A new teahouse has opened up around the corner from my house. It happened very quietly, with little fanfare beyond a handful of "likes" on Facebook, but you can't sneak anything with "teahouse" in its name past me in coffee-dominated Melbourne. I have been peering through the window watching the fit-out develop and reading the "Coming Late June" signs on the door (that hearbreakingly changed to "Coming Mid July") with impatient interest. Then last week I was walking Madeleine home from the park when what ho! the doors were open! The owners were smiling, the samovar was steaming, so in we rolled.
Owned by three friends united in their love of tea and travel, the Travelling Samovar is like everyone's best version of an imagined stopover on the Spice Route. The menu boasts approximately one billion different teas* complete with tasting notes. But if you're lazy (like me), just ask the owners for their advice. Their passion for tea spills over throughout the conversation, and it's so contagious. I tried the "Calcutta" tea-tasting, a trio of Indian teas (Darjeeling, Assam and Chai), with tea-infused shortbread on the side as a palate cleanser.
There's a light lunch menu as well, and can you imagine anything better on a cold winter's day than cumin-spiced tomato and sweet potato soup? It was sublime. Madeleine preferred her toasty cheese fingers, the pleb. We followed our lunches up with a poached fruit salad and buffalo-milk yoghurt, that we shared.
On another day, I ordered a light rosebud tea sweetened with honey, alongside a moist, sticky Persian love cake and a generous dollop of rose-petal cream. On this Madeleine and I both agreed, so we actually had to order a second cake because she ate ALL of my first one!
We returned to the Travelling Samovar as a family on the weekend and tried the antipasto platter, the ratatouille tart, a generous slice of Russian Napoleyon slice, and some more teas. You've got to do this not only for the tasting but also to watch all the amazing, traditional preparation methods that they use, depending on the tea.
ps. Yes, they do have an old samovar. And yes, they do use it.
ps2. That weird sticky-up bit of hair on top of my head? That's because I cut my own fringe AGAIN and it went horribly wrong AGAIN. Don't talk to me about it.