The Urban Tea Merchant (Pt. 1)Posted: 05/12/2012
With exams and summer school and everything in between, I have to say that blogging wasn’t really on my mind for the past week or so– so I have to apologize for the delay in posting! Thank you for still reading on and visiting even though our (mostly my) posts have slowed down a bit.
Anyways. This first post after my impromptu hiatus is going to be a long one, so I’m actually going to split it into 2 posts– one today, and one tomorrow. In any case, brace yourselves for a plethora of pictures of open-faced tea sandwiches!
I usually have a hard time deciding on where to go with my mom for Mother’s Day, but luckily this year I had no trouble at all. Having been to The Urban Tea Merchant twice the previous year (for a birthday and a bachelorette), I knew that I would get both scrumptious food and outstanding service, and so I made an online reservation a week beforehand to ensure we’d get a great evening.
We arrived at the Georgia location a little early for our 5:30pm reservation, and so we had the opportunity to browse through the storefront’s display of different teas. The staff were incredibly friendly from the get-go, informing us about the kinds of leaves they stock, and letting us know that they were preparing our table for us. Their advice definitely made choosing a tea for our meal a lot easier!
Since we were celebrating Mother’s Day, it made sense to order their $48 Mother’s Day Signature Tea Service, which includes a $6 tea of your choice, champagne, sorbet, plus the usual variety of savoury and sweet sandwiches and desserts. My mom and I started off with a pot each of Grand Wedding and Alfonso teas, both of which are black tea-exotic fruit combinations. Both these teas smelled strongly of fruit (mine had mango in it), but tasted rather light– generally, we like our teas a little stronger, but it wasn’t that big of a problem. We were also presented with two flutes of Pink Flamingo, a non-alcoholic tea cocktail. I was puzzled when we drank it as it didn’t taste like there was alcohol in it at all–turns out they didn’t think I was legal (even though I am– I guess it’s nice that I look younger than I really am, that could come in handy a few years down the road…) so they didn’t serve us the actual champagne cocktail. When I enquired with the manager, who had come by to check up on us, he promptly apologized and said he’d bring us the champagne right away. We didn’t really care if we got the champagne or not, since my mom and I aren’t really big on drinking, but it was really nice of him to give it to us even though we had already polished off the Pink Flamingo. So, here’s a photo of the Tea-Infused Champagne and White Wine Cocktail. I don’t know my alcohols very well, so all I can really say about this is that it was very refreshing and it tasted like what I expected (bubbly, grape-y, with a slight hint of green tea).
Next up our server brought us a palate-cleansing Peach Mint Sorbet, which was just right– not too sweet, and not too sour. You could really taste the peach flavour in it, and the mint leaf added a refreshing element to the pre-meal dessert (as my mom called it). Soon after we finished the sorbet, our server brought out the tea tower. I don’t have a picture of the whole thing because the middle tier of fresh-baked scones came a little while after the tower, and by then we had already eaten a few of the sandwiches. But you can imagine it, right? (:
They only brought over one tower so that our table wouldn’t be too crowded, so what you see in the picture to the left are the 7 savoury options, multiplied by 2. I had the Baby Shrimp and Granny Smith Apple spoon (bottom left corner) first– this was a really delicate starter, where you could taste the freshness of the diced shrimp amidst the mousse. The crispness of the green apples and the alfalfa sprouts gave this some extra texture. My mom and I thought this spoon was a little on the bland side, and definitely had to be eaten first so that the taste of the other, stronger-flavoured sandwiches wouldn’t overpower it.
We didn’t really eat in any particular fashion (ie. we didn’t follow the order of the sandwiches listed on the menu, and instead just ate whatever we felt like grabbing), so I had the Smoked Salmon & Wasabi Aioli with In-House Ponzu Jelly open-faced sandwich next… maybe I was subconsciously choosing to eat all the seafood first. This sandwich had a lot more flavour than the baby shrimp spoon before it, courtesy of the smoked salmon and ponzu jelly strip. However, the sandwich wasn’t overwhelmed with saltiness; rather, I felt that the ponzu (which was only lightly lemony) complimented the seasoned fish. I couldn’t really taste the wasabi aioli spread, though– I actually didn’t even know there WAS wasabi aioli until I looked at the menu again.
By the time I finished the smoked salmon sandwich, our server had brought out the fresh-baked scones– so of course I had to leave everything and eat that first (You could say that fresh-baked bread and pastries are my mom’s and my Kryptonite)! The left Cheese, Onion and Chive Scone was satisfyingly buttery and flakey, and my mom and I liked that these were indeed made fresh for our meal. All the flavours went really well together– I have had scones of this kind that were extremely (grossly) cheesy or oniony– but this one was a mild mixture of all the ingredients, and I almost didn’t want to put the cream on it because it tasted so good by itself. Almost. It IS devonshire cream… Anyway. The Petit Savoury Tart was basically a small square quiche– the crust was buttery and flakey, and the filling was cheesy. I think this might have been a tad overcooked though, as it was getting a little hard by the time we ate it. The smaller scone on the right is the Chocolate Chip Scone, which was a fruit scone the last two times I went for afternoon tea. No matter though– I’m not that big a fan of dried fruit, and I love chocolate chips– so no harm, no foul. This scone was a bit denser than the savoury one, and actually tasted a lot blander. I think it would have benefitted from more chocolate chips, as they were distributed quite sparsely throughout the scone.
Next I had one of my favourite things of the night– the Nilgiri Tea-Infused Egg Salad Sandwich, where the eggs were served devilled-style. I could tell that the restaurant put a lot of care into making each and every part of the tea set, and that was certainly exhibited in this sandwich. This was an overall delicate sandwich, where the egg yolk mixture was only lightly seasoned (my mom liked that it wasn’t ridiculously mayonnaise-y). It did get kinda messy though, as the bread wasn’t really able to hold up the heavier egg, but all that meant was that we had to cut it up into smaller pieces. My only qualm with this sandwich was that the eggs didn’t taste very tea-infused; as an Asian, I’ve had plenty of tea-infused eggs in my lifetime, and I have to say that this one was on the blander end of the spectrum. It’s not like we didn’t enjoy eating it, though.
So I’m going to save the rest of this post (the remaining sandwiches and desserts, plus my closing comments on service, price and overall experience) for tomorrow. Hopefully you’ll read this tonight and– if you’re stumped on what to do with your mom tomorrow–be inspired to do something fun with her! Thanks again for reading, and to all the mothers out there, Happy (Early) Mother’s Day!
The Urban Tea Merchant
1070 West Georgia Street