Where do you go for the Best Afternoon Tea in Montreal? This is one of my favorite North American cities because it’s filled with art, food, history, and tea – all infused with a bit of la bonne vie, the good life. Here are a few of my suggestions for seeing the city with tea on your mind.
Original Chinoiserie tea tables in the Palm Court.
The first hotel in the world to bear the name Ritz-Carlton, this glittering hotel opened in 1912 and was designed by the same New York architectural firm whose other achievements included Grand Central Station, as well as the Biltmore, Vanderbilt, and Ritz hotels in New York City. This was the era of great urban hotels being constructed in Paris, London, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, and afternoon tea was an important component of the dining options offered by hotels of the day.
But after a century of constant use, The Ritz-Carlton Montreal closed its doors in 2008 to undergo a major renovation. After four years of extensive restoration, the hotel re-opened in 2013 with all the original glitter and excitement it held a century ago.
The beautiful frescoes adorning the ceiling of the Palm Court are once again in full view, and long-forgotten Chinoiserie tea tables have been returned to their rightful place—holding teatrays and teapots for afternoon tea guests dining in that grand space where Afternoon Tea is served daily from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Guests may select from a menu of nine teas, steeped loose in the pot and poured at table through individual silver strainers. Before the teapots arrive, you have the option of beginning your afternoon with a flute of champagne, making the celebration a true Royal Tea.
The staff—smartly-attired in Edwardian style—present the savories and sweets on three-tiered silver servers bearing both cranberry and plain scones waiting to be slathered with authentic clotted cream, rose jam, and orange marmalade. A second tier holds traditional tea sandwiches including cucumber, smoked salmon, egg and parsley, and tomato and watercress. A quartet of French pastries, too beautiful to eat, leaves you with a sweet remembrance of an enchanting afternoon.
My visit to the Ritz-Carlton Montreal was reminiscent of afternoons spent at London’s popular Ritz Hotel. The stunning setting—with mirrored palladium doors, attentive staff, and a balanced menu of both savories and sweets—makes this Palm Court one of the tea venues you want to visit for those special occasions when you need a bit of pampering delivered in style.
Tea served gong fu style at Camellia Sinensis Montreal
Over the past 15 years, a talented quartet of Quebec tea professionals has quietly composed one of North America’s most-respected tea businesses with locations in both Montreal and Quebec City. These four talented teaists—Hugo Américi, François Marchand, Jasmin Desharnais, and Kevin Gascoyne—are passionate about their vocation. Each has a designated area of the tea world to explore as they travel annually in search of outstanding teas for their customers.
Row after row of shining silver tins fill the shelves of the tea shop. The well-trained staff is just as passionate about their teas as the owners, and they are eager to share the pedigrees of these great teas of the world with their fascinated customers. This is the place too for discovering just the right steeping apparatus for your favorite teas. It would be hard to find a more complete assortment of tea wares anywhere.
The flagship Montreal store hosts the original tea room next door where guests enjoy teas steeped in a multitude of ways—from traditional teapots to gong fu trays and yixing clayware. Light baked goods are also offered to accompany the tea experience. But, the emphasis here is always on the tea. Ming Tao Xuan
Mr. Li at Ming Tao Xuan Tea House Montreal.
Montreal has preserved much of its historic past. Place Jacques-Cartier, next to City Hall, and Place d’Armes, right across from the glorious Notre Dame Basilica and its breathtaking interiors, are the absolute must-see spots in Old Montréal. The nearby museum of Pointe-à-Callière is the best way to get acquainted with the city’s history.
After visiting Notre Dame, walk across a side street for an oolong tea break with Mr. Li at Ming Tao Xuan, a well-known Asian tea room filled with exotic teas and tea wares.
Read Bruce Richardson’s full article about tea in Montreal and Quebec in the July/August 2014 edition of TeaTime magazine. All photos are Copyrighted by Bruce Richardson.