Totem Tea and Spice will surely add a kick to your day
It was a blustery winter afternoon when a handwritten chalkboard sign beckoned me into Totem Tea and Spice, promising hot apple caramel tea lattes. It’s been a beautiful love affair ever since.
The shop is located just a few blocks away from Concordia’s Loyola campus. Radiating warmth, the homey café is an instant mood lifter.
At the end of February, owner Julie Pederson moved the small walk-up, one-room shop to its new location at street level. The vibe is like a modern English tea room — white paint with grey and exposed brick accents, eclectic frames scattered on the walls and teacups hanging from the light fixtures that Pederson made herself.
A handful of tables provide sit down room for a good number of customers, but the space is usually quiet, inviting easy conversation or a good atmosphere to get some work done.
The shop is an expansion of Pederson’s online business of the same variety.
“I wanted a space to be able to grow a local clientele and interact with customers,” she said.
Pederson keeps everything in the shop close to home: all the teas are organic and everything is from local Canadian suppliers.
“That’s something that’s very important to me,” she said. “My customers look for healthy options.”
The new space is bigger, brighter and offers up an improved menu. In addition to tea and tarts, customers can now enjoy fresh sandwiches, soups, cookies and cakes. To boot, the menu is vegetarian friendly; I chowed down on a fresh vegetable and avocado sandwich with a red pepper spread and was wholly satisfied.
Lunch specials are served up daily, and revolve around a hearty vegetarian soup and savory scone, accompanied of course by your choice of tea.
Most importantly, of course, is the seemingly endless selection of 65 loose leaf teas to choose from, each with a cute quirky name. My personal favorite would have to be the Karma Sutra, a floral and chai blend that’s delicate and warms you up from the inside out.
For my fellow chocoholics, I recommend the Red Velvet, a tea that channels the flavours of the classic cake. There’s also the Cocoa Chanel and the Caramel Latte, which are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.
For the health conscious, sip on one of the more holistic organic teas, which boast properties from helping digestion to curing the common cold.
As far as snacks go, the Melting Moment cookies are sure to live up to their name. The orange blossom butter dough pairs decadently with a creamy lemon zest filling that makes my mouth water just thinking of it.
Totem also offers a selection of 100 spices to take home. Packaged neatly in gift sets with or without the loose leaf teas, there are salts for barbeque, baking and everything in between. The Java Love Rub, made with coffee beans, is a customer favourite that pairs well with red meats and chicken.
All the teas and treats are available to enjoy in house or to take home. For the latter option, infuser mugs and teapots come in a variety of shapes and sizes so you can steep your favorite tea wherever you are.
To top it off, Totem is very student friendly; a full meal of a sandwich and tea latte is only $7. A tea alone is $2.50, while a latte goes for $3.50. Everyone from the Royal West Academy boys to the older women who frequent the yoga studio upstairs seem to love this place. Honestly, there’s very little not to love.
Totem Tea and Spice is located on 51 Westminster Ave. N.
Teas and scones will warm the cold soul
Saturn De Los Angeles
As I walked up Parc Ave. on a mild and foggy Friday night, I saw nightclub warriors revelling in their little bubble on the left and students hanging out on the street enjoying each others’ company on the right.
Desperate for a hot drink, I soon discovered this cozy little lounge right at the corner. I walked inside already drenched from the flakey snow melting on my scalp.
A young lady greeted me, enthusiastically offering a pot of delicious Kyoto Cherry flavoured tea to warm my soul.
I couldn’t resist. I gave in and poured myself a cup. At the moment I took that first sip, I was in heaven.
“We’re a tea shop, and a tea [accessory] shop, and a lounge.” said François Philibert, manager of CHAÏ T’ Lounge.
CHAÏ T’ has been in business since the beginning of last fall and operates as an extension of its more bistro-oriented café called El Mundo. Both establishments have the same owner.
The lounge is full during evenings and weekends with the majority of customers coming from McGill University. There’s also a good blend of tourists, local folks and tea aficionados.
“French people are more used to classic teas than the English people, “ said Philibert. “I see [the French] ask for green tea, but the English order more flavoured ones.”
There is a huge selection of tea available ranging from traditional to flavoured, such as the chocolate mint and a vanilla and grenadine flavoured black tea called the Monas blend. Genmaicha, a green tea with roasted rice, is a staff favourite. Kyoto Cherry and Long Island Strawberry are recommended picks.
A tea pot will cost you $3.99 and will give you four to five cups. You can get an extra refill of hot water for a $1.
The macarons and cupcakes are also a popular staple. Macarons go for $1.75 each. There’s also the option of purchasing a box of six for almost $10 or 10 for $15. Each cupcake will cost you $3.49, while you can get a box of six at nearly $20. But don’t let the prices fool you. They’re absolutely filling — and addictive.
They even have locally made scones from a baker in the West Island. What goes better with tea than freshly made scones? Red Velvet cupcakes also grab a lot of attention. There are also S’More and Oreo flavoured variants as well.
Philibert is preparing a new menu for the summer by creating concoctions with naturally flavoured bubble tea (iced cold tea with tapioca bubbles) and tea soda (steeped tea with sparking water).
Philibert explained that it is important to him that CHAÏ T’ Lounge stand out. “There are four coffee shops on the same corner . . . but we wanted something different. Tea [shops] are getting interesting and getting more popular. We thought at the beginning to make it [as such], but we wanted to be a place to relax and study.”
His passion for tea is something that grabs people’s attention, and it is something that he’ll continue to do as CHAÏ T’ Lounge reaches its first year of operation in September.
CHAÏ T’ Lounge is located on 3506 Parc Ave.