Loose Leaf Tea at David’s by Reneé S.
When I first tried tea, I wondered what I had done to deserve such punishment, but like any anglophile clinging to their obsession in downtown Toronto, I kept at it, hoping the taste would magically become pleasant. As tea is an acquired taste, it did, and I never looked back.
Tea is one of those beverages you can have morning, noon, and night. Luckily, in the big city, tea lovers run rampant, and there are several places our kind can get a fix. Having been a tea enthusiast for years, I’ve tried many venues for their loose leaf or bagged offerings and have compiled a handy list of the best places to get a cup in the big city.
Thw Windsor Arms Hotel Entrance
by Grant MacDonald
The Windsor Arms Hotel
A more in-depth review of the fantastic high tea offered by the Windsor Arms Hotel can be found here, but in a nutshell, it simply must be said that the hotel’s reputation is well earned. Their tea is flavourful, refreshing, and delicious, and their British fare — including petits fours, little sandwiches, and (of course) scones — is scrumptious. The Hotel can be pricy, but it’s well worth it for both the sophisticated, comfortable atmosphere and the gourmet food.
Davids Tea Bloor Street West
Storefront by David’s Tea
This über-modern tea shop stocks over 100 varieties of tea. Blacks, whites, greens, herbals, a summer collection, rooibos… the list goes on. The staff are always welcoming and friendly, and happy to give free samples before you make a big purchase. I favour their Jumpy Monkey, Cinnamon Heart, and Crème Brulée teas, which are especially good — but if I had to find fault with David’s, it’s the atmosphere. As friendly as their staff are, the design of the store is sterile and it almost feels like you’re sitting in a tea-stocked iPod. You’re free to take time to savour the delicacies at the Windsor Arms, but at David’s, you’re more inclined to walk in and out. Still, their tea is fantastic and their staff are knowledgeable and warm.
Harney Sons Hot Cinnamon
Spice Tea Wooden Apple
Apparatus by Chapters
No, it’s not a typo. Chapters is the only place in Toronto to find one of the best tea manufacturers in the world: Harney and Sons. If you peruse the big book store’s food selection, you’ll find beautifully decorated boxes of the company’s excellent tea. Their Hot Cinnamon Spice is by far the most popular blend offered, and with good reason. Although David’s Tea has a lovely Cinnamon Heart variation, HCS just can’t be beat. However, one downside of shopping for tea at Chapters is the cost. Although the packaging of the teas is aesthetically pleasing, it ups the price to a ridiculous extent. For example, an enormous wooden apple apparatus to hold 50 bags of tea costs $50! However, if you look around, you’ll find more simplistic packages that cost a far less hefty fee. Also, who doesn’t love the convenient combo of a book and some tea?
The Red Tea Box
The Red Tea Box by Patty
This little Queen street venue is one of the sweetest places to grab a cuppa downtown. Their window display is always stocked with adorable-looking fondant cakes and cupcakes just seducing you into the restaurant with their sweetly succulent icing. Once inside, you’ll realize the tea is just as appetizing as the display, even impressing a picky friend from England who joined me. Their food and desserts are also delicious: soups, sandwiches, and more are offered and tasty. The one downside of this charming establishment is a particular staff member. Although the majority of the staff are friendly, one individual’s rude disposition is off-putting. It’s best to get your transaction with her over with as soon as possible and enjoy the many other positive aspects of the Red Tea Box.
Moonbean Cafe by jen collins
The Moonbean Cafe’s trendy Kensington Market location adds to the laid back, indie vibe it already has going. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a personable barista and invited to decide between the hundreds of loose leaf tea vials arranged on the walls of the cafe. The tea is moderately priced but very flavourful. I tried their peppermint and immediately felt refreshed. There’s also tons of seating in a variety of rooms adjoint to the main cafe to allow for whichever atmosphere you please — be it crowded and talkative, or quiet and intimate. The cafe is like a little hippy hangout in the big city — and they know their tea.
Locations and Hours of Operation:
The Windsor Arms Hotel is located at 18 St. Thomas Street, a side street close to Bay and Bloor. They host high tea at 12:30, 1:00, 3:00, and 3:30 from Mondays to Wednesdays, and add on 5:30 and 6:00 from Thursdays to Sundays.
David’s Tea has a handful of locations, but my favourite has to be the one at 2285 Bloor Street West, by Bloor and Spadina, for its friendly counter staff. It is open from Monday to Wednesday 10:00 A.M. – 8:00 P.M., Thursday to Saturday 10:00 A.M. – 9:00 P.M, and Sunday from 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.
Chapters locations can be found throughout the city. My favourite is located at 55 Bloor Street West, by Bay and Bloor. It’s open from 9:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M Sunday through Thursday and from 9:00 A.M. to 11:00 on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Red Tea Box is located at 696 Queen Street West by Queen and Palmerston. It is open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., Friday and Saturday from 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M., and Sunday from 12:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.
The Moonbean Cafe is located at 30 St. Andrew Street in Kensington Market, a bit north of Spadina and Dundas, and is open late every night.