Let’s raise a glass. In the home of the internationally acclaimed Stratford Festival and a flourishing community of musical and interdisciplinary artists, as well as the renowned Stratford Chefs School and its alumni of chefs and restaurateurs that elevate the local dining scene, Stratford’s liquid assets flow.
Canada’s premier tea sommelier, Karen Hartwick, stands in front of a wall of the finest teas in the world at her tea tasting bar in Tea Leaves. Green teas from Japan; black teas from China and India; white, oolong and pu-erh; herbal teas and a special collection of Chakra teas are all delicately sourced and maintained in dark tins for optimal freshness. The quality and temperature of the water; the exact steeping time; the mouthfeel of the porcelain cup; the aromas and even customized blends are all part of the unique experience of sharing a soothing brew as this veritable apothecary gently assesses the right tea for you.
Every hockey town should have its own beer. Locals in Stratford pubs clang glasses of local Black Swan Brewery’s American-style India Pale Ale, combining Chinook, Amarillo and Mosaic hops with five malt varieties for a woodsy nose followed by a refreshing tropical citrus finish. A flavour-forward palate of food-friendly beer even includes a Stout, called Holy Mole, that blends five varieties of malts and evokes dark chocolate notes with a rising crescendo of heat from chilies. While growing in popularity as a microbrewery and taproom, Black Swan suggests consumers drink less, but drink better, and therefore also distributes to local restaurants as part of the local culinary scene.
Junction 56 Distillery crafts small batch whisky, gin, vodka, moonshine and liqueurs from pumpkin spice to mint smoothie at their distillery built in a former lumber yard between the railway lines. Mint smoothies are iconic to Stratford. Since 1969 Rheo Thompson Candies has been purveying these addictive chocolates to the rabid delight of chocolate aficionados far and wide. Visitors to Stratford typically leave with gift boxes full of them. Junction 56 in conjunction with Rheo Thompson has struck the perfect balance. Unsweetened chocolate is melted into a vodka base, and then infused with Rheo’s signature mint blend. Sweet, but not cloying. Versatile, but refreshing enough to stand on its own. Drizzled on ice cream, infused into coffee or hot chocolate, or simply paired with a mint smoothie, this truly is the spirit of Stratford!
When visiting Stratford, be sure to include a tasting at Tea Leaves, Black Swan Brewery and Junction 56 Distillery.
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine.