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One of the benefits of my travels to Romania is our lovely apartment, which is located in a commercial area with easy access to transportation and is just a short walk from downtown. Aside from the cost savings and privacy, staying in an apartment rather than a hotel means the convenience of a washing machine and a full kitchen, and most importantly being able to collect things with the knowledge that they’ll be there for the next visit.

The balcony, set for tea for one

The balcony, set for tea for one

When we renovated the apartment several years ago, we incorporated a pretty tea cabinet into the kitchen design. While I still store tea here during each visit, my tea things have, with time, outgrown the space and claimed additional cabinets and shelves. Tea things have a way of doing that …

The tea cabinet

The tea cabinet

A favourite spot in the apartment is the balcony, with its view overlooking the city – the perfect place to relax, perhaps with a book or a crossword puzzle, while enjoying a good pot of tea. It’s especially pleasant to watch the magnificent sky show as the sun is setting. While the balcony isn’t a dedicated space like the one we have at our home in the USA, it serves as my de facto tea room whenever I’m in Bucuresti.

Three new teacups ... and a gift from a friend

Three new teacups … and a gift from a friend

My every-expanding tea ware collection includes several teapots, large and small, tho’ as the kettle is a small one I usually fix tea in a two-cup pot or in my gaiwan, refilling as needed. At one time it was necessary to bring tea with me from home, but for the past several years I’ve been able to rely on buying good tea in Bucuresti. This latest trip, as previously reported, was a particular success.

Within a few minutes’ stroll from our apartment are several pastry shops offering a variety of strudels from apple to mushroom, and these make splendid teatime accompaniments. At other times I’ll bring home an artisan bread – I’m particularly fond of the olive rolls from the local market – to enjoy embellished with vegetable paté. And what would tea be without chocolates? On this trip I discovered Leonidas; besides their luscious Belgian chocolates, they carry a huge selection of Tea Forté.

Daytime view from our balcony

Daytime view from our balcony

Now and again I’m fortunate to have a guest for tea. We bring another chair onto the balcony, and we sip, chat, look out over the city together, and solve all the problems of the world over our teacups. I hope you enjoyed these chronicles of travels with tea in Bucuresti. If so, do please leave me a comment.

Sunset view from our balcony

Sunset view from our balcony

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

As I detailed in the first posting of this series, my long-time favourite bookstore tea room is now closed. The shop, Carturesti, still sells dry leaf – in fact, they were the first company in Romania to carry higher-quality teas, and for many years they have been my main source when I travel there.

Demmers - A welcome newcomer to Bucuresti!

Demmers – A welcome newcomer to Bucuresti!

Alas. They seem to have stopped caring about tea. Nearly half the floor space upstairs used to be devoted to tea, including the out-of-the-ordinary (at least for Bucuresti): pu’erh bricks, matcha whisks, and the like. Now? Tea and tea things are confined to about three display areas. Worse, the tea itself tastes like they haven’t restocked since my last visit in 2010 – the three I purchased (a black, a green, an oolong) were simply stale. I won’t be back.

Fortunately there are some interesting new tea shops. A friend told me about a tea shop he’d seen near the University, and said I absolutely had to go there. It didn’t take much convincing. As I walked down the street I passed an outlet for Carturesti and thought oh no, this can’t be what he means! Fortunately I kept walking and just two doors down found Demmers Teehaus.

This Austrian company has been expanding throughout Romania and opened their first shop in Bucuresti about a year and a half ago. Teas are properly stored in metal tins behind the counter. Amongst the obligatory flavoured and “health” teas and tisanes, they had a very nice selection of single-origin teas. I chose a white Oothu, a Dong Ding oolong, and a Nepal green. All turned out to be of excellent quality. Along with knowledgeable and courteous sales staff, Demmers displayed the only tea cozies I’ve ever seen in Romania: two lovely thick fabric carriage cozies. Tempting …

Tea Treasure - A small but well-chosen selection.

Tea Treasure – A small but well-chosen selection.

From University Plaza I headed up to the anticariat – the used and rare book shop – on Magheru (mah-GHEH-roo) Boulevard. In a space behind the shop I discovered a holiday fair, with many local merchants offering handicrafts, toys, jewelry, sweets … and tea! Along with a display of Fortnum & Mason was Treasure Tea & Coffee, where I picked up some teacups. The following week I visited their regular shop, where they stock a good selection of teas, tisanes, and tea ware. I found a nice Java green tea amongst others, and some very pretty Japanese teacups.

Livada - Long on tea ware, tho' sadly short on customer service.

Livada – Long on tea ware, tho’ sadly short on customer service.

My last stop was Livada cu ceai (literally, orchard with tea) at Baneasa (bah-NAH-sah) City, a very upscale mall. Their large shop was crammed with tea wares. Many were rarities in Bucuresti: aroma cups, Yixing, gaiwans, and samovars. Service, however, was not so good. When two of the salespeople finally broke off their conversation to acknowledge me, I asked for “ceai simplu” (tea without additives). The first tea they proudly showed me was a “special” “superior” Taiwan oolong. Unfortunately, the leaves had no discernible aroma. When they told me the price – almost $75 for the minimum 100 grams – I declined, and asked what other teas they carried. Perhaps they’re accustomed to having well-heeled shoppers buy whatever they recommend, because from that moment on they essentially ignored me, except to brag about how their owners travel to the source countries to buy their tea. Yeah. Maybe. In any case, they were clearly annoyed that I did  not buy the oolong. Which, I should point out, was on offer at another shop I had been to for less than half that price – aroma included.

So although tea shopping in Bucuresti was a mixed bag, I did manage to find good tea, as well as a couple of worthy new sources.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

My recent visit to Romania did not start well. I arrived on Tuesday, and after handling some business on Wednesday headed out on Thursday morning for my long-time favourite tea room at a downtown bookstore. When I walked in, the tea room – an airy, comfortable spot that for years had served the best-prepared tea in the city – was gone. A staff member assured me that I could get a cup of tea at the new café downstairs. The menu listed all sorts of hot and cold drinks, an assortment of light meals, and exactly one tea: Earl Grey, which I do not care for.

Land of Tea - Airy, modern, and comfortable

Land of Tea – Airy, modern, and comfortable

Even worse, when I asked when the tea room had closed they told me “Monday.” Ouch! Then on Friday I came down with food poisoning, which put a damper on the vacation, not to mention tea room visits. Fortunately I was eventually able to visit a few places.

In Romania, like much of Europe, you won’t find “traditional” tea rooms serving formal English-style teas. A few upscale hotels used to offer this service, but now if you ask them about afternoon tea they’ll tell you “Sure, you can get a cup of tea here in the afternoon.” Romanian tea rooms – or ceainarie – generally serve not only tea but coffee, soft drinks and juices, and a selection of alcoholic beverages, plus light meals or snacks. Many still welcome smokers.

The first destination after regaining my health was Land of Tea in AFI Palace, a new shopping mall near the Presidential palace of Cotroceni. Situated at the base of a man-made mountain that serves as the mall’s centerpiece, this contemporary café is well stocked with a variety of teas, tisanes, and tea serving ware.

Land of Tea - comfy seating

Land of Tea – comfy seating

From their wide selection – typically, comprising mostly flavoured leaves – I chose the Ceylon jasmine. While not a fan of flavoured teas, I do like an occasional cup of jasmine scented tea, and was curious about its being produced in Sri Lanka. Tea is served – again, typically – in a tea-for-one set, the tea in a T-Sac. A packet of honey, another of lemon juice, and a three-minute timer completed the service. The tea, tho’ slightly over-steeped, was delightful.

My next destination was Rendez-Vous, a tea salon next to the University. With red plush seating, peach-coloured walls, and dark wood throughout, it’s an elegant setting. Happily, I visited during the pre-Easter “post” season when observant Christians eat no dairy or eggs. Most restaurants offer at least one postspecialty, so I was able to enjoy a yummy piece of chocolate cake (more like a huge brownie) with pineapple and cherry pieces with my tea.

Rendez-Vous - Unfortunately they would not let me take pictures of their lovely tea room

Rendez-Vous – Unfortunately they would not let me take pictures of their lovely tea room

When I see Darjeeling Gopaldhara 2nd flush listed I don’t have to look any further on the menu. I had, however, forgotten how Rendez-Vous serves tea: a T-Sac holds the leaves, which are placed into the teacup, and hot water is provided in a two-cup teapot. No matter whether you pour the water into the cup, or place the tea into the pot, it makes for a rather flat-tasting cup of tea. Oh well, at least I enjoyed the atmosphere, the jazz music in the background, and of course my cake!

I tried to visit several other tea rooms that were described to me as focusing more on tea, but they all seemed to open at 5pm. Apparently in Bucuresti tea is not considered a daytime beverage, and I had other obligations in the evenings. French patisseries with tea salons have also been popping up throughout the city, including the Paul chain. Tea selection is limited, and served in teabags, but they’re pleasant places to while away some time people-watching and indulging one’s sweet tooth.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Marie, admired as the most beautiful princess in Europe

Marie, admired as the most beautiful princess in Europe

The story of how a British princess brought tea to Romania begins in 1874 when Queen Victoria’s son Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, married the daughter of Russia’s Tsar Alexander. The duke and duchess’ eldest daughter, Marie, was born a year later. A bright, free-spirited girl, Marie was blessed with exceptional beauty and was gifted with talents for writing and art.

Admired as the most beautiful princess in Europe, Marie had many suitors. Her mother was determined to see her eldest daughter on a European throne, and so Marie was married off at age seventeen to Prince Ferdinand, nephew and heir to King Carol of the far-away country of Romania.

The transition to a new country, language, husband, and family was difficult and lonely at first for the young princess. She found solace in solitary tea times in a private corner of the palace.

By the early 1900s Princess Marie had entered the royal social scene, hosting English-style afternoon teas at the royal palaces. Knowing her fondness for both the beverage and the ceremony, Marie’s wide circle of friends and admirers would often arrange teas in her honour, and afternoon tea became popular amongst Romania’s upper classes.

Marie’s children grew up with tea just as their mother had done, with a blending of English and Russian tea customs. Each day Marie would set aside time for tea with one or more of the young princes and princesses, with either the teapot or the samovar.

Ferdinand and Marie became King and Queen when Carol died in 1914 on the eve of The Great War (WWI). During the war Marie distinguished herself as a nurse, establishing a hospital and visiting the most seriously wounded and gravely ill soldiers of the Romanian army. She taught her youngest daughter Ileana the English custom of bringing tea to the troops.

When the war ended, Marie was sent to help represent Romania’s interests at the Versailles peace conference in 1919. From Paris, Marie went to London to plead Romania’s case directly with her cousin, King George.

Marie had another reason for visiting London. “I was especially very much in need of tea!” she wrote in her memoirs. “Romania had quite run out of tea since there was no more communication with Russia, whence it was formerly imported.” Marie met with Mr. Twining, “the best man for tea,” and explained to him that she wanted a tea that tasted “neither of smoke, scent, nor hay.” To this Mr. Twining replied, “It is Darjeeling tea Your Majesty wants.” After tasting several samples, Marie agreed that “I found the mixture of which I dreamed!”

Of the many Romanian royal palaces, Marie’s favourite was Bran. This imposing medieval fortress sits atop a hillside overlooking a pastoral village surrounded by a sprawling park. (Bran is passed off to tourists as Dracula’s Castle.) In an area nearest the castle she built a teahouse where she regularly had tea with family or visitors, gazing out on the park’s gardens and small pond.

Marie, Queen of Romania, died in 1938. In many ways she was the Princess Diana of her day. Even today, Romanians hold a place in their hearts for the memory of this extraordinary queen for her beauty, talent, and tireless service to those in need in her adopted country.

The Queen's teahouse at Bran in Romania

The Queen's teahouse at Bran in Romania (photo taken by the author)

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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