Oct 29, 2008

Penny Royal

Monday afternoon, I wandered into a cafe in Union St West Brunswick and was served a coffee drinker's idea of a nice cup of tea. Needless to say I did not drink it and was also put off by the proprietor/chef's whistling along to the music on their stereo. I seem always to encounter poor service when I am too weak from inanition to object or flounce.

Sep 18, 2008

I drew this sugarbowl in Cafe Rosamund, a pleasant little cafe in an alley behind Smith Street Fitzroy.


Jul 24, 2008

A pleasant cafe story

Last week I took my delightful teenaged niece to a café I had never been to just off Sydney Rd on Albert St. after a strenuous afternoon's Oppshopping.
La Paloma: silver pot of tea for two, milk jug shaped like an owl and perfectly appropriate porcelain teacups and saucers {I thought for a moment as the tea things were passed across the counter to us that the cups might be shaped like Pandas or Pinecones}. The staff's slightly rowdy children were also underfoot, but one must expect these things during the school break; especially as this is the only time I get to spend a day with my niece. I was so delighted that I suppressed my fear of novel technology and took a picture of our afternoon tea with her digital camera. When I tried to take her picture, the batteries failed.
We spent the rest of the day in the Coburg Cemetery discussing monotheism and drawing stone Angels.

Jul 7, 2008

Café 3A

A cold and low-clouded day in Melbourne; a perfect day to stay in the house and do bugger-all. In the streets and trams and busses, all you will meet is drunks, freaks and children; it is school holidays.
On Sunday, after drawing for a while I suddenly started to feel very, very sleepy. Then I decided to throw up my breakfast {$5.00 organic sourdough bread, 6 slices, toasted, buttered with $2.20 butter from the local milkbar, and Vegemited with Vegemite I smuggled back from a recent trip to Tasmania. Also, an egg that wasn’t completely soft-boiled. Perhaps that is what made me feel queasy; the transparent yolk on my toast soldiers. Oh, and about 2 litres of weak Earl Grey tea.}. Then I lay about, watched Sci Fi and moaned for what remained of the weekend.
I ate nothing until I walked to Café 3A in Edward St. Brunswick on Monday afternoon and ordered a pumpkin and fetta pide and a Darjeeling tea. The pide need not concern us here, it was merely 20 minutes in coming and is in danger of exiting my body as I write. The tea however was another matter entirely.
Café 3A used to have cute little pots of tea, but in the pots was a kind of mini pomade on a chain that leaked brown water like incense out of a censer. Now they have removed the pots altogether and have a huge bowl of water with a hand stitched bag swimming in it.
If I am going to be treated like a pariah, I would prefer it to be by a pretty 20something woman - waitressing while she completes her Marketing, or Sociology, or Balinese Dancing-Girl degree. Not by a balding, portly middle-aged man, even if he is the proprietor.
"It's still leaf tea," says the gnome, when I raise an objection. No its not; it is a teabag, even if I have to fish it out with a runcible spoon.
On the bright side, the tea was only $2.50, even if I couldn’t drink it.
Oh, well. One more café off the list.

Jul 6, 2008

More bad tea tales

Café la terra, at the corner of Campbell st and Johnston st Collingwood. The décor is slovenly and disorganized, but the staff are not correspondingly friendly and easygoing.
I wandered in on a cold Melbourne night and saw 'English Tea' on a handwritten menu by the front counter. (A bunch of people were eating at a table further back in what seemed like a family atmosphere; encouraging.) The chairs looked comfortable and I had been walking around the worser parts of Collingwood in the dark for some time, so I asked a girl who came purposefully up to me for a cup of tea.
'Tea?' She looked baffled. 'I will have to ask,' she lisped. So she asks and yes, it appears I can have tea.
Well, we shall see.
From the pile of lemons and knick-knacks on the counter the woman in charge asks if I want milk. I do. When my tea comes it is of course a pot of hot water, and a bag of some no-name brand in the cup.
I anticipate a quick getaway so I say; I will pay now. $3.00 is the advertised price. But no, the girl with too many teeth in her lower jaw says $3.50.
It says $3.00 on the menu I say. Mum behind the lemon piles says 50 cents is for the milk.
Fifty cents for milk is simply outrageous, I say, having as recently as last summer bought a small carton of milk for $1.00.
In any case, the tea was undrinkable, and I lay a spinster's curse on Café la terra.

Jun 10, 2008

A Teapot given to me; now sadly broken.

Herbal Teas

I admit I like Herbal Teas. I drink Peppermint, and Rosehip and Hybiscus, Lemongrass, and Chamomile before bed. These undeniable pleasures I deny myself when I have to pay $4.00 for them in a dropdead cool cafe.

Jun 5, 2008

Places I have had a perfectly ghastly cup of tea.

Ray in Victoria St. Brunswick. Many years ago, I drank a glass tumbler of Green Tea whilst waiting for a tardy friend; my stomach getting more and more acidic as each minute passed.

The Botanic Gardens Cafe at the Observatory obviously.

America. Without exception. And so, by extension, any company owned & controlled by Americans like Gloria Jean and her friend Starbuck. Even if the workers could previously cobble together a decent cup of tea; they are presumably re-educated to produce medium, large & jumbo paper beakers of warm brown water.

Coco inc. in High Street Northcote.

A massively cartoonycool and skateboadarific cafe The Empire Strikes Back in Sydney Rd Brunswick served me an Earl Grey tea of no perceptible taste. When I asked the man with the dreads whether I was really drinking E.G. because it "doesnt taste very Bergamoty", he was nonplussed, and not very interested. This same cool dude would have been grossly insulted if I had deprecated the frothiness of his Soy Mochachino. {Except, what do they do to Soy milk to make it liable to froth? Cows milk holds those cute bubbles with fat; delicious, versatile fat. Just how fatty are Soy beans?}

May 26, 2008

May 23, 2008

Places in Melbourne to get a perfectly reasonable cup of tea.

Endis Cafe in Brunswick street Fitzroy has a bag in a pot for $2.80. But for me their real charm lies in the lack of any Brunswick Street snobbery. It is posible to watch the passersby & the elaborate lengths they go to to distinguish themselves from their felllow man from a room full of Ambulance Drivers, Aboriginal Legal Service workers and Mothers & Daughters on shopping sprees.

The Three Thistles in Crowbasket Street in Brunswick. Probably my favourite cafe; not very posh, or cool, but reliable.

The Melbourne Museum cafe. Certainly a lot of children at the Museum, but a beautiful view, and a plunger of tea, and many items under glass to enjoy.

The Hopetoun Tearooms in The Block Arcade in the city is a place to take an impressionable neice. There is an air of conspicuous luxury likely to impress an 11 year-old, but the tea is overpriced and one is uncomfortably intimate with one's neighbours. And still only Duke of Earl and English Boringness. Oh, plus something they call 'Hopetoun Blend', which is presumably a mix of the tea left on the floor at the end of the day. It is not unusual for Auntie Frank to receive poor service wherever she goes so I won't say their service is apallingly slow on a saturday noontime. And if one sits in the window, morons will wander past and stare in at one, almost without ceasing...

Places in Mellbourne to get a good cup of tea.

Tin Pot Cafe, on the corner of Saint Georges Road and Holden Street, North Fitzroy. $3.20. English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey {& I am sure, many other Herbal concoctions}
Alphabet City. High Street Northcote, opposite the Westgarth Cinema, & very near Merri Station {on the Epping Line}. The usual teas: the ubiquitous English Breakfast & Earl Grey, plus Irish Breakfast, Darjeeling, Really Russian Caravan & Some Strange Vanilla. $3.00 {but don't get the Darjeeling; weak}. The place is usually full of young mothers and their spawn at afternoon tea time, but I have usually contrived to sit in an empty {& rather dark and forlorn} back room. Sometimes they remember to serve me.

Trotters in Lygon Street Carlton has a wide selection of tea and an extra pot of hot water, but it costs $3.50. The only problem with Trotters is Carlton people; Cinema Ova patrons {the type that talk through the film}, university students, people with their jumpers tied round their necks.

The Galleon in Carlisle Street Saint Kilda is the sort of cafe I should naturally be drawn to. Yet I always feel uncomfortable there. It has proper {if battered} pots for the tea, mismatched heritage cups and saucers, bedraggled 50's chairs and scuffed formica tables & art by local artists on the walls ... and yet ...and yet ... it still isn't right. Maybe it's the Very Interesting St. Kilda people.

A Minor Place on Albion Street Brunswick is also a place to get a decent cup of tea in a convivial atmosphere. It is in the middle of nowhere rather than on a main shopping strip, but it maintains its charm for all that.

Degraves, in Degraves arcade near the CAE in the City is a good cup of tea with an OK range and pot of extra hot water. There are also attractive and leisurely waitresses, old theatre seats and a wide enough clientelle that even a person of no obvious coolness will not feel out of place.

May 18, 2008


Lets start with something simple: tea.
What is tea? According to The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Hysterical Principles {a book} tea is a mildly stimulating drink made by pouring boiling water on leaves of the plant of the genus Thea. As far as I am concerned, tea is a way for a misanthrope to endure the company of other people. And yet, one must maintain one's personal standards.

This is acceptable: a metal pot full of leaves, or even a teabag (as long as it doesn't have stuff in it to make the water go brown) a pot of hot water, a cup usually used for coffee, a saucer, a spoon, a window to look out of and not too many babies in the surrounding tables.
Imagine then my dissappointment, at what would seem to be a posh cafe at the Observatory end of the Botanic Gardens I was presented with a tall glass beer stein with a metal cage construction stuffed full of leaves. I was a fool to expect anything better. Mine Host, when asked if they had any other black teas than English Breakfast and Earl Grey {boring standbys I am getting a little tired of} said "you can have ANY tea black", meaning I suppose that they would refrain from adding milk to my Chamomile or Lavender Soother!
I tried to explain that Black Tea was any tea made from the Thea genus, but all I could remember about it was that the genus is now included in the Camelia family, and is treated... somehow. Smoked? Rolled on the thighs of Columbian virgins? Buried for 200 years in soft peat?
" Well you learn something every day!" said this purveyor of hot non-alcoholic beverages in a busy city cafe. I should hope not!

... and at $3.50 this is the very definition of a bad cup of tea.