They just opened up a month or so ago, so I decided to check them out between exams.
Very modern; their teas are apparently 1:1 farm-sourced, and all of the brewing is done in these app-controlled vacuum machines set up behind the bar (pictured on their site). Takes longer than a single gongfu infusion, but less than a traditional western tea wait-time. Jury’s still out on whether it improves or detracts from the taste, but I ordered their moonlight white while there and thought it turned out quite nice.
The first time I visited the door was locked; but I made my way over there again today after visiting Cha Le.
It was busy. Like SUPER busy. There was no seating, but everyone was incredibly gracious, and a spot opened up after a wait. I was a little intimidated on what to get, since their specialty is definitely puer and it’s still not something I feel very confident about. I went for their amber oolong, which was a medium roast of some sort, and enjoyed it. First steep was all roast, but pleasant; second steep opened up into something nutty and it got more floral with subsequent steeps, with a bit of almond.
It ended up dying down after about an hour, and I got to chat with people there; I shared a sheng with a couple that came in, and I wish I’d asked which one it was exactly, because it was very nice. Started out very strong, but mellowed into a pleasant, woodsy, slightly drying tea; someone said ‘citrusy’ but I’m not sure I quite got that. I’d say almost pine or cedar-like.
The shop itself is tiny, which made it really crowded when it got busy; but it’s very welcoming, and it smelt like they had sandalwood incense going when I first came in (I’m a sucker for sandalwood). It’s definitely a sit-down time of place, although they offer tea to go (I thought of getting that, because it was so crowded, but was offered a seat and ended up getting a session instead).
I ended up staying long after my tea stopped producing flavour.
I feel it’s tiny and perfectly hidden against the rush outside; people walk by obliviously, carrying their Davidstea cups from the one a few shops down. The black exterior and long, rectanglular space means you don’t immediately notice it from the outside, and it’s great for people-watching.
It’s a TARDIS thing. The exterior looks tiny, but it’s bigger on the inside.
The bar though, is not designed for people with legs like mine in-mind. It was uncomfortable to sit at the bar (which does not have an overhang); the seats are designed for people with shorter proportions so that they may still sit relatively close to the bar, but my knees prevented that, and it was quite a lean to reach my cup.
But the cups are large bowls you can hold in both hands to warm them, especially after walking here in the Vancouver rain. And they’re so shallow that they require a bit more involvement and attention so you don’t spill them, which seems intentional to keep you focused on the tea.
I ended up here after the Tea Festival sold out before I could get in, and it was a very nice compromise since they were one of the companies whose booths I’d wanted to check out at said Festival as it was.
Thought I’d finally make a post about this place.
I’ve been showing up for several weeks now, and it’s quickly becoming my favourite physical storefront. It makes me miss Tealicious painfully.
I enjoy the storefront. It and Tealicious have very different looks, but very similar (personal) feels. I’m chronically awkward in small, personable shops, but I’m getting better (I hope) (I assume everyone I meet thinks I’m off; social problems), and I’ve even been in to sit down and have tea at their bar a few times.
Oh yes, they also have a tea bar on top of their tea-to-go.
SOKO’s a very traditional-turn-modern themed tea shop, carrying a lot of mostly Japanese pots (side handled are popular); of Chinese ware they have a small selection of gaiwans and yixings, and a single puehr knife for sale.
This is well-reflected in their tea bar experience, which offers (check their site) a gong fu and senchado setup; it appears as if they have a yixing dedicated to each of their puehrs, which you then use when you sit down. With senchado you use one of their side-handled teapots, and they also offer any tea in a gaiwan, (for these three options you’re given a tea tray, the utensils, and unlimited hot water) as well as offering to serve you one of their matchas whisked in a chawan.
One of the distinctions I LIKE about SOKO, is that they don’t call their sit-down-matcha “Chanoyu”, which is very sensitive to the fact that Chanoyu is a very specific ceremony and not a simple method of brewing tea.
Another fun fact: I brought up shinobi-cha with them a week or so ago, and after explaining what it was, I was invited back to give it a try; they charged me for senchado, but supplied icecubes instead of hot water.
So. If you’re in the area, want to try shinobi-cha/practice how to handle a gaiwan/practice techniques with yixing teapots, I’d definitely recommend showing up. Shinobi-cha isn’t on their menu, but try asking for it anyways. Say AJ sent you.
As a last note: the side-handled kyusus they use for serving are porcelain (I understand higher-iron content pots are more favoured for shinobi-cha, as are handleless houbins and shiboridashis), and the serving gaiwans are glass (which I’ve found are trickier to handle than porcelain).
Great for teaware, and other interesting knicknacks like chopsticks and bento boxes, bowls, Moleskin notebooks, postcards, artwork, and a solid selection of Tea Books.
It’s a little hard to say much about the place, as I decided to go on a Saturday which is usually the busiest day of the week ANYWHERE. But they made sure not to forget anyone despite how difficult it was to squeeze into the little area with all the people bustling in and out.
They’ve got a nice cabinet of pots and cups, and I would have liked to have gotten a pot to sit down and enjoy, but it was better that I hadn’t, because I ended up offering my seat up to an elderly lady and her friend.
I wish I could go back on a less busy day, but Saturday is really the only day I’m free. Perhaps on my next Reading Break… Still, I like the feel of the place.
1.) It’s a booth in the market building itself. They’ve got all the tea tins attached to the wall, looking a bit like their logo. It’s awesome.
Sadly, when I went, they hadn’t gotten their debit machines yet, and I had no cash. So no tea for me this time. I plan to return!
2.) Edit: Stuffed my pockets with loose change and went back after class today. They’ve got a Dorian Grey! And it was delicious. I will have to bring more cash next time and go home with a bag.
They’ve also got more diversity in their teas than most tea shops. So many teas I want to try. I hung out there long after I’d finished my tea and just chatted with the staff; it was a lot of fun. They’re planning on getting even MORE teas in—we discussed a few we’d like to try, including tarry lapsang souchong and teas from the estate in Hawaii. She mentioned giving tarry a trial-run in the shop (she has lapsang, and it’s been surprisingly popular). I’d definitely show up to try it.
3.) EditEdit: I’m quickly evolving into a full-blown regular. I was there when they got their debit machines! I was there when the man called asking if he could come in an install them today, and I joked about the chances that I might still be there, hours later, when he did. And then lo and behold! I got to be the very first debit transaction. I feel special. I’ve also met a few of the other regulars as well. It was all very exciting. This time I managed to stay all the way till closing. If classes weren’t in the way, I’d probably be there at opening.
During this visit, I picked up three teas to bring home with me: Dorian Grey, Cream Irish Breakfast,Organic Wild Blueberry Black.
Their website is still in the works, so although I’ve added them to the database, there isn’t much information yet. Or photos.
This Tea Desire just opened up in Coquitlam Centre. I’m pretty much ecstatic having a tea shop so close. And they’re still hiring, from what I understand.
The place is very clean and brightly lit, and very wide open and friendly. Along with their own tea line (which is displayed in the typical setup of a wall of large tins of loose tea behind the counter), they also sell and promote a lot of Tea Forte products and teas, as well as Mighty Leaf and another brand I didn’t recognize, and have since forgotten the name of.
I ended up purchasing Monk’s Blend, Golden Yunnan and Irish Cream before finally tearing myself away and heading home. The two girls that worked there were cheery, friendly, and quite helpful. Not the pushy salesmen type.
The place was FILLED with tea accessories—all the walls lined with tea pots and mugs, and a section to one side reserved for a full setup of matcha equipment. They also sold many beautiful tea tins, including special collector’s Tea Desire ones. In the centre they had a setup dedicated specifically to just tea sets (pots with matching teacups) and travel tea tumblers (including Libre, but with MANY other types as well). They also had a samovar, although I think it was just for show.
They also had a full selection of yixing teapots; I am glad to know that if I ever make the jump to buying one, there’s a place nearby with a good selection. They were beautiful.
Overall, the shop is beautiful, sleek and modern. And it’s close enough that I’ll probably be visiting often. There is no tea tasting or any such setup yet, as they haven’t had the health inspector in yet, but they hope to set one up soon.
Yet another four!
I didn’t actually stay for tea here, because it’s strictly by reservation, from what I gleaned (it’s such a small place, and doesn’t have a large kitchen, so the nice woman explained how twenty-four hours advance notice was needed for her to prepare things); I was only there to look at retail anyways. The whole place (or what I could see of it) wasn’t much larger than the first (retail, tasting, teatogo area) room of the Urban Tea Merchant. Tiny! But in a wonderful, homey sort of way. And quite British.
She sells her teas in prepackaged bags of 50g or 100g, which was pretty different—Murchie’s weighs and packages your loose leaf in front of you, as does the Urban Tea Merchant, if you don’t want the specific weights they sell in tins. And her bags are so professional and nice—these small, plasticy metallic green ones, with the logo and type on the front, and rolled down very tightly (reminds me of buying coffee beans—not that I have, but I’ve seen the bags). She also sells a variety of very nice tea tins, the largest probably able to hold about 4oz. The smallest were these TINY little ones (could probably hold 1/2oz tops) that I desperately wanted for travel purposes.
She was very polite and patient, and let me smell a few teas before I ultimately purchased a 50g bag (metric!) of 1001 Nights, as well as a little gold tin (with stars) to hold it. I was thinking of getting her Canadian Maple Tea, but perhaps next time. I’m sure I’ll be back.
Edit: Decided to add on to this because I ended going back to buy more teas. French Canadian Maple, of course, and I intended to buy her Black Ginger as well, but she gave me a free sample instead. She is actually on Steepster now, (tealady1 if you would like to say hello), and she brought up Steepster in conversation and I said that yes, I was AJ (I was pretty embarrassed), and she had commented on my post about 1001 Nights. She said I didn’t look like AJ, and I had to explain that I’m a big Doctor Who fanatic and that I cycle my icon through the different Doctors (I was actually thinking of changing it to Six before I left today, but realized that I didn’t have any good ones right now; I think I will go find one now). I also noticed that she had a glass n’ glass Libre on display in her shop, which I thought was really cool. I meant to point it out, because I have the glass n’ poly one, but I ultimately forgot to.
So I ended up coming away with two more teas (French Canadian Maple and Black Ginger), as well as three tins; one large enough to hold the Maple, and two small travel tins (the ones I spoke of earlier!). As always, she was very cheerful and helpful.
I’m not very good at rating places. I think I’ll probably just end up giving them all the same rating, because I’ll be afraid Five Stars is “Too Perfect”, but that the place is still pretty awesome, and deserves a four at least. Edit: Bumped up to five after my second visit.
I went to Murchie’s today, and then made my way here—a little nervously, I might add. But I stepped inside and within no time was greeted by an impossibly friendly older woman who gave me a tour of the whole place (and poured me a sample black tea, which was quite nice). She wasn’t intimidating (surprisingly!), and left me alone to browse—she returned once to give her opinion on some teas, and showed me how to open sample tins to take a sniff.
The retail area is fairly small, but I have a thing for wandering in tight circles for hours on end when browsing (I’m very indecisive). Off to one side they have a setup where a tea representative reviews and answers questions about tea (apparently I’d missed him/her, because there was no one there). I ended up ordering Place Saint Marc to go, which was pleasant. I didn’t end up buying anything else (Jillian was right, stuff’s EXPENSIVE)—I think I’ll have to try a few teas and pick a favourite before I commit to a thirty dollar tin.
I actually came home and resteeped the teabag of Place Saint Marc. Mm.
Edit: I wish you could write more than one review, like with teas. Gah. Anyways, made my way here after hitting up Value Vintage and Chapters. I got Madame to go, a delicious smoky berry tea, and bonded with the employee who did the transaction, because he is apparently a fan of smoky teas as well. Awesome.
His shift finished soon after that, so I hung around the place, browsed, and spoke to the other employees. I was also the only direct witness when a scruffy man came in and very obviously shoplifted a fancy lighter. And then I did something stupid!
I confronted him and politely asked him to put the lighter back. He waved me off, so I asked him again, “what lighter?” “the blue one you took from that shelf”. It didn’t really work out very well, and I couldn’t understand what he was saying, really—he pulled out a different lighter at one point, silver, and said something like “my lighter is right here”. Waved it at me, but by now the employees were looking. He rushed out of the store after that, and I didn’t stop him. He was scruffy and thin, but still bigger than me (which isn’t hard, I am a small man). All I’ve got going for me is a sharp left hook, not a strong one.
The employees came over after that and I explained what had happened. The lady made a few calls, but we concluded there wasn’t much that could be done.
In retrospect, it was kind of a stupid split-second decision, especially since I think it was a combination lighter and wickcutter. And after I bought tea and left, I was fairly on-edge and paranoid until I got home.
I haven’t been to many tea shops (as I’ve said, I’m incredibly shy, and thus entering places like this on my own is a nerve-racking experience, to say the least), but I love this one. It’s large enough to seem… industrialized, I suppose, and less personal, which is enough to make it easier for shy folk like me to enter, but once inside it’s quite obvious that it’s a very friendly, personal environment, to the point that the employees are definitely on first-name terms with a few regulars.
It’s a twoonie a pot, and a little extra for whatever pastries you want on top of that (I believe they had a few sandwiches too), so it’s not a very huge High Tea/Afternoon Tea experience, where you pay twenty-something for the whole experience (which I am sure is very nice, but tea shops like that also scare me).
They set out a silver platter, and you get a teacup and saucer, teapot, silver spoon, and a little holder for your used tea bags. Yes, sadly, it’s teabags (I’m not sure if it’s all teabags, though, just their earl grey, apparently). Also, you get refills of hot water for additional steeps at no extra charge.
The tea additives are on a little table to one side, which I’ve read complaints about on other sites detailing Murchie experiences, but I thought it was fine. They offer milk—and cream for those who use it, but no one did when I was there—and also a wide variety of sweeteners, including honey (in little packages—you know, like the ones you get at McDonald’s for your chicken nuggets), which made me happy.
They’ve got a Big Drawer Of Samples to one side, where you can buy little tied bags of different types of loose leafs. Other than that, it seems that all their loose leaf is sold over the counter, and they only stock the bagged stuff on the shelves (too bad for me, because I couldn’t work up the courage to ask the lady about buying anything—that would involve talking, you see). I went home with a tin of bagged Uva Ceylon, that day; tnd the tin could definitely be reused for loose leaf (it had a second, tighter lid on the inside for extra freshness).
They also offer Tea On The Go, the usual stuff in a paper cup. If it wasn’t sort of out of the way from my daily commute, I would probably stop off there for tea on my way to class. I suppose if I got up early enough in the morning…