Tea Houses: Fancy A Cuppa?

Once upon a time…

……there were “Lyon’s Corner Tea Houses” at practically every street corner in London, England. Those were the years when I worked for the Canadian Branch of the Lyon’s Tea Company who, in true imperial fashion, was trying to get people in all parts of the British Dominion to drink tea instead of coffee. They were only partially successful in that quest. Granted, Canadians drank some tea, but it was mainly the immigrants from some tea-drinking countries who did so.

Most Canadians drank coffee of a watery kind which was unacceptable to many immigrants, specifically those from Italy or Turkey and other Mediterranean countries, who preferred theirs black and strong. The Professional Tea Taster at Lyon’s Tea in Canada was Hamish Watters, a Welshman “imported” by them from England, became my Mentor in all matters relating to tea and coffee. That included the blending and tasting of tea and the roasting of coffee on the premises of the company.

Perhaps Hamish was hoping that I, as a new immigrant, would learn from him and someday teach my children not to be “barbaric Canadians” (as he called them) who adulterated their tea and coffee with cream and sugar. I sometimes wonder if I have been successful in that, since all in my family still drink coffee with milk, like their mother taught us. Even with sugar for some of them! Oh well, so some of us became “Coffee-Barbarians”, but we do compensate for this bad habit by drinking a lot of organic herbal teas without any additives.

Tea with milk and cookiesThe filling of the tea bags preferred by Canadians was a precarious affair involving a tall tower-like part of the building, on top of which the different teas were blended, a process which made little sense to me because they were all “broken” leaves of various sorts of teas. But I was put in charge of importing the teas and that aspect was not covered within my responsibilities.

The term “orange pekoe tea” relates back to the 1600’s when the best of the imported teas were reserved for the Royal Family, the “House of Orange”. The tea grading system adopted the term “orange pekoe”. It was one of the first public relations attempts to make people believe that they were drinking the same tea as the Royal Family.

I was also put in charge of customer complaints. Cutting the crates open in the Tower created a lot of wood chips, as well as ripped out crate nails, some of which found their way into the tea bags. Naturally, the Customers complained, and it was my task to send them an apology letter and a free box of tea bags. Most complaints were in writing, but some of them by telephone were anything but pleasant.

Incidentally, Canadians still prefer to get their tea in little bags with a string attached, so that they can fish it out at the end of the steeping time. Some just leave the bag in the cup for a second steeping. My Mentor Hamish Watters would have a field day with that habit. I can’t even imagine him commenting about someone hanging up used tea bags on a laundry line to dry and use for a second time. And let’s also not get into placing tea bags on your eyelids for women who want to improve the appearance of their faces and reduce dark circles, puffiness, redness and other irritating signs around their eyes. It may work, but it is not really related to preparing or drinking tea!

There are only two establishments which call themselves “Tea Houses” in the Southern Georgian Bay Area:

Royal Tea storefront

RoyalTea on King is a tea house at 256 King Street in Midland that we have published a review on, which you can read here.  Hours: open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. all week. Phone: (705) 245-4832 Reservations and Website: royalteaonking.ca

Presotea Ontario is a Taiwanese global franchise teahouse, claiming to have 370 Franchises across Canada. They insist on providing freshness and healthiness in drinks, including freshly made bubble tea, fruit tea, and slushes. Their location at 41 Beach Drive, Unit F, Wasaga Beach is in the frequently closed area of the beach (with storm floodings, winter snow and ice conditions), where a long survival of the business appears doubtful.
Website: www.presotea.ca       Phone (647) 218-6688

Tea Houses in other parts of Canada:
There are Tea Houses in Vancouver (4), Montreal (3) and perhaps also Presotea Franchises in some smaller cities and towns throughout Canada. You will find them on the Internet under “Tea Houses” if you wish to do so.


Written by

Peter Iden is a resident of Wasaga Beach and a Naturalist and Photographer who has a broad range of knowledge of the natural world. Peter is also a volunteer Warden for the Piping Plover Recovery Programme with the Friends of Nancy Island.

Email: cmis-cbc@rogers.com

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