortunately I think it has just ended, but you could wait a bit since they have specials quite often. You can check the prices and promotions here:

http://www.urbantea.com/pages/afternoon-tea

Janice on October 01, 2011 12:47 pm said...

This has been on my wishlist forever too, but like you I can't justify the price :( and now the promo ended?! boo. i'll have to have some sort of excuse for a celebration soon and head here

krispymilk on October 01, 2011 1:17 pm said...

They have specials every once in a while, but if you can't wait... ;)
Yea if you didn't have a reason to celebrate, you would find the signature quite expensive. I mean even Hotel Vancouver and Shangri-La are only around $35/person.

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