Pinkies up: Five great teahouses

Since its ancient origins in China, tea has journeyed the globe conquering winter chills and extending pinkie fingers one cup at a time. While teahouses have yet to overtake the global coffee shop invasion, there is a definite trend developing as we see more and more quirky teashops popping up in hip neighbourhoods around South Africa. From exotic herbal infusions to local Rooibos blends, we picked five tea lovers who are well versed in the art of making a perfect cuppa.

Bon Appetit Deli & Bistro (Clarens, Free State)

In addition to a modest selection of Dilmah teas, this local deli offers an extensive menu of nearly 30 loose tea blends sourced from a Cape Town tea merchant. In place of a teapot, the tea arrives in brightly coloured glass coffee plungers accompanied by large cappuccino cups. After picking their blend, guests are given the choice to enjoy it hot or iced. Try the blue horizon green Chinese sencha tea flavoured with mango, passion fruit and citrus; the oriental spice black tea blended with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, orange peel and vanilla; or the English breakfast, which contains blends from Kenya, Sri Lanka and Assam. All teas range from R18 to R20 a cup.

Contessa Tea Connoisseur (Rivonia, Johannesburg)

In addition to their hearty lunches, owners Rita and Richard offer a total of 160 teas, many of which are imported from Sri Lanka. (Sri Lanka was previously called Ceylon, Richard reminds us.) In addition to the Contessa range of imported blends, the couple stocks a small percentage of local Rooibos blends and variations. While they do sell tea bags, the majority of their customers prefer loose tea leaves, which are served in elegant glass pots and delicate porcelain cups. Try the popular masala chai tea with ginger, vanilla, cinnamon and cardamom (R28 for a pot; R50 for a 40g pack) or their local Rooibos blend infused with mandarin orange peels (R28). The venue also hosts regular tea tastings, where small groups can sample six different teas. This experience costs R90 per person. A decadent high tea experience is also on offer for R139.

Contessa Tea Connoisseur. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Contessa Tea Connoisseur. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Gwefey Teahouse (Sandton, Johannesburg)

Toted as “a little piece of Shanghai in the heart of Sandton”, this futuristic teahouse offers a menu of dumplings, tapas and Bento Boxes along with a special menu of authentic Chinese teas. On the menu, a small description details the health benefits of each blend, which are served in a glass teapot perched on top of a candle warmer. Try the jujube ginger tea, which contains real pieces of ginger (R22), the rose lotus tea (R24) or the classic ginseng oolong, which is known as ‘brain tea’ due to its energising properties (R25).

Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour (Woodstock, Cape Town)

Tea curator Jessica Bonin sources organic and wild-grown teas from biodynamic farms and farm cooperatives throughout South Africa while importing other teas directly from farms in Japan. Roughly 90% of the teas served in the tearoom are hand-blended recipes, the most popular blends being the rooibos choc chilli chai with raw cacao, masala spices and chilli, and the matcha latte made with finely crushed green tea leaves. (One mug of the matcha latte is the equivalent of ten cups of green tea, she tells us.) Teas typically range between R18 and R25, with Japanese and Chinese teas arriving in cast-iron teapots, and local and black teas served in glass and porcelain teapots. Iced teas, tea slushies, aero-pressed hot drinks, and tasty bakes are also on offer. Look out for the Lady Bonin mobile tea caravan, which pops up at private functions and curated events.

Lady Bonin's Tea Parlour. Photo courtesy of Claire Gunn Photography.

Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour. Photo courtesy of Claire Gunn Photography.

O’ways Tea café (Claremont, Cape Town)

Choose from 75 different Nigiro teas and infusions, ranging from authentic Chinese green teas and exotic blends to local Rooibos brews. Most loose teas cost R25 and are served in glass teapots with a warmer and a small hourglass to time the tea. Try the strawberry and lemon green tea or the sakura green tea flavoured with Japanese cherries and decorated with rose blossoms. O’ways also offers two unique tea appreciation tastings for individuals or groups of up to 25, which must be booked in advance. Those looking for a bite to eat can peruse their menu for tasty breakfasts, lunches and desserts.

O’ways Tea café. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

O’ways Tea café. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

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