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Montreal High Tea

High Tea, Low Tea and Afternoon Tea in Montreal


Montreal High Tea, Low Tea and Afternoon Tea
There is but a handful of places in Montreal that offer the high tea experience. But before I get to that, I'd like to point out a glaring misnomer.


What Is High Tea Exactly?
Often believed to be an upper crust British-born ceremony -- did you know it was actually Portuguese aristocracy who introduced tea to England? -- complemented by scones, crumpets, dainty cucumber sandwiches, idle gossip and raised pinky fingers at say, 4 p.m., high tea is NOT at all what most of the world thinks it is. Rather, high tea is the polar opposite of bourgeois ritualism, at least traditionally.

Otherwise known as “meat tea,” high tea was observed by the working class who only got home at maybe 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. after a long day of manual labor, so their tea time was the equivalent of dinner, a heavy meal composed of cheese, vegetables, bread and budget-permitting, meat. Tea at the time, think the last half of the 18th and first half of the 19th century, was a precious, expensive commodity due to the difficulties Britain had in securing it from China, so labourers were very careful about their tea intake, if they could afford it at all.

In contrast to high tea was the well-to-do's earlier daily dose of low tea, also called afternoon tea, a snacky interlude between lunch and dinner between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. featuring biscuits and all sorts of finger foods to keep hunger at bay until supper time, which back then was around 8 p.m. Various sources speculate that it was called low tea since the upper classes usually spent their tea time chatting on low parlor chairs with the teapot and finger foods of the day placed on yesteryear's version of today's coffee table whereas the working class had their high tea on higher tables in or near the kitchen.

But since so many modern-day people confuse the term, it's safe to assume establishments offering a “high tea” service are referring to the traditional upscale afternoon tea experience, which generally involves selecting a tea of your choice served in individual teapots and a delightful assortment of finger foods positioned on a tiered tray, salty mini-sandwiches and hors d'oeuvres on the bottom, scones with cream and jam in the middle, and small pastries and cakes on the top tray.

So. Where can one experience high tea in Montreal?


1. Le Maître Chocolatier

montreal high tea rooms salons houses maitre chocolatier
Photo © Evelyn Reid
Located in the heart of Montreal's Museum Quarter, Le Maître Chocolatier opens its small, intimate salon for one and only one reason. Tea time. Authentic, old world afternoon tea time. Weekends usually feature a live chamber music ensemble.


2. Birks Café par Europea

montreal high tea rooms salons houses birks cafe europea
Photo courtesy of Birks Café par Europea
Birks Café par Europea is led by one of Montreal's top executive chefs, Jérôme Ferrer, whose team proposes a glamorous afternoon tea experience, the closest thing to a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" you can experience in Montreal.


3. Gryphon d'Or

montreal high tea rooms houses salons gryphon d'or
Photo courtesy of Gryphon d'Or
The heart of Montreal high tea destinations, this is where you come for soul food with your tea time. And to fill up. Gryphon d'Or's afternoon tea offering proposes the best bang for your buck in the city with copious amounts of Celtic fare for a low high tea price. You might very well need a doggie bag when you're done. Just watch out for those scones, also sold at the tea room's adjacent bakery. Many a patron claims Gryphon d'Or baking the bestest, freshest ones you'll ever find in Montreal.


4. Nocochi Café

montreal high tea rooms salons houses nocohi cafe
Photo courtesy of Vivel
Come for the tea. Stay for the cookies. Adorable, tiny, bite-sized Persian cookies which make me lose all notion of portion control. Glorious, pretty cookies confected with chick pea flour, cardamom, rose water, honey, and nuts like pistachios and almonds. Mini, rapturously silky pastries flown in from Dubai that are gluten-free and in some cases egg-free and dairy-free too. It is borderline torture writing about Nocochi Café's cookies without there being any in close proximity of my computer. This, coming from someone who is not much of a cookie fan to begin with. And these babies are a little pricey, but I DON'T CARE. I want them. I want them ALL.


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