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.