Downtown Victoria salon brewing up a new kind of 'high tea'

A Victoria tea merchant could soon be putting a modern twist on the notion of high tea.

Terroir Tea Salon on Fort Street is the first local retailer to take advantage of a recent change in provincial regulations allowing for the sale of alcohol by non-traditional businesses.

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“At Terroir Tea Salon, it’s about the tea and it will always be about the tea, but we just wanted to be able to provide additional slants on the current teapot-and-doily type of tea service that people are used to,” said salon co-owner Jason Spencer.

If the liquor licence is approved, which is likely now that the city has given its endorsement, the hope is for the tea salon to work with Vancouver Island brewers and distillers to provide new offerings, such as a tea and whisky pairing workshop, Spencer said. “Right now, the popularity of tea-infused cocktails is quite high and we want to show people how tea can be used in that format as well.”

The pairings showcase the flavour profiles of pure teas, said Spencer and partner Charity Hobbs.

Terroir has held tea and cheese pairing and tea and chocolate pairing events that have been well-received, he said

“So it’s just a way for us to show people that tea pairs well with alcoholic beverages as well as with food.”

Terroir’s application has received backing from Victoria councillors, who were asked to provide comments to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch on liquor-licence applications.

The application is for 24 licensed seats, 20 indoors and four outside. The licence would permit the salon to serve liquor from noon to 11 p.m. seven days a week, although Terroir says closing times will likely be earlier.

“I’m very supportive of this,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “I think this is the exact kind of business that will appeal to residents, that will appeal to visitors to our city looking for an experiential opportunity.”

Terroir’s is the first application under the new provincial laws, but city staff suggest there could be many more to come.

“We anticipate we may get some more of these, whether it [be for] beer with your haircut or a glass of champagne while you search for a wedding dress,” said Victoria’s director of sustainable planning Jonathan Tinney.

He said that city staff will bring in revisions to city liquor-licence policies to streamline the process “where the impacts on neighbours are relatively minor.”

The licensing process isn’t cheap, with city staff estimating the provincial fees at about $8,000, plus city fees of $750.

“It certainly is an investment monetarily and also in terms of time and effort,” Spencer said.

“We really want to focus on providing the best experience a person could possibly have with tea.”

As of Jan. 23, all types of businesses have been able to apply for a liquor primary licence to serve liquor to customers.

Any business that applies has to go through the same licensing processes as other establishments, including a requirement that all staff serving liquor have the province’s Serving-It-Right designation.

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