Despite generally great reviews on Yelp.ca and UrbanSpoon, I actually would NOT recommend Steeps Urban Teahouse on 17th Avenue SW to tea drinkers based on several experiences. With that being said, if you’re looking for a relaxing place to go and have a drink alone with your laptop or with a friend – it might be a more soothing alternative than some of the (many) other beverage shops in the neighborhood. (Such as an independent and very busy coffee house a block or two away, or a large chain coffee shop across the street and down the block.)
Steeps has a wide variety of tea in jars at the front of the store – it was one of my first tea shops, and I’ll admit, when I first entered, I had no idea what to do with all of the selection. After a few sniffs of ones you think you might like, you take the larger container of your chosen tea to the counter and place your order (either steeped tea to drink in their teahouse, or a tin of the tea to take home).
My major complaint is that while the teas smell divine – generally the flavor of the steeped tea doesn’t really measure up. This holds true for teas that I’ve taken home (or been given as a gift) and for teas I’ve consumed in the teahouse, so it’s not just a matter of me using too small a quantity to get the full effect of the tea’s flavor.
I’ve tried a few different teas as well – Orange Honeybush, a Rooibos Chai, Bourbon Vanilla, Earl Grey, Kyoto Rose (I think that was it’s name) – and all (with the exception of Bourbon Vanilla) suffered from the same lackluster result. Only the Bourbon Vanilla (which is now my go-to tea when I visit Steeps) seems to transition well from dry to steeped.
So, if I wouldn’t recommend the tea at Steeps – why do I go? For starters, it’s a pleasant place to spend some time with a friend – and I have a number of friends who quite like Steeps. For me it’s much more agreeable than the mass-market chain coffee shop, or the super-busy independent coffee shop nearby, and a pot of tea is an affordable way to visit for an hour or two. The food is simple but good, and they have a central location which is on several bus routes; easy for friends from various parts of the city to gather. Steeps is also close to a number of other businesses and areas that I like to visit. Really, I’m not buying tea – I’m spending my time and money on the location and atmosphere.
Want to read a the point of view from a blogger who enjoys Steeps a bit more than I do? Check out the Cowtown Epicurean’s post.
Steeps the Urban Teahouse
880 16 Ave SW
Calgary, AB T2R 1J9