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.
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.
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.
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.
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