Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/8/2017 (931 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
My grandmother drank Red Rose tea in such profuse quantities that I acquired every porcelain animal figure the company gave out with its packages. I had a great-aunt who carried extra tea bags in her purse to boost insufficiently strong restaurant tea. She always asked servers for assurance that the water would be boiling — a rolling boil, mind you — when it hit the pot.
Choices for tea enthusiasts now go way beyond my nana’s orange pekoe. Here is a roundup of a few new-school tea places in Winnipeg.
The One Drinks (18-2077 Pembina Hwy.) offers a dizzying array of drinks, both hot and cold, with almost infinite customizable options. Along with Taiwanese bubble tea, you can get hot teas, hot milky teas and chilled fruit tea varieties, as well as smoothies, slushies and milkshakes.
Iced coconut milk tea was creamy without being insipid, and the tapioca bubbles had a nice chew. Hot teas run from classic green tea to longan red date tea and Korean yam tea, and the hot milk teas include unorthodox flavours like Oreo.
Along with its seemingly endless regular menu, The One Drinks features seasonal specials.
Recent listings included a mango iceberg, super-strong black iced tea cut with a blizzard of frozen puréed mango, the two components merging into a super-refreshing summer drink, slightly sweet but still astringently punchy.
There are also desserts. The egg puff, a popular Hong Kong street food, is sweet and crisped with a strong vanilla flavour. Green tea shaved snow yields an airy, icy freshness that’s complemented with sweet red bean topping in a massive (massive!) mountain of sweetness that’s made to share.
The One Drinks is designed to be a casual hangout space, combining an open area with a line of quieter tables behind a divider. In the evenings (it’s open until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends), patrons can be found talking, studying or playing games, the downside being some longer wait times when things are busy.
Tea Story Cafe (224 Osborne St.) is an Osborne Village staple. Its candy-coloured mod furnishings are a little tired but still cheery, and the tea selection is tops.
You can get by-the-cup drinks like masala chai latte, milky with lots of warm spice, as well as tea properly steeped in a pot, with old familiars like Earl Grey, as well as pu-erh, roiboos and herbal teas and some gorgeous, fragrant flowering teas. And yes, the water is boiling when it hits the tea, and if you want to linger over your pot, you can get free hot water refills.
There are also waffles both savoury and sweet. So, so sweet. The Death for Chocolate option is like a kid’s crazy dream of a dessert: a tender waffle topped with ice cream, whipping cream, chocolate sauce and sliced almonds for crunch.
Cornelia Bean (417 Academy Rd.), the River Heights retail boutique, offers a range of coffee beans and loose-leaf teas, with a sniffing bar that offers scent samples of the dozens of tea canisters stacked up on the back wall.
Helpful staff will try to make a tea match for you, asking questions to pin down your preferences, whether that’s old-school or something edgier (turmeric or maybe a chocolate and chili). If you can’t decide, you can try a tea flight of six small tins.
Along with the retail offerings, the shop serves a few seasonal drinks. I tried an Arnold Palmer, a zippy collision of iced tea and lemonade that hit the spot on a very hot day.
The Amsterdam Tea Room (103-211 Bannatyne Ave.) in the Exchange District takes its tea seriously, while still managing to have some fun. Along with teaware, Amsterdam offers custom-blended teas with global influences and evocative names (Family Happiness, Respect Your Elders, Immortal Nectar).
Service at this bijoux shop is knowledgeable and charming, offering rather poetic tasting notes and good practical info (caffeine content, suggested water temperature).
While the Amsterdam recently offered a pop-up iced tea tent during the Fringe, the shop is still exclusively retail. The owners are hoping to start a renovation that will allow them to serve tea, as it should be, very soon.
Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.