Monday, June 4, 2012

Exquisite Afternoon Tea at ShakTea

Shaktea on Urbanspoon Instead of EAT! Vancouver and a free entree at a new French restaurant, I cleared my schedule this weekend to go Eat with Jenny and have a civilized afternoon tea at ShakTea.

I'd been to ShakTea and still had a fond memory of the quality of the food there. The vast selection of tea, however, I must admit is lost on me. I haven't developed any refined tea palate yet, and there's a bleak possibility that I might never get any better appreciation of the stuff. So when we were off to ShakTea, I was really just focussed on the food.

Afternoon Tea Culinary elegance - Main Street style!
Reservations required. $24.95 per person.
Come and join us for an afternoon of indulgence! Afternoon Tea at Shaktea goes beyond English tradition to present a number of thematic fusion menus, inspired by the culinary treasures of various tea-producing countries of the world, created by owner, Maria Ma.
Our current Afternoon Tea menu includes:

  • Tea Service for One (Select from over 75 loose leaf teas from all over the world. Each tea is prepared according to its specific requirements)
  • Miniature Tofu Cucumber Wrap - Finely-sliced carrot, cucumber, and tofu, wrapped in a Peking-duck-style wrap.
  • Tea Egg Sandwich - Open-faced, sliced free-range egg with our house made, Asian-inspired tea dressing.
  • Tsai Lo Mei - Diced Hong-Kong-style vegetarian pork and chicken nestled in a crisp leaf of endive.
  • Freshly baked scone – with Devonshire Cream and our French Earl Grey Fruit Preserves
  • Maple Pecan French Pastry - Flaky and sweet.
  • Macaron
  • Shaktea Tea Truffle - Our handmade truffle made with single-estate chocolate and our Jasmine with Flowers Green Tea.
  • Petit Four

The two three-level trays brought to our table were identical except for the macarons. And for $24.95, they also looked awfully skimpy. Unlike a more typical English afternoon tea service (such as at The Urban Tea Merchant), there aren't any full-size scones or sandwiches, and it looks like there's a lot of free space on the plates. It does end up feeling less filling, but the taste and quality of each piece on the ShakTea ensemble is exquisite.
The plates are arranged with savories on top, baked goods in the middle, and desserts on the bottom.

  • Tea
    • No idea what I wanted and I didn't want to just go with my usual peppermint tea. So I asked for "something weird" and told our server not to tell me what it was, just to surprise me.
    • Asking for a tea recommendation was like pulling teeth, but I could see it from their point of view: If it turned out badly, would I blame them? Finally she got into it and came out with a green tea which she mysteriously declined to identify until after I tasted it. Did it have something icky like bugs? It smelled a bit fruity, but not exactly. Turned out it was Oriental Nights ("Feel the ancient silk road routes with this mesmerizing blend of Chinese green tea, Sencha, Lung Ching, Yi Zhu, cassia bark, lemongrass, pineapple granulate, carrot strips, jatoba, and mullein flowers.") It definitely was different from other green teas I'd had. Not super-special for my uneducated palate, but I had wanted something different, and there it was.
    • Tea at ShakTea comes in a pot with a tea cosy. Something that is different at ShakTea is that they prepare the tea before putting it into your teapot. That means there's no tea bag or loose leaf tea inside the pot that comes to your table. It is "perfectly prepared", neither too weak nor too strong. But that also means you can't just ask for hot water to top it up for seconds. One pot is what you get for your money. No refills, apparently.
  • Miniature Tofu Cucumber Wrap
    • A flat wrap cut into two halves. Of the three savories, this had probably the most sauce. I thought it was slightly over-sauced, leaning on the salty side and covering up any other taste.
  • Tea Egg Sandwich
    • This looked awfully boring -- thin boiled egg slices on baguette -- until you bite it and realize there's a lovely sweet-savory sauce beneath. I'm sure the sauce did have some tea in it, but darned if I could make it out.
    • For boiled eggs, the two thin egg slices (about 2mm thick) looked very neatly cut. No scarred whites (which can sometimes happen when peeling the shell off), no ripped yolks. Only perfect slices end up on your plate.
  • Tsai Lo Mei
    • A one-bite appy that, like the other savories, basically gives you a delightful, savory flavour-burst.
  • Scone, Devonshire Cream, Fruit Preserve
    • You get a somewhat small scone, about twice the size of a ping pong ball.
    • There's a definite buttery aroma and taste to this. Yum!
    • No knife was provided, which may have been an oversight, but I could gently tear the scone apart as they had layers -- more so than many scones, which, when you cut them open, show just a solid mass.
    • The deep red raspberry fruit preserve was so concentrated in flavour that a little went a long way, so the small amount in the small tumbler and the very, very, small spoon (probably the smallest one I've seen ever, that wasn't a toy) was just fine. I even had some left over.
  • Maple Pecan French Pastry
    • The nuts on top kept falling off! Otherwise a good, if thin-ish pastry. Had a lovely sweet (maple?) jam on the inside.
  • Macaron
    • Jenny got the chocolate macaron while I got the strawberry (?) one. I find macarons typically on the very-sweet side, so I offered her mine without so much as a nibble.
  • Tea Truffle
    • We both got a bitter/dark chocolate with a thin shell and creamly dark chocolate on the inside. It was topped by a lovely giant ladybird of possibly white chocolate (I forgot to check -- I just popped the whole thing in my mouth). It was about half the size of the small macaron.
  • Petit Four
    • This was a tiny bowl of possibly milk chocolate, very thin-shelled to maximize the sharp and strongly lemony taste of the lemon cream inside. It was about half the size of the macaron.

Overall, I found each bite of the afternoon tea tray items to be surprisingly flavourful. Not too filling here (if the scone didn't do it for you, you're kinda outta luck) so if you're anticipating a light lunch or to share a single order of afternoon tea (which you sometimes can, depending on how it's composed), afternoon tea at ShakTea is not the way to go.

At $24.95 per person, plus tax and tip, the bill came to $64.27! As afternoon teas / high teas go, this is a moderate price, and the tastiness of every item you get more than makes up in quality where it might look short on quantity.

Special thanks to Jenny who made time in her busy schedule juggling five graphics design contracts to come out on a beautiful, sunny, Sunday afternoon. She's been a bit busy with that recently, but will hopefully blog about her own experience at ShakTea soon, as well as post the lovely pictures she took of everything.

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