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The Tea Bar on Long Street
Cape Town’s newest (and first) hotspot dedicated solely to the leafy brew
Legend has it that the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong was the first to discover tea sometime around 2737 BC while sitting outside drinking a bowl of boiling water. A light breeze caused a couple leaves from a nearby tree to fall into the emperor’s bowl, changing the colour and aroma of his of beverage. After taking a sip of the brew, Shen Nong was pleasantly surprised by its flavour and found his new fortuitous drink to be delicious…
Fast forwarding to the present, I take a sip of my own delightful cuppa – a Pumpkin Chai Latte (created with rooibos chai, pumpkin, coconut blossom sugar and foamed milk) and I thank my lucky stars for Emperor Shen Nong and his inquisitive palate. Today I am at Lady Bonin’s Tea’s newest venture, The Tea Bar and am enjoying one of her many delightful creations.
Tucked away neatly on Long Street, The Tea Bar, which officially opened its pretty doors in May 2016, is the Mother City’s – not to mention the country’s – first-ever hotspot dedicated solely to the leafy elixir. Created by tea-enthusiast and entrepreneur-at-heart Jessica Bonin – founder of Lady Bonin’s Tea and Lady Bonin herself, The Tea Bar invites tea-lovers in for an enchanting take-away cup of the aromatic beverage ideal for soothing any frame of mind.
Sitting in the quaint outdoor courtyard located at the back of the store – a charming little spot perfect for enjoying your flavourful cuppa, I am captivated by Jessica’s passion for tea and thirst to learn more about the leafy brew. With a key focus on innovating the warm drink, Lady Bonin wishes to revolutionise and fashion the leafy brew into something new and exciting modernising the tea philosophy.
“There is a culture in coffee that even I love (and I am not a massive coffee drinker) and that is why I started my business. I want to enjoy that culture with tea and essentially give customers an alternative to the take-away coffee”, says Jessica.
Originally igniting her tea-revolution in 2010, Lady Bonin’s Tea has since then evolved from a mobile take-away tea caravan – Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour to a more formal production space and tea shop in Woodstock and now exclusively to the CBD tea bar. Despite this, Jessica’s tea-mission: to transform and reform the tea drinking culture while at the same time providing an alternative to take-away coffee, has not changed one bit.
The Tea Bar is a purveyor of imported and locally sourced fair-trade, ethically produced and organic loose-leaf teas. The devoted hotspot serves a wide selection of nutritive brews – there are approximately 40 varieties in-store, think black, green, white, herbal, oolong, fruit, flavoured and more. Offering only loose-leaf teas – owing to the high quality and flavour density of the leaves as well as to eliminate waste, menu options include Rooibos Choc Chilli Chai Latte (made with rooibos spiced chai, raw cocoa, chilli and foamed milk), Turmeric Golden Milk (made with turmeric, spices, coconut milk and honey) and London Fog Chino (made with Earl Grey, vanilla and foamed milk), to name but a few (almond and coconut milk substitutions can be arranged).
What’s more, each brew comes with a suggested intended result next to its ingredient list: “When people ask me what they should have – I always ask them how they are feeling because then I can guide them to the tea that will have the right effect on them”, explains Jessica. “Tea has the most amazing physiological effects on you and can bring your body and mind into a conducive and aware space.”
In addition, the dedicated store also offers a small selection of tea-inspired and seasonal treats. Through her cyclical fare and store set-up (the beautiful Japanese Kimono mounted on the store’s wall will also change seasonally), Jessica wishes to follow the Japanese belief that we are not separate from our environment and must therefore honour the season and the goods it brings. Food items include buttermilk rusks infused with buchu or honeybush, rooibos choc chilli Chai brownies, Aphrodite tea loaf, Early Grey ginger cookies and Matcha puffs and more. The Tea Bar is also a retail store for their many different tea varieties as well as tea accessories such as their beautiful local and internationally-sourced ceramic and glass teapots.
What’s more, the little hidden chamber found behind the courtyard will house The Tea Bar’s traditional tea ceremony room in the near future offering customers the best of both worlds – the on-the-go tea option as well as the opportunity to learn more about the leafy brew and its culture. In addition, the tea ceremony room will also entertain tea and food pairings, high tea and various tea courses.
“This is where the take-away tea happens”, Jessica explains gesturing towards the counter and state-of-the-art Italian machinery, “and this is the rabbit hole [the tea ceremony room] where you can step into tea-Wonderland. I want people to be able to go into the ceremony room, taste and enjoy tea in the traditional and peaceful way while learning its history because every single tea has a story behind it.”
I’ve finished the last of my scrumptious pumpkin creation and it is time to leave the delightful little tea bar. As Jessica and I say our goodbyes, I take one last look at the tea-menu behind the counter mentally ticking off the warm beverages I will just have to come back and try.
NOTE: Lady Bonin’s Tea products are also currently distributed to retail outlets – see website for stockists - and online stores as well as have just entered the export markets focusing on Malaysia, China, Japan, UK and USA.
Tip: If you are a fan of chestnuts and sesame seeds then try the Hojicha Black Sesame Seed Chino tea (made with Hojicha roasted tea, black sesame seeds and foamed milk). As Jessica explains – the Hojicha tea is one of her favourites – the brew tastes surprisingly like chestnuts and is both “sweet and savoury”.
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday: 8am – 4pm | Saturday: 9am – 2pm | Sunday: Closed
The Bill: Take-away Teas:Medium: R15 – R30 | Large: 18 – R34 | Sweet Treats: R8 – R20
photo credit: Claire Gunn Photography
by Krysia Gaweda
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