An absolutely wonderful tea shop. My experience was wonderful.
Right upon entering my friend and I were politely and quietly offered a fresh little cup of an absolutely delicious green I hadn’t tasted before. When I asked what it was the server told me it was gyokuro! These people just serve up delicious little sample morsels of high quality tea without a second thought, without being salesman-y, without being prudish or even bragging. I mean, come on. Who just hands a cup of gyokuro to a tourist off the street? I just about died. Oh my God.
Being a non-French speaker in Quebec comes with clear struggles. Though most of Montreal is bi-(or even tri-)lingual it’s still sometimes hard to communicate and that frustration tends to show in shops. I get it! I’m a tourist, tourists are obnoxious, especially when they don’t speak much of your home language. The women working on this particular day did not speak very fluent English but were so very polite and kind and tried very hard to communicate with me. They were probably the most pleasant employees I interacted with my entire time in Montreal (that being said, most of the people were actually very kind despite the bad rap Quebec gets for being grouchy towards Americans… again, though, really. I get it.) They talked Darjeeling with me and let me smell some of the local tisanes to pick the most interesting sounding ones. They seemed genuinely kind and passionate about tea.
The shop is beautiful and has a decent assortment of tea wares. I’m in the market for an aroma set and didn’t see one on the shelf; when I inquired about it (again, struggling with the language barrier… I speak a tiny bit of French but absolutely don’t know the word “aroma,” but they were very understanding) the woman opened a back cabinet and pulled a few out! What a surprise!!
They offer a great selection of quality tea with tons of information about sourcing available in a pretty laminated binder.Extremely friendly and helpful, even to obnoxious English-only tourists like me. :) I’m very picky about my tea shops. This is the best I’ve ever been to. I took home Darjeeling of several different flushes as well as a local tisane. This place is heaven. I want to live here.
I have a lot of contesting feelings about this place.
First, the positive: an absolutely gorgeous assortment of tea wares. This place is stunningly beautiful and has pretty much every eastern brewing method under the sun, with a lot of beautiful gaiwans and sets, a lot of yixing (though I cannot attest to the quality), aroma sets, single cups, pitchers, even a few clay tea pets. If you are looking for a beautiful set and don’t want to buy online, this is the place.
There is a lot of full leaf tea on sale but I’ve yet to try what I bought so I can’t speak to quality. Which brings us to the negatives…
I hate to have my review influenced by someone else but one Google review was really troubling and seemed to have some stock in it. A customer reported that, after returning a likely mislabeled lapsang souchong, the owner treated him disdainfully and even put the remaining leaves back in the big tin. Apparently he said something along the lines of that the Chinese know how to treat their tea and never smoke it, which of course goes strongly against the literal definition of a lapsang!
I’m afraid to say that this review doesn’t surprise me! The owner hovered uncomfortably around me and was pretty bristly. I’m in the market for a kyusu and couldn’t remember what they are called so I pointed one out and asked about it. He said pretty condescendingly that it’s clearly a teapot. I was a little surprised by his curtness and said “yeah I know, but that Japanese style for brewing sencha, what’s the name of it?” To which he responded that the Chinese just call all teapots “teapots.”
I asked about shu pu-erh and he immediately recommended the most expensive, not that surprising, but when I asked what makes it good he just said “it’s very good.” I bought a cup of it and was pretty underwhelmed (though I’m very new to puerh so take that with a grain of salt.)
TL;DR this is a place with a very condescending owner who probably just wants your money and has tea of questionable quality. The tea ware, however, is absolutely gorgeous and reasonably priced.