Tehuset Java | Tea Shop Review

17 11 2009

Products  10
Decor       6
Service     8

Tehuset Java must be the biggest tea store I’ve seen to date. Usually tea stores tend to be small and packed with stuff, giving the impression of being little, cozy spaces. This one is indeed packed with stuff, but it’s by no means small. Java is located in the Northern part of Stockholm on Odengatan 29 and it’s a fairly new place. From the street it doesn’t look like much, but when you go in you can get blown away.

The store is divided into two rooms. The first room is smaller and holds teas from various brands – a very large selection of Kusmi teas, but also offerings from Fortnum & Mason, Dr. Stuart’s and Ahmad Tea. Here you will also find some english style tea ware. The second room, which is more like a hall, holds Java’s counter with house loose leaf teas, but also a selection of Kusmi loose leafs. There are about 170 house teas to choose from, including a basic Japanese, Chinese and Indian selection, flavored , herbal and ecological teas. Java also has their own house blend – Lundablandning. Moreover, there are countless tea products here, anything from contemporary tea ware, design tea ware, thermoses, cozies, electric kettles, cups, tea makers, pots, caddies – and the list could go on. There is an especially large amount of Bodum products. Anything needed for an afternoon tea can also be acquired here – various sweets, jams, cookies, biscuits and other grocery products.

The mood of the store is not exactly identifiable. To me, the larger room, looked rather sterile, where as the small room, which i liked much better, is slightly reminiscent of and English-style home in India. It feel more welcoming, but also exotic. My brief impression of the staff was good. This store is clearly richly stocked, and just that makes a big statement – I would call it a tea supermarket, although it’s certainly much more then that. Java is absolutely worth visiting, while in Stockholm.

 

Adress – Odengatan 29, Stockholm, Sweden





Apsara | Tea House Review

19 09 2009

Products    7
Decor         6
Service      6

This Apsara Tea House is one of few located in Riga. Each of them is very different, but they all carry a similar theme with oriental inspiration. It is located in a park by Elizabetes Street. The park itself does not have a great reputation, but it can be enjoyable during daytime. Right next to the tea house there is a concert stage, where they have performances during the summer and you can actually see this stage from one of the windows on the upper level. The tea house itself looks pretty much like a mountain cottage from the outside with a big patio and outdoor seating. With this looks it stads out very much from its surrounding – it is quite an unusual view.

On the inside there are two levels. The ground level holds the counter and tea display as well as products available for purchase – loose leaf teas from the Apsara brand, various cups and accessories, infusers. I was even able to find a matcha whisk here. There are also very few seating places. You can take the cute, narrow stairs to the upper level, where there is plenty of space – on the floor. Yes, here you can only sit on mats and cushions placed along the walls of the hut . The atmosphere here can be described as cosy in certain ways, but not very cosy in others. Generally the upper level is quite dark and the daylight that makes its way into the hut is intimidating. On the other hand there is something nice about the calm and quite aura there and the non-formal way of spending time. You can also see the whole downstairs from there, which is pretty fun. The lower level is much more friendly and welcoming in terms of like and ambience, but the seating there make it less chilled out.

The interior can be puzzling. I would say some of the inspiration is from a mountain cottage, along with more oriental elements, such as the cushions and lanterns. Overall the place doesn’t have a consistent style and different elements are not integrated to form one specific mood. I find this to be a big minus here. The mats and cushions are not in such a great shape either.

As all Apsara houses, this one also has a wide range of teas to offer – anything from Chinese and Japanese greens, pu-erhs, blacks, whites to a variety of herbal teas and mate. They have a very good mate called Cuba Libre, which I can warmly recommend. With your mate you get a whole thermos of water, so you can refill your cup until you burst. You get all the tea tools you need to prepare your tea the traditional way, however just like with the interior decor, the tea ware styles and sets are also inconsistent. I like when everything fits together, but other might think it’s more charming this way. Except for tea, you can also buy various cakes, pastries and ice cream.

I was indifferent to the service at Apsara – it wasn’t either super great or really bad. They were nice, so my opinion remains neutral. In many ways the Apsara tea house is a place where you can take refuge from the city. On a sunday there were very few people and lots of space, a very peaceful atmosphere. My experience here is more on the positive side and I would lie to come back here from time to time. If you like more posh, stylish and modern interiors with a ‘cool’ vibe however, this is not a place for you.

Ap01sm

Ap02sm

Ap03sm

Ap4sm

Address – Elizabetes iela 75, Riga





Zen | Tea House Review

21 06 2009

Products  1
Decor       3
Sevice      2

Zen is located a little bit outside the center of Riga, in a more dodgy, suburban area. This part of the Stabu Street is rather grey and personally not very enjoyable. When I first found Zen (which did not stand out at all) I hesitated to enter, as the place didn’t look very inviting – the windows were covered with blinds and small steps leading down to the door. A tea house was the last thing I would imagine being behind that door.

Inside everything looked slightly more interesting, there was asian-style seating areas with low tables and and floor cushions, divided by bamboo screens for more privacy and mood. Everything was decorated with traditional Chinese decoration, mainly some red touches  and they even had slippers for customer use (if I would dare using them is another story). You could find games like domino, cards, chess and other board games placed all over.

Zen has a rich offer of Chinese green teas – we ordered two of them, the ordering process was quite awkward, as we had to take out every jar standing on the counter to see what types of teas they had. We took off our shoes and occupied one of the seating areas. There was chilled, relaxed music, very suitable for a tea house – it’s one of the better aspects of Zen. The tea arrived soon after in cheap tea ware – all pieces from different sets, pots made of glass and plastic mixed with small Chinese drinking cups. I had mixed feelings, until I tasted the tea. Both teas must have been old and long time expired and they were the worst teas I’ve ever head in any tea house. They were undrinkable and I mean undrinkable. Outrageous.

After spending about 15 minutes at Zen I noticed that the atmosphere was pretty cold, the lights were so dim, it seemed as if they were saving energy. Mixed with some daylight they provided a uncosy feeling. Dodgy, gloomy and depressing. I started feeling uncomfortable. There was also no sign of any service – they spent most of the time in the back-room and we haven’t seen much of them until we wanted to pay. My impression was that they were not very interested in their job.

Except for tea Zen has a wide offering of alcohol and you can also smoke water pipe here. This could clearly have been a great place for passing time for large groups of people, however most of the minuses mentioned above prevented me from enjoying my stay there. The only pluses is the music and the long opening times – until 2.00 on weekdays and even longer on weekends. I would like to believe that the owners had good intentions with their place, but I cannot recommend Zen as a good tea house. It was a disappointment and I will most likely not be coming back here.

Zen01

Zen02

Zen03
Address – Stabu iela 6, Riga





Same Fusy | Tea House Review

25 04 2009

Products  8
Decor       8
Service     10

When you visit Warsaw, the Old Town seem like an obvious place to visit, however when you are there you can miss many interesting places that are not as visible as others. Same Fusy is exactly such an invisible place. Although it is located on a busy street the entrance looks inconspicuous and you wouldn’t expect that there is an atmospheric 15th century dungeon hiding beneath. This tea room was created in a renovated basement, which was earlier damaged from a fire. When entering the place it feels like entering a different world – an impression of calmness, away from hurrying people and street noises. The walls and vault are covered with neatly placed red bricks and they have a typically gothic look. Some of the tables are made from whole tree trunks giving this place more of a folklore touch, which is very noticeable here. A wall of tea caddies and various pots serve as decoration in the counter area. All this is illuminated  by warm candlelight giving the place an atmosphere of mystery. 

The menu arrived very quickly at our table. It was a thick book with wooden covers that listed pretty much any tea you could wish for – black, green Chinese and Japanese, white, flavored, oolong. Choices are many and it’s hard to make up your mind when you are there for the first time. Finally we decided on trying Masala Chai and Snow Dragon. We received our teas soon after, with brewing instructions from our waiter. I can say that Snow Dragon didn’t get much of my attention, but the Chai smelled of sweet, aromatic spices and was very good.

While sitting and enjoying tea two things were clear to me. First, the service at Same Fusy was very good, the waiters were quick to receive and serve new guests, they informed the guests about how to handle the tea, which is particularly useful when you’re a newbie. At the same time there were not too intrusive and I have to say I was impressed, which doesn’t happen very often. The second thing however was not a pleasant – the loud, traditional folk music was getting on my nerves and although it was fitting the vibe of the place it was also contradictory to the relaxed nature of tea rooms. Maybe we simply arrived there at the wrong moment, but I would consider this the one minus I can think of.

Same Fusy has two rooms one for smokers and the other for non-smokers, as well as a fresh, clean bathroom. I think being there was a great experience and I’d be happy to return.

 

samefusy1

samefusy2

samefusy3

samefusy4

 

Address – Nowomiejska Street 10, Old Town, Warsaw, http://www.samefusy.pl/





Esters | Tea House Review

21 02 2009

Products  6
Decor       5
Service    7

Situated on a very long street in the southern district of Stockholm, Esters Tea and Coffee Shop is hardly noticeable. Folgungagatan is one of the bigger streets in that part of town and the shop simply blends in with the large amount of other small shops. Esters was established in 1899 and is said to be Sweden’s oldest tea and coffee shop. Inside the shop the atmosphere is created by various items from past decades, especially old teapots and a large collection of caddies. A very notable thing is that every chair and table is from a different set, making the place look quite chaotic. There are many elements of a traditional, English/antique tea shop here, but overall the shop doesn’t give off a specific feeling or style.

Esters mainly offers their own loose leaf tea (120 kinds). There is a whole wall, reaching the ceiling filled with those typical Chinese tea caddies. The only tea I have tried from here is the Swedish Soderblandning and I have to say I was disappointed. Their blend was very different from any Soderblanding I’ve had before, it didn’t have a fresh or floral aroma and some different ingredients were added to it. The dominant note was vanillaish, but the aroma was strange altogether. The tea is packed into a brown paper bag with handwritten name – not too exciting. Apart from tea Esters offers coffee , their own candy (mainly hard candy), some tea accessories and homebaked items. You can sit down and have tea and on fridays, saturdays and sundays they even serve Afternoon Tea, which is a big plus for this tea room. Another great thing is tea tasting sessions which take place here every now and then and they cost about 25 EUR (275 SEK). You can check dates for the upcoming sessions in a PDF file they have on their website.

When it comes to the service I could say it was ‘typical Swedish’. Generally in Sweden service in shops is rather impersonal with the occasional smile. Foreigners may interpret this behavior as rudeness, but it’s more of a cultural thing. The woman behind the ‘historical’ counter was quite nice, she climbed the latter and let us smell some teas.

In conclusion, Esters is not a place where I would want to spend hours sipping my tea, but I would like to find out more about the teas they have to offer and their quality. I think serves well as a local tea shop, where you can stock up if you suddenly run out.

 esters01

esters02

esters03

Address – Folkungagatan 95, Stockholm, Sweden 
Website – http://www.esters.se/





The Tea House Covent Garden | Tea Shop Review

29 12 2008

Products  8
Decor       7
Service     5

The Tea House located on a busy, crowded street in Covent Garden attracts a lot of attention of passerby’s with it’s huge, brightly illuminated window stuffed with all kinds of colorful things and gadgets. People stop to admire and stare because it’s hard to take it all in while just walking by. I have to say this is the most enticing shop window I have seen so far in a tea shop. The first thing I noticed after walking in is the overwhelming amount of products on the shelves, but also the crowd of people which makes it had to walk in there. The store has two levels, but there is little walking space, which adds to the cosy and warm vibe, but is also disadvantage.

The bottom level of The Tea House holds more then 100 kinds of teas, including teas form Japan, China, India and traditional English blends. Their brand teas are packed in simple paper bags with different color stickers (depending on tea type), but also in cellophane bags which was quite a disappointment for me to see. It’s nice to be able to see through the packet, sure, but since tea freshness and quality gets affected by the light I was not too fond of seeing that at a place specializing in tea. As for teas of other brands, they have some, but it’s rather a small selection. The prices here are defiantly a plus – good and adequate, anything from 1,5 GBP (1,5 EUR) upwards. Here is where I bought my first Houjicha. On the upper level you will find a big selection of books, pots, cups, English and Chinese style sets and china and all kinds of teaphernalia.

My experience of the service there was ‘cold’, the woman at the counter did her job, but wasn’t especially kind or smiling. The Tea House is a great place, with a few minor things that need improvement and a must see if you are visiting London (even if you’re not particularly obsessive about tea).

 

covent-garden-01sm

covent-garden-02sm

covent-garden-03sm

Address – 15a Neal Street, Covent Garden, London

Related productsThe Tea House Houjicha





Albert and Jack’s | Tea House Review

9 12 2008

Products  5
Decor       3
Service     5

Albert & Jack’s is actually a bakery and deli which offers other health food, cheese, tea, coffee, chocolate and lunch products. Located in the northern part of Stockholm, the expensive district – Ostermalm. The interior is very small, not ideal for sitting around and relaxing. There is only a few seats and people who come in and out all the time and be frustrating for those sitting down. The inside of this bakery is not decorated to be anything in particular. When I was inside I had a feeling of being in a half-store half-small warehouse – overall rather simplistic.

They have a small selection of teas – about 8, which you can either buy in a bag or drink on spot. Trying to find a tea that had interesting ingredients (all of them have strange names) I picked up Miss Saigon – a green tea with carrot pieces, scented with vanilla and exotic fruits. It cost 35 SEK (a bit more then 3 EUR) which it an ok price for Swedish standards, slightly overpriced otherwise. The tea was fun to try, but it missed a punch or some definition, which makes me wonder what the other teas at Albert & Jack’s are like. The teas here are packed in bags coated in white foil and white, handwritten labels, which I haven’t seen before and I think it’s quite eye-catching. Opening time from 7:00 on weekdays is perfect for getting some breakfast and tea before work. They have a standard breakfast package, which you can also expand ranging from 65 – 85 SEK (6 – 8 EUR). I also noticed that they sell various glasses and the Eva Solo Teamakers

The staff was neither nice or unpleasant, perhaps a bit slow and absentminded. Since I’m looking at this place from the ‘tea-point-of-view’ I can not say much about the quality of food there, as I have not tried it. If you get satisfaction from finding teas that are not available elsewhere Albert & Jack’s will give you just that. It will make you feel like you’ve found something that few other people will have, but I question the quality of the tea itself. 

albertjacks01sm

albertjacks02sm

albertjacks03sm

albertjacks04sm

Address – Engelbrektsgatan 3, Stockholm http://www.albertjacks.com/

Related productsAlbert & Jack’s Miss Saigon