QUEBEC, Montreal —
One step into the Camellia Sinensis tea shop in Montreal’s Latin Quarter and you will wish that there was such a spot in your neighborhood.
The Rue Émery shop was the first of three locations for this tea company. The front window is a prime spot, with a booth for three at a curved, rustic table. The walls are a soft green with 3/4 height wooden paneling on one side and half-wall black wainscoting on the other. Guests who aren’t able to grab the front table can choose one of the two tops or the booths in the front room or pass through the door at the rear into a second seating area with dark blue walls and blonde wood. The main room is dominated by a large wooden tea bar. The vibe of the space is quiet and calm, a place of respite.
French-speakers are presented with an extensive menu adorned with lovely photographs. An English menu is also available. More than 50 teas composed the selection including whites, a yellow, greens, blacks, oolong and aged teas that included a Hua Lien 1989 wulong and a Liu Bao 1996 Nong Jia. Guests can choose sables, Japanese treats, scones or other light accompaniments to their tea.
While the tea salon was pleasant, the tea shop next door is where I found the true spirit of Camellia Sinensis. The staff immediately engaged me in conversation, encouraging questions and talking with great passion about their work. The teaware is displayed with a museum-like style, in glass cases in front and on shelves along the side wall. As I approached the counter with the massive wall of tea behind I was shown the tea book. This book listed all the types of tea available. What fascinated me was the unique use of an aromatic wheel to group the teas. Teas with “vegetal” notes were listed together; “floral” teas were elsewhere. Additional aroma profiles like fruits or marine were also noted, making it exciting to find new teas that were similar to others in your usual wheelhouse.
Hugo Americi opened this tea house back in 1998 and was soon joined by University du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM) students Jasmin Desharnais and François Marchand, first as employees and then in 2000 as partners. Over time the group opened a tea school and added the Émery tea shop. Kevin Gascoyne, an Indian tea importer and expert that they’d first met in 1999, came aboard as the fourth partner in 2004. The year 2004 also saw the opening of the second Camellia Sinensis location in Quartier Mon Saint-Roch in Quebec with the third site, at Marché Jean-Talon in Montreal, opening in 2006.
Teaware ranges from every day to exquisite with translucent porcelain creations by Heinrich Wang, glass artist, film director and photographer selling for $1,500. A celadon 200 ml tea pot sells for $200 while works by artisanal engraver of Yixing, Sheng Hua Xi sell for $300.
Tea selection is extensive. An Ali Shan oolong from Taiwan is priced at $29 for 3.5 oz. Every tea is harvest dated, described in easily understood tasting notes and accompanied by a steeping chart, recommended portion and, where appropriate, instructions for making the tea in a pot or gong fu preparation. There were 73 new arrivals listed on the website from Darjeeling, India and Taiwan to Japan and Laos, with the largest selection from China.
The Camellia Sinensis team has been building a tremendous reputation within the tea community, not just for their shops, but also for their unique research and educational contributions. They have commissioned laboratory studies analyzing antioxidant and caffeine levels in various teas that changed the way people talk about tea, breaking open myths and assumptions that had long been promoted. They are working to help us all better understand what we are really seeing and experiencing in the cup.
The team has released two books based on their research – TEA: History, Terroirs, Varieties and Green Tea: A Quest for Fresh Leaf and Timeless Craft. Both are available in French and English.
Learn more at Camellia Sinensis.
351 Rue Émery, Montréal, QC H2X 1J2, 514.286.4002
7010 Avenue Casgrain, Montréal, QC H2S 3A4, 514.271.4002
624 Rue Saint-Joseph Est, Québec, QC G1K 3B9 418.525.0247