Forget bone china tea sets and dainty cakes – São Paulo is reinventing tea time, and adding a touch of modern glamour at the same time. In our search for the best brew, we discovered infusions and iced teas everywhere from minimalist emporiums to Egyptian tea houses.
Tee off at A Loja do Chá - Tee Gschwendner, where there are 37 different tea blends on the menu, and more than 200 in total on sale. Something of a blend in itself – it’s a German brand selling Asian tea blends – this tea shop does a daily tasting of one of its blends. Settle in to one of the leather booths with mirrored table tops, and try before you buy. The clientele here is top drawer, and the tea is brewed with mineral water, no less. Stop by from 3.30-7.30pm (Tuesday to Saturday) to enjoy afternoon tea (R$48), with a selection of teas, cakes, sweets and savoury treats.
Another recent addition to the shopping centre tea scene is Talchá, inside Shopping Higienópolis. Without a doubt, the main event here is the beautiful ball of Chinese tea that ‘flowers’ slowly in its glass teapot when submerged in hot water.
The popular Argentinian tea house, Tea Connection, opened its doors at the beginning of the year, in Alameda Lorena in Jardins, its first location outside its native Buenos Aires. If you think hot tea in warm weather is for mad dogs and Englishmen, go for the iced lemon flower tea infused with lime and lemongrass, though we also loved the thought of the hot red oolong tea with Spanish orange. Hourglass timers and expert waiting staff are on hand to help newcomers master the science behind the perfect infusion.
Another newcomer in town – in Pinheiros, to be exact – is Gourmet Tea. You may have previously seen their teas in São Paulo emporiums and restaurants, but this is the company's first solo sales point. In the part shop, part teahouse, the 35 blends on offer create a striking display behind the counter, with a rainbow of coloured tins of tea that emulate the blends contained within, ranging from white through green to black, with a nod to oolong, rooibos and ayurvedic en route. Sit at one of the seven wooden tables to take part in a modern take on a tea ceremony: efficient and precise, it involves a stopwatch and a quick-release teapot-and-cup-in-one contraption, and the result is – apparently – the perfect infusion. It comes pretty close, but we’re not sure it could produce the perfect British builders’ tea: strong and milky. Team your tea up with the deliciously moist carrot cake, topped with cream cheese.
Those in search of a more traditional afternoon tea should head straight for Quinta do Museu at the Museu da Casa Brasileira, a grand old mansion that was once home to a family of paulistano coffee barons. It’s an apt setting, then, for a caffeine fix, albeit one that’s tea-delivered. Set in the garden of the mansion, afternoon tea (R$44) is reminiscent of an upper-crust British high tea – a meal in itself, with sandwiches, pastries, breads and jams, and cake, served from 3.30-6pm (Tuesday to Friday).
An altogether more exotic cuppa can be found at the Egyptian teahouse Khan El Khalili, close to Ana Rosa Metrô. Enjoy a chilled mint tea with hummous and bread at one of the low tables in this sumptuous setting, where you might strike lucky and catch a belly dancing show. It might not be the way you imagined the perfect cuppa, but somehow, it works.
A Loja do Chá - Tee Gschwendner is at Shopping Iguatemi, 3rd floor, Avenida Faria Lima 2232, Jardim Paulistano (3816 5359, lojadocha.com.br).
Talchá is at Shopping Higienópolis, Pacaembu Floor, Store 2012, Avenida Higienópolis 618, Consolação (3823 3744, talcha.com.br).
Tea Connection is at Alameda Lorena 1271, Jardim Paulista, (3063 4018, teaconnection.com.br).
Gourmet Tea is at Rua Matheus Grou 89, Pinheiros (2936 4814, thegourmettea.com.br).
Quinta do Museu is at the Museu da Casa Brasileira, Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima 2705, Jardim Paulistano (3031 0005, quintadomuseu.com.br).
Khan El Khalili is at Rua Dom José de Queirós Aranha 320, Vila Mariana (5575 6647, khanelkalili.com.br).