Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Little Church Tea Garden: Van Reenen, Free State, South Africa

This isn't a postcard! It's the actual landscape!

I just got back from a long weekend road trip. My friends and I rented a car and drove out to Durban, a beach city in KwaZulu-Natal. It was a great trip, indeed, but one of my favorite parts of the trip was the halfway point to our destination. Tucked into a country side town along the Drakensburg Mountains is the smallest independently owned Catholic church in the world and adjacent to it, a lovely little tea shop with one of the best views you can imagine.

The Tea Garden

The Little Church Tea Garden has a lovely standard tearoom interior, complete with a lovely cake display. On my visit it was sporting milktart, chocolate walnut, another chocolaty concoction and a plate of scones (pronounced sc-awn-s here). As beautiful as the interior is, on a warm South African summer day, nothing beats sitting out in the garden with one of the most natural and beautiful views you can imagine. I took pictures and I couldn't even believe they were real.

Inside the Tearoom
The Cake Stand

The lovely staff was very attentive and before long, I had ordered my cream tea. A pot of Ceylon tea was presented to me in a lovely silver setting and a simple white porcelain teacup. My tea was a perfect relaxing cuppa to break up the drive. Shortly after, I was presented with my scone, already dressed for me in a swirl of fresh cream and homemade jam.

Ceylon Tea with a View!

The jam was the most special part of the cream tea. When I asked her what the deep purple and berried serving was, the proprietress replied, or at least what I heard, "nache". It turns out she wasn't saying "nache" at all, but nightshade. The thick Afrikaaner accent threw me off at first! Nightshade is actually a berry endemic to the Free State. Although it grows in the UK and Australia, it is poisonous there. Here, however, it is perfectly safe to eat and produces a lovely and perfect jam for scones. The scones by the way were fresh and crumbly, just how I like them!

Handmade Scones

Nightshade Jam

I could have sat for hours looking off at the mountains and sipping my tea, but eventually, the road called. As we were leaving, a family was gathering for a wedding in the Little Church. Lovely. It was a perfect stop off in the most perfect of South African country towns. The best respite I could have asked for!

Eric, Me, and Alex

More Perfect View