There is a new tea house in Canberra which I read about yesterday, so with me being a huge fan of a good cup of tea, today I decided to drive into the city and enjoy a cup of tea and perhaps lunch as Tea Connoisseur also offers a menu of traditional Yunnan food. When I arrived, which was just after midday, I was the only person in the cafe so I was shown to a table near the window by the owner Yun ‘Coco’ Zeng who told me she was born in Yunnan, a southern province in China and has worked in high-end hotels throughout Asia and Australia including Shanghai and Sydney. Coco said she moved to Canberra and worked at the Hyatt Hotel and then saw the need to open a tea lounge and I am so glad she did. One of the first things you notice when you enter is the array of tea canisters lining the wall; beautiful black canisters with red labels and a range of pu-erh tea. Also some great looking desserts in the glass cabinet below the teas.
I was given both a tea menu and food menu and whilst I was deciding, Coco talked a little about some of the teas which she did with authority having told me she started picking tea leaves from a very early age whilst growing up in Yunnan and has now partnered with her uncle to import the teas from China. Coco explained that these teas are appreciated much like fine wine, with enthusiasts buying and ageing them for many years. The pu-erh tea that is on display is made from fermented tea leaves which are then pressed into ‘cakes’ and aged with the ageing process lasting from months to several years causing true fermentation rather than oxidisation.
I recall visiting a tea shop in Yunnan during my travels through China where some of the pressed ‘cakes’ were worth thousands of RMB (up to $40,000 AUD). And whilst pu-erh is not the most expensive tea in the world, it is definitely up there. The most expensive is said to be Da-Hong Pao grown in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian province of China and is worth over $1m a kilogram. No adding milk to these teas!!
I ended up choosing a Oolong tea, in particular the Tie Guan Yin which as the menu says is one of the most famous oolongs in the world. The tea arrived in a little glass teapot and I could see the tea changing colour whilst it was steeping. Coco had told me to steep for one-two minutes then I was to remove the glass container from the teapot, place it in the supplied bowl and pour the tea into the little glass cup…such a lovely process and the tea was very refreshing.
There was a range of vegetable offerings on the menu but as I wasn’t that hungry I chose the pan friend vegetable dumplings and asked Coco if they could be steamed instead of fried which she agreed to after ensuring me they were vegan. Next time I will definitely order the ma po tofu with mince, chilli and shallots (minus the mince of course) and the three flavours eggplant dish with smashed garlic, chilli and coriander. My dumplings arrived in a steamer with a dipping sauce. Delicious!
The back wall is a painted ‘map’ of southern China to show Yunnan and the city of pu-erh where of course the tea of the same name originates.
There are also many other tea related items on display around the tea lounge including tea leaves, tea cups and boxed tea for sale as well as a range of lovely china tea pots. There are also a lot of dried flowers around the store which add to the ambience of the place.
All in all a really lovely place to sit for an hour or so and enjoy a wonderful cup of tea and some great Chinese food.