Paragon has been serving premium tea drinks and products since they opened in Vancouver in 2019. Their tea room on Cambie Street provides a welcoming space for the tea curious or tea familiar. Paragon’s founders are originally from Hong Kong which gives them a unique, liminal place from which to view tea culture. This is why Paragon has an east meets west feeling. The tea culture of Japan and China is fused with the bubble tea influence of Taiwan and the Western British style of tea.
The Playfulness of Paragon
Paragon’s intention is to be welcoming and inclusive to all, across cultures and generations. Tea culture dates back 5,000 years but not everybody has time for a traditional tea service. Paragon finds the space between tea ceremony and tea bag and fills it with creative and fun tea beverages. They aren’t irreverent, they’re playful.
In Paragon’s tea room they serve hot and cold tea beverages as well as tea flavoured pastries. Originally, Paragon opened at Cambie and 2nd but they’ve since moved to their new home at Cambie and West 18th. The green and gold cafe space is elegant. Credit for transforming the former hair salon into a cafe goes to Haeccity Studio Architecture.
There is a fresh energy to the menu at Paragon as items change seasonally. This encourages customers to taste-test new items and find new favourites. For example, Paragon just brought back a summer favourite: the Thai Iced Tea Oat latte. Made with a tea’spresso shot of gold label ChaTraMue Thai and oat milk.
As a daily matcha drinker, I’m surprised it took me so long to discover Paragon. I first heard of them when I wrote an article on Honolulu Coffee, as Honolulu is one of the local businesses that use Paragon’s tea. Arguably, Paragon is equally known for their matcha and their hojicha but they carry even more types of tea than just those two. Paragon Tea Room offers a range of loose leaf teas, tea powders, and tea accessories, like the tools necessary to whisk up matcha at home.
Paragon’s Special Tea’Spresso Machines
What makes Paragon’s house-made beverages so special is their tea’spresso machines. They brew a concentrated tea shot with the equivalent of six tea bags worth of tea. These machines have been in bubble tea shops in Taiwan for a decade but Paragon is using them primarily for tea lattes. You can get pearls at Paragon but they’re a tea room that serves bubble tea, not a bubble tea shop.
The tea’spresso machine solves the problem of watery or weak tea lattes but when the pandemic hit, Paragon had to pivot to serve their customers. Their tea powders were born out of the need to provide the same concentrated tea flavour at home. The powders are also great for baking. A number of bakers and pastry chefs in town use their products. These wholesale relationships have led to some delicious collaborations, and Paragon gets to sell some of those baked goods in the tea room.
Plant-Based With a Purpose
Paragon Tea Room’s staff are well informed and helpful. I was guided in how I should order my drink. It was explained that at Paragon all of the milks used are plant-based. So the iced matcha latte I was ordering was best enjoyed with oat milk, as well as a little of Paragon’s house-made sweetener. They only have two syrups and both are house-made.
As mentioned, all of Paragon’s milk options are plant-based. They have oat, soy, and almond milk but no dairy. This isn’t an ethical or financial choice but a flavour one. Every beverage offered at Paragon has gone through extensive taste-testing and refining. They decided that plant-based milk is the best milk to highlight the flavours of their tea. They do still use dairy-based condensed milk for some of their drinks because the team has yet to find a plant-based replacement for condensed milk, which I can understand.
Not only was the flavour of the matcha complimented by the oat milk, the milk also paired well with the hojicha I got to try. I was excited to learn that hojicha, because of the roasting of the leaves, has less caffeine than a typical green tea, and certainly less than matcha, even when using Paragon’s special concentrated teas’presso machine, or their powder.
For more information, stop by Paragon’s tea room or check out their website.