What month is it now? I’m actually not entirely sure I’m perceiving time passing anymore. I’ve been a bit MIA of late for a number of things, not just writing, and I’ve really been hermiting pretty badly. My mysterious absence of late is due to being swallowed up by dense fog of work (business-y business, what? Yes, day jobs are good for… y’know… money.), and then washed away by pools of neverending Vancouver-signature rain. Oh good ol’ Vancouver rain, you make my life so soggy and so grey. Inspiration is lost and diluted by that horizon of gloom.
Something blah blah brings April showers, that’s how the saying goes… right? Well whatever the proverb, retroactively looking back on the month of April there were bursts of blossoms beaming at us from every corner. I love the cherry blossoms winking at me and sashaying gently back and forth on nimble branches. It looks like poetry and feels every bit like spring. It makes my heart flutter and float like the petals that slowly peel away and lightly land all over the ground. And unfortunately for the first time in my life, spring also makes my eyes and nose feel like the fiery pits of itchy hell. Hardly poetic when you have to keep blowing your nose. But unrelentless and misdirected anger aside, the beauty of the blossoms still excites me.
There are a number of events that celebrate the cherry blossom explosion every year and one of which is the Sakura Afternoon Tea at the Urban Tea Merchant.
Origami bloom / Pink, delicately folded / Pretty like haiku.
Afternoon tea does not equal high tea, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be snooty and a great time for you to sip your tea with your pinky sticking out. People are certainly dressed well for afternoon tea at the Urban Tea Merchant, which can be completely embodied by the word lovely. Yes, it was absolutely lovely. Use London accent for emphasis.
We were well tended to; from milling about in the store waiting for the last in our party to arrive and being offered macarons to pass the time (why, I never! Of course I will love a macaron, imported straight from Paris! How lovely! Oh sorry, I’m gushing.), to the unbearably patient explanation to all our incessant questions about the million types of tea that existed on the menu (how is that possible?), our service was attentive, if not particularly speedy. But you know, it’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, and we were there to look good and drink tea.
In case you arrived to tea with any heathen lingering tastes foreign to your normally virgin tastebuds, you can be sure to exorcize them with a frosty strawberry palate cleanser. Only then can you truly begin to worship your hot leaf water and little bites.
Since I am the most boring and unimaginative person alive, I picked a variant of Earl Grey. I was pleased to see it arrive in the most futuro-retro of cups, as if it vindicated my very unrebellious choice.
We decided to get three sets of afternoon tea amongst five people and it was a very generous spread. The above is the Sakura Afternoon Tea which has a Japanese inspiration to the assortment.
The West Coast Afternoon Tea is full of BC style.
Finally, the Signature Afternoon Tea, with finely crafted petits fours, open faced sandwiches, and other sweet and savory delights.
As we nibbled away on dainty bites we were awash with graceful, whispery melodies from a live harp performance in the corner of the room, bathed in sunshine coming in from the windows. In the background, on one wall was an installation of a hierarchy of teapots pouring from one on the top down to another below and to another below. The tea room was not large, but the small details enhanced the entire experience.
All in all, what made me the happiest were the magnificent and well groomed cherry blossom trees in the garden behind the restaurant. The whole afternoon tea experience was as calmly organized as a zen garden, and was almost meditative in its presentation. It wasn’t simply satisfying for epicurean enjoyment, but for aesthetic appeal too. So while the delicious sandwiches and nutty macarons have long since been digested, the blossoms and the sunny afternoon are always there for me to be relished in memory.