Less than two hours north of Seattle—in a bedroom community of Vancouver, BC—a host of culinary opportunities await. There’s the growing popularity of Guangdong Cantonese cuisine, 220 restaurants packed into a three block radius along Alexandra Road and the fascination that vintners of Lulu Island have for blueberry wine, to name a few. But it’s the diverse tea scene of Richmond that creates a road trip of a different sort as travelers literally leave no leaf unturned.
L’Opéra Pâtisserie opened in 2012 and has since gained a loyal following of locals who duck into its intimate environs for a soothing taste of Paris throughout the week. Inspired by a trip to France over a decade ago, this exquisitely-adorned café features authentic French pastries; an elegant high tea menu; and even a small offering of soups and sandwiches for a lunch escape in the middle of a busy work day. Tea selections such as Otello—the house blend that pairs beautifully with their made-from-scratch macarons—Barber of Seville and Marriage of Figaro make the perfect unhurried accompaniment to the French music that plays in the background.
For a truly unique experience, how about high tea while watching planes take off and land? Inside the Fairmont Vancouver Airport—accessed by entering the surprisingly serene airport—Globe@YVR offers a sumptuous, three-tier tea complete with sandwiches, pastries and freshly-baked scones and Devonshire cream. The signature “Jetsetter” is a low caffeine blend specifically designed for the weary traveler. Special touches include honey from their own hives and egg salad sandwiches made from free-range eggs. For those 21 and over, a glass of bubbly is also included. Now that’s my kind of tea.
Set inside the second largest Asian mall in Canada, Sugarholic Café is no less elegant on the inside than other tea spots and the service is impeccable. From the rather loud menu, patrons can choose from a myriad of temptations including salmon atop a pillow of risotto and a honey toast box which is edible from the inside out and should come with a sugar high guarantee. It’s the fruit and herb teas that you’re here for. Several come in clear tea pots to enjoy the color bursts of red dates with longan or passion fruit and mango brewing. The avocado mango crab cake is a light and flavorful pairing with these fun fruit teas.
Tea tasting at Yuan Chen Premium Tea is a meditative experience presided over by owner, Candy, and assisted by co-owner and sister, Vivian. While cutting the loose leaf tea from cakes shipped straight from China, Candy talks about the types of tea cups to use and why, the history of tea and answers questions in a warm and friendly way. Tea tastings are available on request but are complimentary, including a rare and special sheng puer tea harvested from 500 year-old trees. Each tea available at Yuan Chen has a different purpose including detoxification and relaxation and the expertise of these sisters ensures an unforgettable experience and accurate purchase. All the accoutrements to replicate a proper tea ceremony at home are also sold including teakwood tea furniture and LongQuan celadon teaware.
From contemplative to transportive to purely social, Richmond has a tea experience for every palate and a little education thrown into the herbal and fruity blends free of charge.