Friday, August 20, 2010

Cuppa Tea

Brenda Tremblay, owner of the Boathouse, pours a cup of tea. This is a traditional English tea. Photo courtesy Dave Carter, Guelph Mercury.

In the 1940s, it was a popular spot for dances. Then it was used to house boats alongside the Speed River, giving the structure the same name it bears today.

Owner, Brenda Tremblay, sips some orange pekoe, brewed with loose tea leaves from an Elora blender, from a cup made of delicate white china with flowery details. We also serve Light, Pekoe, and McCrae House private blend.

"”I like tea rooms. There were already too many coffee shops," she says.

Though Gordon Street traffic may notice the ice cream more than anything else, the Boathouse's specialty is English high tea.

Traditionally, the afternoon refreshment is taken at what most Canadians would consider dinnertime, but on the edge of where the city rivers meet, it's anytime until 4 p.m. Cream and jam for scones -- like many people with British or Irish heritages, Tremblay pronounces it "scons" -- sweets, finger sandwiches, and a choice of 20 varieties of freshly brewed tea. It's properly brewed tea; there are no store-bought bags at the Boathouse.

"My background is Irish," Tremblay says. "We always had a pot of tea on the table."

Despite the old-world tradition, high tea is not just for old ladies, Tremblay says. In recent years, she has noticed a definite shift in the room's demographic. Tea has become a fashionable drink, mostly among university students, it seems.

Tremblays says she's not sure exactly why tea's hip. It may be the health benefits: "Lots of antioxidants." And the amount of caffeine is lower than coffee. "It's amazing how many people do like tea," she says.

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