TWG Tea in Vancouver
TWG is the a name of “the finest luxury tea brand in the world” (according to their website). They were established in Singapore and have found their way to our side of the pond. The space was formally known as the “Urban Tea Merchant”, who served and sold exclusively TWG teas. Very recently they have rebranded and now, not only do they exclusively offer TWG teas, but their cafe is branded in its trademark yellow and black.
You could smell the creamy aroma of herbaceous teas walking in. The space is well lit, surrounded with windows. Pass them they give you a look into their colourful showroom. Regal with gold wallpaper, dark wood moulding, embellished furniture, and marble tiled flooring underfoot.
The boutique half offered their tea in tins to gift or take home. As well as tea accessories like decorative pots and their matching cups. The TWG Tea collection is the largest in the world. All their teas “number well over 800 different single-estate, fine harvests and exclusive tea blends from all of the tea-producing countries”. Each batch had its own name, coloured tin, and story. With so many varieties in the shop alone, I don’t know how one can decide on anything. Although it helps that they offer a look and a whiff of any of their teas from within its loose leaf canister. This was not only the case when purchasing a bag, but also when choosing your desired tea for a sit-in service. Which was what we were doing here today.
For one of us this was a first tea time experience, and what a one to start with. Like their teas, their service was just as refined. I felt spoiled and pampered, as much as every other person in the room was. They certainly gave me some of the best service I have ever had. The manager engaged us, our server was patient, and we were delighted with some unexpected surprises.
Our group of six was a lot to take in, but the staff kept chipper, willing to help anyway they could. Two of them gave us a walking tour of their desserts, I was humoured with an additional tier to my tea tower, and when my special tea didn’t bloom, they sent me home with two bulbs to try again there. And they continued to keep their patience as half of us stood up to gawk at the glass showcase of desserts behind us, and the other half strived to ask as many explanatory questions as they could. And that made sense given how much there was to sift through between their menu of teas and the large list of savoury full plates and delicate sweets. The latter is a rotation of what is available daily. Therefore what I have listed below is from memory of the day and notes taken during that time.
They had a few tea towers available on their “tea time set menu”, each included your choice of tea from their extensive list. However with all the commotion, I confess that I lost track of who had what teas. So the general list of what we had is below. Everyone loved their order, finding each brew steeped perfectly, and full of flavourful. I could see why they were acclaimed, I haven’t had many clear liquids this rich and creamy.
Although it is worth noting that some of the staff were less knowledge about their teas than others. And it showed when they could not aid us in our questions. In fact, one of my guests was a better guide for me than they were.
You smelled the mango in the “Geisha blossom tea, it tasted like a green tea with peach blossoms. Another of us had the “Darjeeling princess tea” for its great name, not unlike the “Grand wedding”.
My tea too had a great name. I wanted to indulge in a tea with a show, so requested and got one of their blooming buds. This was not part of the regular set menu tea list that you could choose from. But I was willing to pay a little more, to get even more of an indulgence during this service. Here, the tea leaves were bundled into a ball. When hot water is added, the heat and liquid causes the leaves to expand, causing the ball to unfurrow. In my case an orange flower “bloomed”, but not much else. I asked to take what was left of the bulb home, to steep it longer and hope for a better outcome. However the manger was kind enough to send me home with not only one, but two new tea balls. A surprise I didn’t get until I went to the boil the water.
I continue to splurge on the $32 “Chic” teatime menu. It was an average price to pay for a tea tower, a little less for a little less food. In hindsight I should have gone the final mile and shelled out $7 more for the full “fortune” tea set menu. With it I would have gotten my choice of either a croque monsieur or a croque salmon for the first course, scones or a dessert patisserie for the second, and three of their TWG tea macarons for finale.
However, with the “Chic” it was either scones or a dessert with three finger sandwiches. I was lucky to be able to have both the scones and my choice of dessert from their trolley. Our server accidentally forgot to key in my order, so offered up scones in its place, to ease the wait.
This petite selection of finger sandwiches included an egg salad sandwich, one with smoked salmon, and another with tomato and chicken. The “Mimosa egg sandwich” featured an aioli and mirror quail eggs. It had a great creamy yolk, and despite its gel-like appearance it didn’t dribble the slightest when you cut into it. The “Smoked salmon and horseradish cream with nori and genmaicha furikake” was smokey with horseradish, and reminence of sushi with the fresh toppings, salted seaweed, and starchy base. And the “Smokey Russian tea infused tomato bread with pesto chicken and stracciatella cheese” was cheese forward, with a mild flavour of tomato. As a whole, none of the sandwiches offered more than a taster, each featured tea and was light enough to not mask any of our fine tea for sipping.
For my patisserie from their tea trolley, I went with more my eyes and less my tastebuds. This is a Mille-feuille, it is a French pastry made up of three layers of puff pastry alternating with two layers of pastry cream. This one was topped with a hibiscus flavoured mousse and berries. The pastry crackled with every cut, its flaky layers were as light as the piped cream between them. The berries gave you a freshness, and the chocolate ladybug and leaf, some flare.
The pair of scones came in a plain butter and a raisin. Each couple had a spread of clotted cream in a mini dish and cloche, and some of their tea infused jellies. There was no hiding the smokiness of the tea in each jelly, truly the highlight on an already pretty delicious scone. It was light and buttery, and you weren’t left wanting anything else. And here I thought my guests were silly for choosing it over the desserts below. Whereas the desserts were lovely, this was what was memorable, and what I would return for. And it would have to be with the jam of course.
The others got the $19 “1837” tea set. It gave diners a choice of their two scones or two muffins with TWG tea jelly and whipped cream, or one of their “TWG tea patisserie”. Those who had the scones found their’s were no different from the scones I had earlier.
The “Singapore surprise” was distinct with it’s creme burlee-like topping, made using 1837 black tea. Inside it was custard and berries, a nice creamy and tangy contrast of the caramelized sugar-crunch and sweetness above.
The “Geisha blossom cake” was both sweet and tea forward. A creamy top, a cakey centre and a cookie crumble base. Texture wise this was my favourite.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Their teas were truly some of the best I have had. And although I don’t think I could afford it regularly, I don’t mind treating myself to a pot and more of their savoury eats and sweet treats now and again. There was so much I wanted try, and if everything is of the same calibre as what we had above, it is definitely worth coming back for. Don’t deny your cravings.