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A hidden gem by the truest definition, Wagashi Tea House


A hidden gem by the truest definition, Wagashi Tea House is nestled unassumingly inside of the Bow Valley Garden Centre. While it might at first seem curious to find authentic Japanese fare in an off-the-beaten-track greenhouse,  with harmony, purity, tranquility and respect core principles of a tea ceremony, it makes perfect sense.

Navigating an airy oasis of locally raised plants and trees, you’ll find the Wagashi Tea House nestled in a lush corner, with tables and chairs carefully arranged to ensure ample space to connect with what is in front of you without distraction. Presence is a key component of consumption in Japan, and Wagashi Tea House has curated a leafy haven for guests to ground themselves within, with floor to ceiling views of the mountains reiterating the tranquil location. Drawing from the oh-so-visible seasons outdoors, flavours and menu items shift regularly to suit the moment, a practice which is typical in Japanese tea ceremonies, and another way to encourage real-time observation of one's surroundings. The Japanese word “wabi-sabi” comes to mind; a world view characterized by finding beauty in imperfection, impermanence, or simplicity. If you’re looking for a zen experience outside the rigmarole of every day life, this is truly the place for it.

“Wagashi” refers to traditional Japanese confectionery, and on Mondays the tea house is truest to its namesake in its “Afternoon Tea” offering. Instead of scones and clotted cream, think steamed rice balls filled with sweet bean paste. Instead of egg and cress, smoked salmon and cucumber finger sandwiches, think similar core flavours but as temari-sushi balls topped with sliced cucumber, salmon gravlax, and shredded egg topped with ikura (salmon roe).

Here the art of tea and the beauty of Japanese confectionery are unified in one mindful service. The irony of the labor intensive and intricate Nerikiri, a smooth white bean paste with a matcha centre, taking all day to prepare but moments to eat was not lost on me and encouraged a deeper appreciation of what I was putting in my mouth.

The loose leaf tea menu is thoughtfully curated by Chefs Chris and Mariko Thomson, and if you’re ordering afternoon tea, you’ll be met with thoughtful pairings that include house blended shincha, genmaicha and hōjicha - my favourite of the lineup for its sweet and smokey delivery, complementing the delicacy of my light, bright, bite size cheesecake.

Tea is an integral cultural practice in Japan, with the art of the leaf intertwined with legendary samurai history. The way of tea was introduced to the samurai by monks, who used the ritual as a way to centre their mind. This was reflective of the samurai’s values of grace, discipline and harmony and was henceforth adopted as part of their practice. Even today, tea is seen as an act of social levelling, and this is reflected in the refined but unpretentious Wagashi Tea House experience, that really has the power to transport you from a Canmore garden centre to the foothills of Kyoto!

While afternoon tea seatings take place on Mondays, delicious bento boxes and bowls are available Thursday - Monday, with breakfast served from Saturday through to Monday with traditional Japanese offerings on top of a truly stellar eggs benedict that already draws quite the crowd in the Bow Valley!

Visit for hours, menus, reservations and take-out orders.


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