A traditional Japanese porcelain teapot is placed on my table. I am seated at a lovely tea house in the chic, up-market inner district of Kolonaki, which is beginning to show some signs of cultural revival after not being spared from the wider woes caused by Greece’s deep recession, as was noted by Wallpaper, the renowned magazine covering design, fashion and architecture. It ran a story on Tsai, the Kolonaki tea house I am at. The article stresses the place’s impressive minimal design, created by the Greek architect Giorgos Batzios. The tea house is set up over one unified space comprised of a lounge area and a shop selling tea and crockery over a particularly low-levelled bench that offers a better view of the merchandise while also facilitating handicapped persons. It resembles a perfumery.
Responding to a question on the design-related thoughts that sprung up in his mind when he was asked to take on the Tsai project, Batzios remarked: “The idea was to install an inner layer of bark that would conceal lights and create storage space for tea and objects wherever necessary. Timber is a warm and friendly material, while the portique technique around the sides allows light to pass through gently, resembling the effects of the sun’s rays during sunrise.”
From 10:00 to 22:00, one may select from a tea range numbering 500 varieties, most of these supplied by the renowned Mlesna tea company from Sri Lanka, exclusively marketed in Greece by Tsai, as well as varieties from China and Japan. The place is almost psychotherapeutic.
The experience is reminiscent of the process of entering a chemist’s shop. The customer describes his or her symptoms and is prescribed an appropriate tea variety that could be named “Quiet Evening”, a variety containing mint and lemon balm, “Pleasant Start”, made with hibiscus and liquorice, “Ginseng Wellness”, with ginseng and calendula, and so on.
The food on offer shares a similar philosophy. Although Tsai is not a restaurant, it does serve certain sandwiches, salads, as well as light and nutritious dishes that may be enjoyed without a guilty conscience. Fresh organic cake baked using green Matcha tea and raspberries is available on a daily basis, while highly popular menu items include various quiche tarts, vegan cakes, including a chocolate and peanut butter cake, as well as ginger cookies. Don’t leave without having tried the Israeli salad made with finely-chopped crispy vegetables, wild rocket, parsley, feta cheese, and nuts. Everything on the menu is always fresh and made on the spot. Even the pies on the menu are made using freshly prepared pastry.
Reflecting the overall zen-type ambience at this tea house, the music selections are classical and non-intrusive, which, like all else offered here, allows customers to sit pleasantly for hours and work, read, nibble, even enjoy sitting on the swings. The place is equipped with two wooden swings hanging at the front, “for the lovebirds,” as Batzios noted. Yes, the setting here is truly romantic. But keep in mind, there is no tea-based antidote for falling in love.
“The idea was to install an inner layer of bark that would conceal lights and create storage space for tea and objects wherever necessary”