Print Edition: February 27, 2013
2626 Montrose Ave, Abbotsford
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Phone Number: 604-853-0909
Price range: Meals $8.95 to $13.95, High Tea $18.95
SerendipiTea is located on Montrose Avenue, in the former “Red” Gosling Residence. Constructed in 1938 as a private domicile, the floral-inflected, white-washed interior bears the overly intricate, almost gaudy charm of an elderly lady’s ideal world. I have to admit that I was worried I’d feel out-of-place or uncomfortable, though this minor anxiety proved to be misplaced. SerendipiTea is perfectly-manicured, which gives it a certain eerie quality upon first entry, but one that is quickly dispelled by the friendly and welcoming service, so long as the volume is kept to that of library speak.
My companion and I found ourselves whispering in conversation. Not because we were asked, but it felt implied upon our entry into the spa-like atmosphere. This feeling was amplified by the quietly cascading, harp-steeped musical accompaniment. We quickly slipped into this sort of delicate, well-mannered mode that felt almost beyond our control.
If I were to pick one detail, one item to best illustrate what you should expect at SerendipiTea, it would be this: tea cozies.
SerendipiTea specializes in what their menu refers to as High Tea, a mid-afternoon assortment of scones, devonshire cream, jam and coffee or tea available by reservation only, at $18.95 per person. Instead, we selected a number of more reasonably-priced lunch items to settle our stomachs while we soaked in the ambiance of this quaint tea house on a Friday morning.
In what might be misconstrued as a blasphemous selection, I ordered a toffee-flavoured espresso drink instead of tea. In spite of any possible sideways glances from the other patrons, I have no regrets about my choice of beverage, which was served promptly. It was the the perfect choice for a morning pick-me-up: a well-balanced concoction of steamed milk, whipped cream, caramel syrup and that sweet, sweet nectar of heaven, three shots of highly-caffeinated espresso.
Thankfully, my partner was in the mood for tea. There’s a wide selection of teas and other hot drinks on the menu that would appease the die-hard tea aficionado and more casual imbiber alike. The English tea was served on floral china that bore a subdued autumnal theme with perhaps the largest tea bag the two of us had ever seen. Sugar cubes were made available in a matching dish equipped with little tongs and our server made sure to return to refill the cozied tea pot with fresh hot water once it ran low.
For food, I ordered a BLT, which is available on white, whole wheat or rye. The sandwich was a little small, but satisfying. My companion ordered the soup of the day, which was a cozy cream of cauliflower that came with a biscuit just dry enough to prevent any crumb crises. The portions were a little small for our youthful appetites, but it’s what might be expected considering the establishment’s typically more senior clientele.
SerendipiTea reminded me of the German cake and tea shops known as Konditoreis in that they are both places chiefly concerned with offering a relaxing experience. It’s almost enforced. If you’re not in the right state of mind, I could see it becoming a little bit stressful. Nevertheless, SerendipiTea is a worthwhile experience. I can’t imagine a better place to bring your mom or grandmother for a quiet meal and conversation.
It was a striking vision of the sort of quiet pleasures of retirement, albeit internally interrupted by constant refrains of the Firefly theme song (“There’s no place I can be/Since I found Serenity”) inspired by the name of the place.
I’m not willing to trade in the sky just yet, but any students looking for a momentary escape from the hustle and bustle of university life should consider turning off their smartphone and letting themselves get carried away by the sweetly low key atmosphere and quaintly anachronistic offerings of SerendipiTea.