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Cold Tea

Photo: Jesse Milns

Posted by Chandler Levack / October 21, 2011

Cold Tea is modeled on the principle that a good thing is hard to find. This new Kensington bar is hidden at the back of the unassuming Kensington Mall through a secret doorway. (We recommend listening carefully for strains of music.) The bar's three co-owners Stacey, Oliver and Matt have lived and worked in the market for years and were inspired by Manhattan's bar scene which prides itself on found locations and secret snacks.

When the back restaurant became available to rent, the three first-time business owners took on a renovation process that took almost a year to complete. What was once a giant unfinished back room leading out to a slab of concrete has been made over into a sleek, freshly painted lounge with exposed pipes and high ceilings. Yet Kensington's roots are still present in the bar's gargantuan back patio. Clientele drinking at the long communal tables will easily spy locals walking up to their homes and taking out their trash.

Whether the old guard approves, Cold Tea straddles the line, elegantly, between a neighbourhood mainstay and an upmarket establishment. The bar will test a new cocktail menu next week inspired by Asian influences. (Co-owner Stacey Welton hinted at a delicious-sounding thyme margarita and a drink made with a Chinese five-spice simple syrup.) There's fresh dim sum available until last call (the barbeque pork buns, three for $5, were insanely tasty), and a roster of DJ events and art parties planned.

At Saturday's opening, the crowd was buzzy and excited to be in on something secret. A long line stretching the entire flank of the Kensington Mall queued up for entry. The DJ even managed to play the Ying Yang Twins' "Whisper Song" and The Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored" in a single set. Casually elegant, Cold Tea has the potential to turn Kensington's bar scene into more than just a collection of watering holes. That is, if you're game enough to come find it.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Some, but tall cans of 50, PBR and Rolling Rock are only $4.75
Signature Drink:
Original cocktails inspired by the Asian theme
Bar Snacks:
Dim sum until 1:30 AM
It can change from Jay-Z to Nirvana depending on the DJ, crowd and vibe
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Kensington locals, Foursquare users
5:30pm-2am, closed on Mondays



jane / October 21, 2011 at 11:52 AM

way to kill the secret blogtot

J / October 21, 2011 at 12:27 PM

Hate to ruin it for ya even more, jane, but it wasn't much of a secret before opening...besides - it's fun to share.

APOW / October 21, 2011 at 1:32 PM

blogto, shutupppppppp

John Doe / October 22, 2011 at 1:50 PM

This looks like a backyard. What a piece of doodoo this place is.

David Empire In replying to a comment from John Doe / October 22, 2011 at 3:09 PM

This coming from a man whose name is infamous for engaging hookers and killing peeps... Sounds Like John Doe Can't Find It... Wah Wah...

Jessica / October 22, 2011 at 3:31 PM

I would love to come here in the winter

Pipsqueak / October 22, 2011 at 5:29 PM

For those of us living in close proximity to this place, the fact that the loud music starts at midnight instead of stopping is starting to piss us off. Some of us sleep at night and don't need the DJ blasting into our bedrooms until 3 in the morning. One neighbour asked them last night to turn it down around 2 and they turned it UP until 3. Nice.

Bobby / October 22, 2011 at 6:52 PM

Ya, you guys didn't really need to put this bar on blast just yet, but it doesn't really matter considering I was trying to get in the other day around midnight and the line up was over 20 people deep so It's already caught on.

tra la la In replying to a comment from Pipsqueak / October 22, 2011 at 8:11 PM

if you're looking for peace and quiet, i'd say kensington is the last place to find it.

Tim / November 24, 2011 at 3:19 AM

How large is their food menu?

k / December 18, 2011 at 12:49 PM

Hey, Pipsqueak, why the hell would you live in Kensington Market if you wanted quiet?

Braed / January 6, 2012 at 11:39 PM

This place is rediculous. If you want to wait in a line to go in a bar with a capacity for 48 people. Enjoy.

Marvin In replying to a comment from Braed / March 12, 2012 at 1:10 PM

Those chairs look like they can fly. The fence is where they can bounce off in a fight.

Hepman / March 14, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Don't you love bars with hog pens? Beer in cans only? Must be rumble night.

Gemima / July 14, 2012 at 8:23 AM

I love this place! Except that everytime I go there.. their cocktails get more expensive. Can you guys just figure out what a cocktail should cost? The drinks are ridiculously overpriced.

Email Sean In replying to a comment from Pipsqueak / November 8, 2012 at 2:16 PM

I just don't understand people who move into the club districts or kensington.. then complain about noise. You must have known what you were getting into?

Several / December 3, 2012 at 1:31 AM

I read your article while I was at work, so I had to come back to it when I got home. I reread it I learned more the second time.

Cb / January 16, 2014 at 11:19 PM

Nice try this bar copied everyone from the alcohol in teacups to the secret locations of bars from NYC...Can't we have some originality in Toronto rather than copy other cities...

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