Tea and Cookies at Nocochi
Yet, since about a year ago, I regularly find myself at a place that ranks suspiciously well on the tea connoisseurs' list of Montreal cafés and restaurants. And what do I order there? Tea. And cookies.
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More explanations are necessary.
First of all, let's name the place. The place is called Nocochi. It's a café located just a couple of blocks from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, at 2156 rue Mackay.
Second of all, let's be frank (and partially get me off the hook for going there): the place is not marketed as having anything to do with tea. It's a café whose owners actually make a special point of advertising their preference for the Illy brand of coffee (in a few paragraphs, I'll tell you why it doesn't really matter).
Third of all, the said café makes absolutely no attempt at imitating any British establishments - aside from offering tea, sandwiches and scones as options on the menu. Instead, it brings a house specialty - cookies - into the spotlight as the main selling point. You can choose whatever drink you want or even no drink at all (all cookies are available in boxes "to go").
The owner, Shahnaz Bagherzadeh, is Iranian and she deserves a lot of credit for bringing and adapting her home country's traditional dessert to Montreal's realities. Her company, Vivel, markets the pastries all around the world, particularly in the Dubai region. Creating a café based on them was certainly a bold move on her part, but it seems to have worked as the product has proved to be very popular with the locals.
The only difficulty lies in choosing the cookies you want. The flavors are very different and I found that people have wildly diverging opinions on what constitutes a good cookie. To the point that some of my friends have developed mutually exclusive sets of preferred cookies. Oh, well, aren't we all united in diversity, anyway?
Regardless, I found that the best strategy is to make a semi-random selection à la carte (all flavors are on display) and assume something like a 50% average approval rating for each individual cookie. Generally, by your third visit, you'll know exactly which ones will go on your plate and which ones will not.
Now, back to the drink question. Although Illy coffee is indeed available, I tried it a few times and did not find Nocochi's version all that great. On the other hand, when I ordered a pot of traditional Iranian tea, almost by chance, I got hooked instantly. Not only is Nocochi's tea good (and done right: no tea bags will be hurt in making your pot), it seems to be the perfect companion drink to the main star of the house, which, I am sure you all get by now, is the cookies.
2156 rue Mackay (Downtown Montreal)
Vivel (parent company)