Sunday, June 19, 2011

Contessa Tea Shop, Rivonia, South Africa

I have been meaning to go to Contessa Tea Shop for the last four months, but I only finally got around to doing it this past Friday. Contessa is a Tea Shop and cafe located in Johannesburg's northern suburb of Rivonia. Despite the huge tea drinking culture here in South Africa, for the most part, variety and loose leafed teas have not steeped themselves deep into this culture, yet (pun intended!). Contessa is on a mission to change that, with a sprawling menu of over 70 different types of tea ranging from premium black, flavoured, green, white and herbal infusions.

My tea partner in crime, Alex, and I arrived at Contessa at about 10 AM and the place was bursting with life. Men and women alike were sitting at tables indoors and out sipping on pots of tea. We chose a quaint two person table in the corner by the front. What I love about Contessa is the rather eclectic style. Mirrors and portraits and old tea tins adorn the room, while exposed wooden tables and rustic chairs are planted on the checkerboard floor.

When presented with our tea menus, my eyes immediately gravitated toward Coconut Snow, a flavoured black tea. Alex decided to go for the Masala Chai. The tea at Contessa is presented in lovely glass pots, infuser inside so you can steep for as strong as you like. The cups and saucers are beautiful, flowered china cups, and as I always say, tea just tastes better from fine china cups and saucers. My Coconut Snow was a deep and powerful black tea laced with hints of coconut joy. Only a splash of milk and sugar bring out the its full glory. Alex's chai was full of cardamom and ginger flavour, and transported me to India for a brief moment. After we had finished our two pots, we opted to share a pot of Blackcurrant. Although I'm usually not a fruity tea drinker, I do love Blackcurrant, and this particular blend proved to be superb. Light and refreshing with subtle notes of the berry bursting.

Contessa has a full food menu with lavish breakfast such as Full Englishs, pancakes, toasteds, and oats. There is also a very impressive cake stand brandishing the delicacies of the day. Although I would have loved to try the chocolate coconut cake, it was just too early for me, so Alex and I opted for two muffins, which we split between us. The cappuccino and cheese muffins were large and fresh, served warm. What I love about South Africa is along with your serving of butter, strawberry jam, and apricot jam, you also almost always get a side of grated cheese to sprinkle on top. This mix of savoury and sweet is so delicious, and I want to continue this trend once I get back to the states.

Our bill total came out to about 60 Rand each, which is about 8 dollars a person. Very reasonable for three pots of tea and two large muffins. If I have the time, I would love to go back to Contessa. This is a tea shop that knows what its doing, and I promise you won't be disappointed with the selection or taste!

-The Tea Gastronomer

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I spent the past weekend in the Kingdom of Lesotho, a landlocked country within the confines of South Africa. It was extremely cold, but the mountainous countryside was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. On a bitter Saturday morning, I woke up to this simple, little pleasure: a hot pot of green tea, served with a small bowl of buttermilk rusks, tennis biscuits and custard creams. So simple, yet so perfect. Taking time for tea and a biscuit allows you to appreciate your hosts and surroundings no matter where you are! Take time for yourself and make some hot tea and have something sweet to go with it. I promise it will brighten up your day! Will hopefully have some South Africa updates for you all soon!