The Urban Tea Merchant is a take-out cafe, retail store, tea sampling salon, and tea room all in one. Located between Alberni and Georgia streets, this one-stop tea shop exclusively offers luxury TWG teas and tea-infused treats.
The Urban Tea Merchant is a family-owned business with all members being very active in every facet of providing tea to the masses in downtown Vancouver.
The retail shop offers a wide variety of tea-related items, from jewel-encrusted tea pots to scented candles. There you can stop in, purchase loose tea by the canister, try samples, and learn more about tea. Take an aromatic sniff from a canister and learn about the growing process, blends, and the basics of brewing teas at home. A term for the shop could be a tea education centre where you’ll learn about everything from water temperatures to how long you should steep certain teas.
Choose from black tea, green tea, oolong, white & yellow, or rooibos. Tea Sommelier Reza Nasooti is in-store to assist you.
Urban Tea Merchant’s cafe features to-go options for those on the run. Order from a variety of bakery menu items, and get your tea for the road. The prices are a bit more than you would pay at your corner coffee shop ($7 for a matcha, $3.50 for a green tea) especially when it comes to the treats like delicate petit fours and macarons, prepared at TWG headquarters.
The tea room offers a variety of afternoon tea menu options, brunch, fresh-brewed iced teas for summer, high-quality TWG tea-infused cocktails, and a-la carte options for more casual visits. You can enjoy the full and luxurious afternoon tea experience or just stop by for a cup of tea with friends (children are welcome as well).
Lunch features start at $12 per person, tea services (with teas and select menu options) start at $20, and the Champagne Signature Tea Service starts at $62 per person.
I stopped in for the Westcoast Tea Service ($32 per person) and sat down with Co-Founder Tom James and Casey James, Director of Marketing and Events.
The Westcoast service comes with a butter lettuce-wrapped sablefish, Boursin cheese on endives, smoked salmon, macarons, truffles, tea-infused chicken salad sandwiches, and a verity of fruit. This is currently the spring menu, options will be changing for the summer season in a few weeks.
I decided to try out the iced teas and had two options, Chocolate and Red of Africa. I also sampled their new sangria spiked with TWG’s Eternal Summer blend. Urban Tea partnered with Mixologist Ben Lambie from Ensemble Restaurant for their cocktail blends.
Reza informed me that for the iced teas they triple the amount of tea they would use for hot tea, making a strong concentrate. Then when the hot tea is poured over ice, it melts and doesn’t dilute the flavour as much as a normal blend might.
The TWG brand is firmly emblazoned throughout Urban Tea Marchant and has its own salons in Signapore, Japan, the UK and the USA. During our tea, Tom explained how The Urban Tea Merchant came about, thanks to a vision his wife had a few years ago. The family embarked on a 4-month circumnavigation of the globe, which turned into a research trip.
“We knew a lot of people who drank tea in North America but it was kind of like Starbucks before it became a specialty. Everybody had it in their cupboard but it wasn’t a specialized item,” Tom told me. “There were a few places that were involved in it but not to the extend of the concept that we had.”
They started their journey in the UK and on a whim they went to France. “While we were in Paris we walked across the threshold of some of the most exquisite tea houses in the world we just couldn’t believe it. When we did that, we said ‘this is it’. It was more than a retail store, more than a restaurant. It was a concept that created an experience that really set up and aligned you with what tea was all about — the rituals of tea. We wanted to capture that and bring that european flavour to The Urban Tea Merchant.”
You can stop by The Urban Tea Merchant for a quite bite, to pick out the perfect tea for your home, or to indulge with a cocktail or full Afternoon Tea service. They are located at 1070 West Georgia (with entrances off Georgia and Alberni). Find them on Facebook and Twitter for more seasonal information and in-store specials.