Tea houses in Richmond are fun, but sometimes they feel a little…..young. There’s often just a lot of ‘cute’ going on, or just too much of the same aesthetic. Recently, however, I was completely charmed by a more grownup and original place called Leisure Tea.
Located on Alexandra Road, this tea house has been around for 16 years, and has an unassuming shop front. Once you open the door, it’s like stepping into a quirky alpine chalet; there are dark wooden beams, the windows are curtained with lace, and the walls are covered in small framed prints of various works by Degas, Renoir, and other masters of the 19th century. It all feels cozy, and refreshingly different.
The menu is mainly teas, drinks, and desserts, with a few savoury items offered. For my drink, I opted for one of their fruit teas; they boil fresh fruit, add a tea bag, and serve it with a teacup and additional hot water.
I chose the Japanese plum green tea ($6.75), and was warned it would be strongly sour. I hadn’t realized just how sour! Here’s my advice: if you order one of these fruit teas, treat it as a concentrate, as it can become very strong.
Pour just some of the concentrate into your teacup, then add the hot water. You can adjust it to your desired strength, but don’t do as I did and pour an entire teacup of it. It was way too strong and sweet on its own.
As for lunch options, there are a number of Taiwanese snacks on the menu, but I was far more interested in their waffles, particularly the one with crispy chicken ($8.25). Chicken and waffles is a classic soul food dish, and especially popular in the southern United States. You can find versions of it around Vancouver and Richmond, including Two Chefs and a Table, but I really didn’t expect to find it at a tea house in Richmond.
Leisure Tea do their own version, with a slightly sweetened waffle, spicy deep-fried chicken ‘nuggets,’ sliced cucumber, tomato, and a drizzle of Japanese mayo on top.
Some of the chicken was a little gristle-y, but otherwise it was awesome, and very substantial. Chicken and waffles are often served with syrup, but the mayo was satisfying, and I liked that the chicken batter was spicy.
For dessert, there were plenty of options including sundaes, caramel pudding on shaved ice, fancy iced coffees, scones, blueberry tarts, cheesecake, and tiramisu ($4.75), which I ordered.
Tiramisu is an Italian dessert, the name of which literally means “to lift me up.” It consists of layers of espresso-soaked lady fingers and a sweetened mascarpone/egg mixture; it’s creamy, smooth, and a lovely boost after a big meal. Leisure Tea’s version wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good.
The lady fingers (or perhaps they used sponge cake) were soaked briefly, as they should be, in strong espresso, and while the mascarpone mixture was beautifully flavoured and not too sweet, it was a little on the dense side. The whole dessert was covered in a fine layer of good cocoa, and I was pleased. Pleased to be sitting in a comfortable chair, next to a lovely portrait, reading my book, and eating a classic Italian dish.
If I wasn’t always in search of new places, I think Leisure Tea would become one of my regular haunts. It’s nice to enter a place and feel as though you’re escaping for awhile; in this case, you can walk through the doors into Austria or Switzerland and eat Taiwanese-American fusion food with plenty of sweet options to have with your tea. Different, right? Different is good.
Vegetarian options available