Prague has increasingly become known as a coffee destination, but there’s still a thriving teahouse scene in the Czech capital. For evidence of that look no further than A Maze In Tchaiovna, a tea room that caters to the international community and recently celebrated the grand re-opening of its newest — and biggest ever — space in the heart of Hradčanská.
Originally located in Letná, the beloved teahouse has moved twice since its inception in 2014. It’s fitting that the new space is on Kafkova 18, a street named for writer Czech-German writer Franz Kafka. Owners Andy and Helen Fell faced a number of bureaucratic hurdles to get their new tearoom up and running.
Now that they’ve successfully navigated that maze, they are welcoming Praguers once again — and still serving an outstanding cup of tea. Called “A Maze in Tchaiovna” because the original teahouse was laid out like an actual maze, complete with moving bookcases and closets that led to hidden rooms, the name has a bit of a double meaning.
“We also chose the name because it was our hope that everyone who entered would have an amazing experience, that people from all walks of life would feel welcome and find something to enjoy,” says Helen Fell.
The history of tea in the Czech lands dates to 1848 when the beverage was purportedly brought to Prague by Russian anarchists. In 1912, a tea room opened in Lucerna Palace, but closed a few months later. In the waning years of communism, tea lovers met secretly to sample teas that were very difficult to come by. That collective eventually opened Dobrá Čajovna tearoom in 1993 on Wenceslas Square.
The concept quickly caught on and, according to Aleš Jurina owner of Dobrá Čajovna, the Czech Republic may have more tearooms, per capita, than any other country in the world. Its tea rooms typically offer extensive menus of black, green, oolong, white or rooibos tea, and a laid-back ambience all their own.
Since its beginnings, the Fells’ A Maze In Tchaiovna has picked up on the unique čajovna vibe and not just with its atmosphere, excellent tea list, light bites, and wide selection of board games and books that encourages lingering. Czech-Scottish owner Andy Fell says tea rooms are a bit of a family tradition.
“When my older brother was in Prague during his last year at uni, he met and fell for a Czech girl, who was really into the tea room scene,” says Fell. “He mentioned that he ran a tea room back home which may or may not have been true.” A year later the unsuspecting woman called to say she was coming to Glasgow and couldn’t wait to see the tea room.
“He and his friends scrambled to find a spot and in about a month he actually managed to get one up and running,” says Fell of his brother’s tea room, adding, “That’s the story of how we came into this line of work.”
What A Maze In Tchaiovna has that many teahouses do not is a diverse entertainment program geared toward Prague’s English-speaking community. Regular events include Amazing Tea Talks (like TED Talks, but with tea), silent films with live piano, or The Festival of Creativity, where anyone can share their skills and learn new ones. Free language lessons and trivia night events are busy evenings at the tea house as are the increasingly popular sock wrestling events.
These regular happenings have also become an incubator of sorts for a community of Prague creatives with expats, tourists, and lifelong locals gathering here to support and engage in the arts.
One example of a local business owner who has flourished within the A-Maze community is American performer FattyMa Cous Cous who teaches Burlesque dance here and stages “debut” performances so her students can experience dancing in front of a live audience.
“Having a space where burlesque and boylesque students can walk down the halls without stigma or labels is so important.” she says. “Finding a space that can foster creativity and be a platform for artistic endeavors is so important and doing it with a group of people chanting and screaming makes it all the more exciting.”
English expat Lisa Cunniff served many pots of Tchaiovna’s excellent tea before going on to open a place of her own. She found both the inspiration and the necessary connections at A Maze In Tchaiovna to bring her own dream to life. Now she runs Up4All, a community space near Grebovka Park, dedicated to art, yoga, and language learning.
Multi-talented musician and actor Marc Cram teaches comedic improvisation. He says that A Maze has proven a natural fit for his Blood, Love and Rhetoric improv group. “Andy and Helen’s vision of making a true multidisciplinary arts space and their tireless efforts and talent for bringing people together have made it an institution in Prague in only four short years.”
The annual Meander Festival also emerged from the tea room’s infectious spirit of shared creativity. Each year a different natural setting is chosen where local talent and A Maze In Tchaiovna regulars like Yo Soy Indigo and Duchess and the Kittens, perform during the three-day, multi-stage festival. Visitors can catch everything from folk to EDM at this chill alternative to the larger summer festivals.
Ultimately, the goal of the tea room and its activities has become about so much more than tea, though it always comes back to the healing comfort of a cuppa. “We wanted to devote ourselves to a place where the human soul can just be safe and happy,” says Andy Fell. “And be celebrated. What a cup of warm tea does for the body, we wanted to do for the soul.”