Saturday, 10 September 2011

Secret Garden Tea Shop in Vancouver

I could write a small book about all the things I did in Vancouver yesterday, but I'll focus instead on the Tea Shop I went to.
It's good to have more than just the one thing to do on a day-trip to a city, whether it's London or Vancouver, and so I rehearsed some lovely songs with Doug Balfour, my colleague for the HealthArts concerts.
"They're all different songs from the last time," he said, looking at the pile of them. 
"Hell, Doug, that was five programmes ago!"
Sounded like disgusting bragging, but there are so many tuneful, memorable, magical songs from 1900 to 1940, I don't think I'll ever stop adding new ones! 

Eva Gersbach, loads of food which we finished, girl who needs to brush her hair.
Then I met with a fascinating lady who will be the subject of a story one day. I found her by the most wonderful fluke. She's 91 and surrounded by antiques from around the world, evidence of her amazing life. And just round the corner from her was the Secret Garden Tea Shop. 

This is a special place, and I had someone to share it with. Eva Gersbach, my connection with Schaffhausen, which will also be the subject of a story, of an icy-cold day in January 2000 and a dark railway station in a medieval town when I had nowhere to go. 

Back to the Tea Shop. 

Afternoon tea costs $27 per person, but they do properly feed you.  Three plates! One savory, with fresh mini-croissants with pickled gherkin, honey-cured ham, local cheese; fresh chive corn-bread with goats' cheese, bacon and turkey; then the little rolled spirally roulade white bread with egg and cress, and multi-grain with cream cheese and green onion. I have no doubt I am not doing justice to this. There is no menu to consult because every few weeks the good folk of the Secret Garden change their combinations.
Well then there are the scones. With apple, two of them; with cranberries four other slices. Raspberry jam. Devon cream, referred to as "Devon". "Ask me if you want more Devon," said the very friendly girl. They are generous. The desserts were almost indescribable. Chocolate thingys that combine the sensations of brownies, chocolate cake, chocolate mousse and chocolate puddings. Then there were lemon tarts, and these squares of loveliness which had rhubarb in them, and whipping topping that tasted like eggnog, and dried strawberry slices, completely natural and bursting with flavour.

Our tea was Kambaa from Kenya, because Eva wanted something assertive and strong. And it lasted four hot-water refills, keeping its flavour admirably. I loved the tea-cozy so much I bought one. It wasn't cheap, but it was made in Canada, and will remind me of my Secret Garden day where I saw so many people and did so many things and got back on the second-to-last ferry back to Gibsons. 

By the way they call this "High Tea", though I was under the impression that High Tea is a tradition from the north of England, where farm-houses need to eat something hearty.
My mum concurs.
"I used to have it in Huyton, near Liverpool, with my friend Louie, years ago. Strong tea, salad with ham; bread and butter...her husband was a Longshoreman. It was instead of supper."

What interested me most was the way that the Secret Garden take the classics of afternoon tea and give them an epicurian, Vancouverite twist. They cater to their regulars, rather than the majority of places in London who cater to visitors and thus keep their classics the same every year.

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