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.
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 …
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.
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.
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