Hestia Tea is a tiny oasis of a tea shop.
I’m not sure if it was the sign’s chirpy-curly font or the lavender, white, and wood decor, but I initially thought Hestia was a chain imported from Vancouver or Portland. Somewhere rainy, where they take tea seriously. Turns out, it’s not part of a chain at all. Hestia is an independently run coffee shop that offers all the amenities of a chain. Appearances are deceiving.
The ambiance is perfect for the weary student looking to find a place to lift a grumpy mood before settling in to work with a cup of caffeine at hand. Similar to a chain, Hestia abounds with amenities and is democratically welcoming: good seating, good lighting, wifi, easy to read signage, a cool selection of drinks. Pocket sized Hestia has its customers in mind.
The store is quiet, bright, and airy. A few regulars have figured out that this pocket-sized drinkerie is the ideal place to study or take a breather between classes at Concordia and have set themselves up with textbooks and notes. Wifi is free. Each seat has a nearby plug. Outdoor light comes in through the front window, but overhead lighting and wall lighting makes sure each seat is a good place to crack open a book or a laptop.
And coffee? Isn’t that the point? Well, coffee isn’t Hestia’s specialty, though there are some basic coffee drinks on offer (latte, espresso/americano). Instead, Hestia is all about tea and the menu board boasts a limited but appealing number of specialty drinks and about 20 other types of tea. The basic teas come in a variety of flavour blends divided into groupings of classical (Chai, Moroccan Mint), sweet and nutty (Apple Pie, Hazelnut and Chocolate), fruity (Mango, Strawberry and Cream), floral (Jasmine), and natural (Matcha, Pu-Erh).
The specialty teas are the real tea-leaf wreath of the store. I opt for the specialty type tea and am torn. Immediately, I’m drawn to the Green Cappuccino ($3.75/4.25/4.65) — a mix of coffee, milk, and matcha. But given the day’s mix of rain and snow, the Montreal Fog sounds pretty good ($3.45/3.95/4.35) with its hazelnut, chocolate, and vanilla mix with black tea. Drinks are available hot or cold and include a few off-the-menu seasonal specials for the winter: a Gingerbread Latte and an Apple Pie Latte.
The patient, friendly barista helps me decide (gold star to him!). With such (cough-cough) beautiful weather outside, I’m in need of a hug in a cup. I settle on the Early Gray vanilla, and am pleasantly surprised by the sizable and aromatic drink that arrives in a glass cup with about a 1/2 inch of foam. The bergamot flavor of the Earl Gray tea blends nicely with a playful vanilla taste. The drink is moderately sweet, not cloying. I am impressed. I glance back at the tea menu and lament the fact that I only have time for a single drink.
The music is kept at a reasonable volume and seems to be classic rock with a soft edge — the Eagles, the Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan. Pastry choices are nothing special — muffins, cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. A few extra health cookies and bars round it out. A sign outside states that sandwiches are available.
As if all this were not enough, Hestia has a loyalty program. 10 drinks gets an 11th free and a birthday freebie too. When the barista registers my email and pertinent details, I realize that Hestia also has all the market savvy of a chain too. Maybe looks aren’t so deceiving.
Hestia is located at 2325 Guy (south of Sherbrooke) and open Monday to Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Espresso/Americano ($2.35/2.85/3.25), Latte ($3.35/3.85/4.25), tea ($2.45/2.95/3.35), specialty tea drinks ($3.45/3.95/4.25).