Yixing Tang and Michelle Pierce Hamilton. Photo: Spencer Drake
BY BRYAN LAVERY
Tea sommelier and nutritionist Michelle Pierce Hamilton and her business partner Yixing Tang opened The Tea Lounge in a small charming house on Piccadilly Street east of Richmond. They recently launched a menu of cold drinks, iced teas and vegan-friendly lattes. Matcha, London Fog and cinnamon-orange spiced tea lattes are available hot or iced. There is afternoon tea service one Sunday per month. Book a sitting at the monthly Tea Flight Nights to experience a comparative tasting. A small in-house scratch menu and baked goods and healthful snacks from Petit Paris Crêperie & Pâtisserie, Boombox Bakeshop and Bliss Specialty Foods add to the experience. tealoungelondon.com
London may be part of the explosion of indie cafés serving small-batch coffee roasts, which are part grab-and-go café and part bakery, but we’re a community of dedicated tea enthusiasts too. And now, with the rise of the wellness tea market, we are seeing several innovative tea-inspired concepts. These indie hot spots are about tea craft and accessibility and offer us a well-curated selection of ethically-sourced single-origin teas, blends, tisanes and infusions.
The upswing in the popularity of tea translates to enhanced flavour profiles, and blends that add fruits, flowers and spices for a richer experience. Pairings of tea with herbs, spices and fruits for beverages, tea-infused jams, condiments, and desserts, cocktails, cold brews and ferments are all on-trend.
The Tea Lounge
Certified tea sommelier and nutritionist Michelle Pierce Hamilton and her business partner Yixing Tang opened The Tea Lounge in a small and charming house on Piccadilly Street east of Richmond Row last fall.
Millwork shelving showcases an interesting selection of unique and traditional teaware. The focal point is a 10-foot “Wall of Tea,” featuring over 100 hand-selected teas from around the world.
The café has many seating options, including a rustic conference table with over-sized hand-carved dining chairs for groups and classes. A long crimson sofa accents the Indo-Asian decorative features of the eclectic central lounge. There is additional seating on the front porch in the warm weather.
Tang and Pierce Hamilton offer a premium tea service experience, serving ethically-sourced single-origin teas and tisanes from around the world, as well as retailing striking teaware. The pair offers traditional Chinese, Japanese and English teas, each with its own teaware and serving style. Chinese “grandpa style” is another option on offer. Or you can simply get a quick cup to go. Guests can sip meticulously-sourced teas while experiencing their choice of traditional or contemporary style tea service in the laid-back lounge.
Whether you’re in the mood for a tasty treat, wholesome ingredients, or have food sensitivities, delicious baked good and healthful snacks from Petit Paris Crêperie & Pâtisserie, Boombox Bakeshop and Bliss Specialty Foods add to the tea experience. A menu of light and nourishing food offers a daily wholesome made-from-scratch soup prepared by the culinary team at The Spruce on Wellington just around the corner. Other items include organic Mason jar layered-salads with names like Plant Protein, Fruitoxidant, Kitchen Sink, Greek Out and Sexy Mexi.
There is an “All ’Bout Cheese Board” featuring a selection of local Ontario artisanal cheeses like Gunn’s Hill Cheese, served with condiments, nuts and other accompaniments that they switch up, to keep things interesting. For the plant-based crowd, the “Nuts for Cheese Board” features a selection of artisanal, handcrafted, and vegan cheeses made from cultured organic cashews.
What makes great tea? Pierce Hamilton believes, “It starts with excellent quality leaf, with permission to naturally unfurl and fully reveal its flavours and aromas. Not crushed or crammed into a little bag or a ball.” The tea lounge owners create blends that don’t diminish tea’s nutrients, antioxidants and essential oils. They do the legwork, sourcing and selecting teas and tisanes from around the globe. An informative and exciting schedule of classes and events is also part of The Tea Lounge experience. www.tealoungelondon.com