A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published August 19th 2015
For some sweet indulgence
Tania Stacey and her partner Jeff Roberts are on a one-cafe quest to start a 'tea culture' in Melbourne's east. For too long, coffee has dominated the scene, being the beverage of choice when people venture out for brunch or afternoon tea. When Tania points out that we tend to go out for coffee, but have tea at home, I realise she's right. Why? Perhaps it's because as a society we've largely lost the tea 'ritual' seen in some other cultures. A weak brew of tea, made with a teabag, is hardly something we would venture out for.
At Tania and Jeff's cafe, Cuppa Cha, located at 768 Burke Road, Camberwell, tea is the hero. They offer around 40 teas for sale as loose tea or by the pot. And rest assured there is not a teabag in sight!
Tania and Jeff - know their tea farmers personally
What's more, Tania and Jeff are tea 'purists', travelling regularly to Taiwan and China to meet with their tea suppliers. 'We stock single farm teas', Tania tells me. 'Not even single origin (from a particular region), but single farm'. They even know the farmers personally.
Cuppa Cha - leading a quest to create a tea culture
Unlike the commercial tea vendors, the tea stocked by Cuppa Cha is pure, not infused with extra flavours, flowers or spices (except the chai, which of course is tea mixed with spices). Instead, you'll find white, yellow, black, green and oolong teas to try or buy.
To complement their beautiful teas, Tania and Jeff are now offering afternoon tea each Sunday. My partner Dave and I recently had the opportunity to try this experience.
First impressions of Cuppa Cha is that it's a bright, modern cafe, with teas and tea paraphernalia lining the walls. It has a warm, friendly feel. It's not a large area, but tables are placed a comfortable distance apart. There's also an outside courtyard area (in need of a little love, which I'm sure will happen as the weather warms up). The tables are set with lovely china, appropriate to a classy afternoon tea experience.
And so to the afternoon tea. First, we were given a sparkling pouchong - a non-alcoholic, lightly fermented tea drink served cold in champagne flutes. It has a clean, fresh taste - a good palate cleanser for what lies ahead.
We were invited to select a tea from the eight listed on the afternoon tea menu - including black, green, oolong and rooibos teas. I chose the 'silver eyebrow' - accurately described as a 'robust but not bitter' green tea. Dave went for the 'snow drop jasmine' tea. These of course were properly brewed with loose leaves, served to the table in clear pots, drunk from delightful tea cups.
We were soon after presented with a most impressive three-tiered cake stand, consisting of ribbon sandwiches on the lowest tier, an assortment of cakes in the middle, and scones on the top.
Impressive selection for afternoon tea
Things went very quiet at our table as we munched our way through this delicious assortment of goodies. The sandwiches - which included classics such as cucumber, and egg, celery and mayonnaise, were fresh and delicious. Progressing to the mid-tier, there were canneles (small French pastries with a soft custard centre and a dark, thick caramelized crust), macarons and chocolate caramel tarts. Unfortunately, the matcha tea cake mentioned on the menu was unavailable, but we didn't feel deprived! There were still the four generous scones to tackle, along with lashings of jam and cream. We had a good go at it but didn't quite manage to get through it all.
Afternoon tea menus
Cuppa Cha's afternoon tea is a classy experience. We greatly enjoyed it and walked away feeling very well satisfied.
It would be a great place to take someone for a special occasion - how about as a birthday treat for your mother, or a surprise for your partner?
To make a reservation, call 0420 799 927 or email email@example.com. Bookings are available between midday and 4.00pm each Sunday. Tania prefers at least 24 hours' notice if possible. Cuppa Cha's afternoon tea will cost you $45 per person ($25 for children).
Note that Cuppa Cha has a BYO license, so feel free to bring along a bottle of bubbly. ($6 per bottle cover charge applies.)
Oh, and if you really can't live without your coffee, don't fret - Cuppa Cha has an espresso machine and does offer coffee.