People sometimes ask us, Why Canada? Why did you end up here? Hailing from two disparate parts of the world (Luxembourg by way of England for Mark, and Florida for Cassie), Canada is a beautiful compromise in cultures for us. This overlap in historical and geographical influences has resulted in a national identity that we can both easily tolerate… and love. For us, it is the perfect balance between English civility and American gumption. We take the best of both worlds and fully embrace them in our Canadian-ness.
The rituals of having tea of course hail from the British side of things, but Cass became enamoured with them as well when first living in England. A cup of tea and a sit down often broke up long days at the computer at our first job where we met. We knew how all our colleagues took their tea (what level of milkiness and how many sugars) and we would begin and end our days with cuppas as well. Amid a mild obsession with seeking out the best treacle pudding served across tea houses in England – the Crooked Tea House in Windsor is top notch – many different establishments have come under our scrutiny as we traveled. Mark’s parents even lived practically next door to Betty’s in Harrogate, one of the most famous tea shops in the world with folks regularly lined up out the door. But few, in our opinion, are quite so lovely as Abigail’s right up the road from us in St. George.
Abigail’s tea house is named after the daughter of Ivan and Lorene, the couple who run the tea house. They opened shop in February 2013 and have recently bought another space in the downtown block where they plan to expand their bakery operations. The menu is always changing, creatively incorporating seasonal ingredients and flavours. As such, Lorene says no two high teas are the same and the assortment will often vary week by week, which is part of the charm and creativity in it for her as she designs the menu.
The model has proven popular and Abigail’s welcomes visitors from near and far, with many of their guests coming from Dundas and Hamilton. In fact if you’d like to visit, it’s best to make a reservation to avoid disappointment, particularly near holidays and over the spring/summer. Fall is a little quieter, but they are expecting to ramp up closer to their Christmas tea.
The high tea during our recent visit was utterly gorgeous. Moo made out with rainbow coloured cream cheese rolled sandwiches and harvest meringue cookies. We stuffed ourselves on pimento cheese dip (a familiar southern favourite for Cass), cucumber basins and fruits both familiar and novel. Probably half of what we love so much about high teas is just how much variety there is in the food and how well it seems to fill us up.
The other thing that is just so nice about visiting Abigail’s is that it has absolutely none of the pretentiousness you sometimes find in tea houses. Every time we find a tea house, we are so eager to go inside and check it out but have to stop ourselves and wonder if children (and their accompanying noise and mess) are also welcome. We never have that hesitation at Abigail’s. Lorene actually ran her own daycare for years and her love and experience with little ones pours out of every interaction she has with them. She whispers kindly to the sensitive baby; she brings toys for the fidgety toddler. When Moo was very little, we actually kept Abigail’s in our back pocket for rainy days when we might be having a hard time so that Lorene could help us cheer up the little one or even just hold her for a bit.
For Moo’s third birthday, we held a tea party at home and let her play with our real glass cups. Of course she was more interested in everything being fancy – and playing dress-up in her exquisite tea gowns – but on some level perhaps she will understand that tea is an important tradition for our family. It’s important to make time for sitting down with hot drinks and lingering over finger food with people whose company you enjoy. That is the kind of slow living we aspire to.