The great many virtues of teas and tisanes are most often extolled in terms of its closeness to nature: herbal remedies for everything from headaches to upset stomachs; plant-based pick-me-ups to get us going in the morning, or non-pharmaceutical infusions to help us sleep at night. Teas differentiated by vintage and terroir (that is to say, the qualities of their earthly milieu) rather than brand and artificial flavouring are often referred to as ‘high-tea’. ‘Organic’ and ‘pesticide-free’ are key buzzwords in modern tea discourse.
How ironic, then, that we most often enjoy our favourite herbal beverages in the – admittedly very pleasant – settings of teahouses and living rooms, far from the great Ottawa’s outdoors that inspires these moments of quietude.
Where to go
A very short drive from downtown Ottawa is the Gatineau Hills Park, which needs neither introduction nor advertisement.
A less well-known favourite tea spot is Remic Rapids, easily accessible off the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway (formerly the Ottawa River Parkway) for those of us who have cars, and a few minutes’ walk north of Tunney’s Pasture bus station for those of us who who do not. Erosion has formed the rocks along this part of the shore into comfortable seating with a beautiful view of the river and gravity-defying sculpture.
The unique pleasure that accompanies savouring a well-selected and well-brewed infusion in good company and beautiful scenery is one that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Listed here are but two of the countless beautiful locations in the Ottawa region, and cannot overstate the enjoyment that comes with discovering a new quiet spot to savour an afternoon.
There are a few practical considerations that accompany taking tea in the out-of-doors;
1- Unless your are planning to have access to a natural spring, always better to bring your own water for safety matter but also to ensure the quality of the water.
2- The access to hot water is also to consider
Small alcohol stoves, whether specifically designed for tea or of the fondue variety, are a convenient electricity-free way of boiling water.*
Many thermoses will hold temperature long enough for a few pleasant infusions. Green tea is often a better choice in these situations, since the cooler water will be better suited to the tea, and the smaller volume of the thermos will usually hold enough water for a green tea to run its course. You can thus boil the water at home and by the time you make your tea, it will have cool down to an appropriate temperature.
Solar brews (where tea infuses in water exposed to the sun light) are also an interesting way to brew your teas, although they require more time.
3- Having the right tools : although not necessary, you will find some accessories very usefull in the outdoors. Choose small and solid items. Not wanting to unintentionnaly break your favorite teapot, a travel kit containing a Gaiwan, a pitcher and small cups added to a thermos of hot water might be a good idea. If you are going for solar brew, a glass traveling mug is just what you need !
4- Last but not the least, when one is drinking large amounts of tea, it is usually also advisable to locate the nearest – ahem – facilities, and plan accordingly…
Whatever the practical hurdles, tea in the out-of-doors remains one of the must-have experiences of Ottawa summer. Au plaisir de vous voir à Remic, Ottawa cet été!
*Obligatory disclaimer: always be careful with fire, especially outside, and make sure that your kettle can stand up to a small, concentrated heat source!