I first wandered into the Camellia Sinensis Teahouse in Montréal during a summer road trip across the country. It was around the corner from the Jean Talon Marché where our friend was taking us on a neighbourhood tasting tour of Montréal’s Little Italy, including succulent oysters, artisan sausages, and delectable duck meats. Finding the unassuming Teahouse entrance and enjoying some nice iced matcha and nerdy tea conversation with the staff inside was a highlight of the day (it also relieved Rob of having to listen to my tea gibberish for ten minutes).
So of course I got when Camellia Sinensis reached out with some samples. When I think quality Canadian tea, and especially ‘Quebec Tea,’ they’re one of the first to come to mind.
They opened their doors in 1998, after founder Hugo Americi’s travels through Prague inspired him to open a teahouse blending Bohemian lounge and Asian tea culture. (Kind of like my favourite tea house in Sarajevo). Since then they’ve come a long way, and their business has grown to include a tea school, three store fronts, and published books. Their website won first prize for ‘Best Tea Website’ at the Word Tea Awards in Las Vegas in 2016—my favourite part of their website is the World Map, where you can zoom in on a region of the world to select your teas from.
Another cool aspect of their business is all their Canadian-made herbal infusions, like the bright purple La Rose Pourpre I try below. They also have a selection of teaware from independent artists around the world (including Quebec), which gets a thumbs-up from me.
If you’re ever in Montréal, I recommend you pay them a visit.
Sencha Ashikubo from Japan
One of my favourite forms of Japanese sencha, Sencha Ashikubo comes from the Ashikubo valley in Japan. It’s dried over a long period using wood fires—the traditional way. It’s less grassy and more mild than regular senchas, and it’s toasty butteriness with a hint of fruitiness is a perfect beginner tea for Japanese tea drinkers.
As a matter of fact, when I do presentations and want to bring along some tea for people to try, I often bring this one because it’s so smooth to drink and most people find it surprisingly delicious (especially if they’ve never had good green tea, but that’s another story).
Senchas are Japanese green teas. The most popular type of Japanese green teas, in fact—80% of tea produced in Japan is sencha. The Ashikubo valley is a remote area near Shizuoka city. It has a foggy climate and is very hilly, making it a prime tea-growing site. It’s ashikubo sencha has become more and more known worldwide as a unique and high-quality tea.
This one was buttery smooth, almost no astringency with toasty hints of bok choy, a hint of sweet peas and mango.
Preparation: 75˚C, 3 minute steep.
Buy Sencha Ashikubo from Camellia Sinensis.
Shan Lin Xi from Taiwan
Oh Taiwanese oolongs, you are my weakness. These dried leaves were particularly beautiful, with colouring from lime green to dark pine rolled into these little gems. Is it weird that I kept calling them ‘dank little nuggs,’ in my head? You tell me.
These beauties came from Taiwan’s highlands, and the floral cherry pit aromas totally blew my socks off (bye socks). There was this great stone-fruit sweetness and a rich, creamy, mouth texture that made me think of coconut (you know, like the way a piña colada coats your mouth).
This was a delight to drink, and after my notes from observing the wet leaves just say, “big-ass, unfurled leaves.” They were beautiful. Like I said, I’m a sucker for Taiwanese oolongs, but I’d still say this was my favourite of the bunch.
Preparation: 95˚, Gong fu style, rinse the leaves once in hot water, then 1st infusion (40 seconds), 2nd infusion (30 seconds), 3rd infusion (45 seconds), and more infusions doubling the steep time after that. I think I did about six altogether.
Buy Shan Lin Xi from Camellia Sinensis.
La Rose Pourpre Organic from Quebec
When I first opened the bag from Camellia Sinensis, I have to admit I was a little freaked out. “This isn’t tea! What are these monstrous purple leaves? Holy hell.” Once I calmed down and got my shit together, I read the ingredients of this herbal infusion—raspberry, purple basil, peppermint, wild rose buds—and boiled my water.
Guys, I’m not a huge herbal infusion drinker, there’s no tea in it, eh? No real camellia sinensis plant. Nonetheless, I know most people don’t actually think of herbal infusions and real tea as different, so it’s a room I’ve learned to be comfortable in. Guys, can I tell you something? I was STOKED about how violet these brew was.
Like, it’s freaking amazing. It’s what Sailor Mini Moon would drink before jumping into battle with the Sailor Scouts. It was so cool! The leading taste was definitely basil. I didn’t get much of a ‘rose’ taste, but I think the rose buds contributed to the floral nose and the full-mouth body feel. There’s the aromatic basil, the sweet tart hint of raspberries, a slight astringency and a nice, light, peppermint finish. From a herbalist perspective, it might be recommended for anyone having digestive issues from stress. Once I calmed down from my violet haze of excitement, it was pretty calming to drink.
Preparation: 90˚C, 6 minutes
Buy La Rose Pourpre from Camellia Sinensis.
So that’s some Camellia Sinensis Teahouse for you today. Be sure to check them out in Montreal! Tag me @melhadtea on Instagram if you do. Speaking of Instagram, Camellia Sinensis has a very charming Instagram account. They recently went on a trip to Japan and I loved following along with all their Japanese tea adventures there.
One last note/fun fact: The next time you want to impress your French friends, wish them a “Bonne dégustation!” before they drink their tea.