Robert Godden and Anne Drury-Godden founded their online tea business three years ago, and Robert's obsession with all things tea-related prompted Anne to name him The Devotea. This became the name of the business which has grown to distribute over twenty different blends of tea into Australia, Great Britain and the United States of America.
In a never-ending crusade to bring tea to the world, The Devotea (Robert) and Lady Devotea (Anne) have started a pop-up café service which includes a stall for the tasting of their extensive range of teas. The pair, along with son Saxon, has opened The Devotea's Pop Up Tea Shop at the Mitcham Village Market, held on the second Sunday of each month. The market sets up at the corner of Princes Road and Torrens Street, within the Mitcham Cultural Village which incorporates the historic Mitcham Village Institute building.
This building houses many of the market's stalls and includes a kitchen area. One rainy day The Devotea moved their setup inside this area and it is from here that Saxon runs the café. Yes, it serves coffee.
We have also created a coffee blend we call 'Silk' and we make our own hot chocolate mix, both of which we only make for the pop-up shop," said Robert.
As well as tea and coffee there is a range of food items. Most of the food is tea-connected in some way - more on that later. In this area, there are tables and chairs so you can sit down if you wish, although it is geared for take-away so you can keep wandering around the other stalls.
Technically it is this café that has the title The Devotea's Pop Up Tea Shop, but adjacent to the seating area is a trestle-table displaying the range of teas, with a number of these available for tasting. This allows you to "try before you buy" and, if you find one you like, it can be ordered from the café to wash down that piece of cake you've been eyeing off.
Robert said, "Generally, we have about eight [teas] available at the tasting bench. We plan to have a rotating selection of about ten out of twenty-one available each time we do the café."
The concept of tasting teas is an excellent one, as no amount of words describing a tea can really compare to trying it. As a bonus, you can hear from the blenders themselves exactly what has gone into each variety and why - the why may simply be it is the end result of experimentation by a self-confessed tea evangelist.
Being in the mood to experiment, I tried a number of hot teas and even a couple of iced varieties. I do like tea, but tend to be fairly conservative in my choice of cuppa: I like a strong-flavoured black tea - preferably loose-leaf - with a tiny amount of milk, or the occasional green tea-bag.
It was pleasing therefore to push my personal boundaries of tea-drinking and not find one I disliked (I'm sure I'd eventually find one if I took in the whole range - statistics being what they are - especially as I've never been a fan of herbal brews like chamomile).
I kicked-off with a Russian Caravan blend; a strong black tea they call Jim's Caravan after Anne's father, which I tried first with milk - to be on familiar ground - but then tasted it black and preferred it.
The vanilla scent was obvious in the Rose and Vanilla blend which, I was pleased to find, was not as sweet as I had expected.
The Kali Chai was next on my adventure; a peppery brew designed to be taken black. Besides the traditional chai flavours from cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, they have added black pepper, lemongrass and lemon myrtle for a distinctive combination.
Aussie Ginger Chai is, however, sweet – but not unbearably so, as its sweetness comes from honey. It includes ginger root and the other chai spices.
We sat down to some very tasty scones and jam – the former made from the scone mix also available for purchase at the stall, and the latter provided by Limealicious Cakes and Gourmet Food. The scones were perfect and the jam delicious – we shared some apricot and the nicest blueberry flavour I've ever experienced in any form.
To wash this down we each ordered a different tea, so we could try a couple more. Lord Petersham is a blend of seven teas - one for each day of the week - in honour of its namesake who, according to Robert, had one of 365 different tea blends on each day of the year. Despite its colourful heritage, it was the tea I liked least as it was a little weak for my taste.
The 1910: English Breakfast, however, was strong and just the way I like a tea to be. Robert says he investigated the history and used varieties in the blend that would have been used at that time.
The food items on offer are changed regularly. The day we were there the menu included Quiche Fingers ($3.00 or two for $5.00), Beefy Sausage Rolls ($3.50), Lady Devotea's Soda Scones ($2.50 or two for $4.00), 1001 Nights & White Choc Cake ($3.00 per slice), and Real Tea Biscuits ($2.50 for two).
The surprising and interesting aspect of the home-made food is its tea-basis, as alluded to earlier in this article. For example, the sausage roll meat has been seasoned with The Devotea Assam & Sage Tea Salt - one of the meat rubs available - and the cake is made with tea: in this case, the 1001 Nights blend of green tea, peppermint, lemongrass and lemon myrtle.
Teas or any style of black coffee are $3.00 while a cappuccino, latte or flat white will set you back $4.00. Morning tea is $6.00 for any tea with a couple of scones or a scone and a quiche finger.
The tasting teas and the remainder of the range are all available to purchase in packs of 100 grams for $8.50 - which is less than the online price.
As mentioned, the scone mix is there, and also cake mixes, tea pots, diffusers, tea salts. The cake and scone mix can be purchased for fundraising events. If you wiant to enquire about that, use the contact form on the website. The news section on the website includes recipes using tea.
I also tasted the 1001 Nights as an iced tea; the combination described above is quite refreshing this way. The other iced style I tried was the Liquorice - a WTC or White Tea Concoction - which wasn't bad either.