Tea Options in Montreal – Senthé and Birks Café
While Montreal is a serious coffee town, they do have some very good options for whole leaf teas.
Senthé is a pretty new tea café out on a shopping strip in Rosemont. Senthé specializes in high quality Asian teas with a few tea blends for those who prefer to have other flavors besides the tea leaf itself and espresso, if you really need your caffeine in a different format altogether. There is a small food menu consisting of light sandwiches and pastries of the day are displayed at the counter.
Senthé also doubles as a hangout for enthusiasts of the ancient Chinese strategic board game Go.
I had a tastings of three different teas – Nan Mei (white tea), Huiming (green tea), and L’Opera de Pékin (blend).
All of these teas were tasty. The nan mei‘s a white tea is a subtle tea with grassy and peppery fragrances and has a silky smooth liquor. The liquor is citrusy with a minty finish. It’s very pleasant and refreshing.
The huming (会明茶) or “white tea,” is a traditional famous tea in Zhejiang Province, which is also called Jingning Huiming. The tea features yellowish ivory young leaves and assume white color after steeped, boasting fine color, aroma and taste. The Huiming tea is stout and tight in shape, verdant and smooth in color with visible white hairs on tea leaves. It tastes fresh, sweet and mellow tinted with the aroma of orchid and fruits.
The L’Opera de Pékin is a very pretty, white tea mixture (seen photo above). It’s a lovely combination of pears, star anise, and helichrysum.
I ended up sticking with the pot of L’Opera de Pékin since I don’t drink blended teas often and I do like the complex flavors from this tea. Their food served here is simple but quite tasty.
The chicken panini with slices of fresh pear and apricot jelly was made to order. The gentle sweetness of both fruits made the chicken sandwich a bit unique. The baked good are all made in-house as well. The banana cake with nutmeg glaze was intense of banana and the nutmeg glaze was nicely spiced to counteract the sweetness of the cake. The spiced apple blossom tart was aggressively spiced for me. The nutmeg and clove was a bit too much for me but otherwise, it’s a well made apple tart that is beautifully assembled and baked.
This place is great for Asian teas that are thoughtfully brewed. The service is friendly and the food made on premises and tastes good.
The other place that many might tell if you want an afternoon tea experience, you should go to Birks Café in Square Phillips. Birks is a legendary Canadian jewelry store founded in 1879 founded by Henry Birks.
This café is located up the stairs on the back of this huge jewelry shop. The café is handsome and streamlined with colors of blonde wood, cream stone tables, and comfy dark upholstered chairs.
The dining area is filled with the well to do and chic, chatting and sipping on their teas. The teas are from Mariage Frères and I had the fruity black Bolero tea. The food spread for afternoon tea is generally what one would expect; two large fresh scones, a trio of savory canapes (the one stuck on my mind was the fig and foie gras topped one), prosciutto club sandwich, small glass of vanilla pudding topped with fudge sauce and chocolate shortbread cookie, bonbon and a raspberry macaron. The scones were warm from the oven. The prosciutto sandwich was very tasty and it tasted like it’s made very recently. The vanilla pudding was decent but the shortbread was unfortunately soggy what tasted like it’s sitting in the glass for a while.
Both cafés are good for a cup of whole tea leaf teas and to take a moment to relax from shopping or whatever you are doing.