I will let you into a little secret – I don’t always enjoy my visits to Czech tea-houses. I love the teas – nowhere else in Europe seems to offer such a wide range at such reasonable prices – and I appreciate the fact that the cajovny offer me refuge when I have given up coffee for Lent. But I don’t always enjoy the atmosphere: the skulking teenagers sucking on hookah pipes as if their lives depended on it, the sometimes shabby furniture, the dog-eared menus. I know that Czech teenagers and students constitute some of the cajovny’s most regular customers and perhaps they like their teahouses this way. But I am pushing thirty, and to be honest, I sometimes like my cups of tea to be a little more civilised.
Enter Čajovna V Síti (Teahouse on the Net). I wasn’t sold by the exterior – from the street it looks like a shop that sells printer toner or whiteboards or something equally mundane. But after walking in and taking my first breath of the grown-up (read: expensive-smelling) clovey aroma, and noticing the calm cream walls, the posh-not-tatty wicker furniture and wide screen Apple computers (I’m sure I wasn’t dreaming), I had completely changed my tune. Čajovna V Síti is a teahouse for grownups.
The menu (not dog-eared) is as big as a book. The Czech version offers page-long descriptions of some of the teas – of which there are well over 100. The English version is less detailed, but is a useful guide if you’re struggling. It’s a long menu including some less common teas from Korea, for example, and several I had never heard of before – including Hanahakoucha Seirei Gokuchani, which is an eye-watering 340 CZK a pot. Most were a more reasonable 120-160 CZK, and include a thermos of hot water to allow multiple infusions. Most teas are also available to buy loose for home use. However, on my first visit a number of teas had sold out, and there were no white teas available at all, which was disappointing.
I opted for Wedding of Phoenix & Dragon in the Bu Lang –a Pu Erh tea from Yunnan province in China (135 CZK). The presentation was lovely – leaves pressed into a tiny ceramic teapot and served on a small wooden pouring board, together with instruction from the waitress on how long to let it infuse. I couldn’t fault it – the tea was a perfect translucent yellow, with rich floral notes. The flavour lasted for a good six cups before turning a little bitter.
A small vegetarian food menu is available, including fresh daily options (soups and salads from 35 CZK). It’s not an earth-moving imaginative spread, but you’re not coming here for the food anyway. I was peckish so had a cheese toasty (35 CZK) – something for the students after all? This was good; although it arrived with, inexplicably, a grape garnish.
I also sampled some hazelnut ice cream with green tea powder (29 CZK for one scoop). The ice-cream was excellent and the flavours worked well together, but the tea-powder was not particularly pleasant to eat as it sticks to the back of ones throat in a choke-inducing fashion. A bit of a gimmick, perhaps, although green tea has weight-loss properties; maybe it off-sets the ice cream?
This is small criticism though, as the teas and the atmosphere were both fantastic. Look online and time your visit for one of their ‘traveller evenings’, tea tastings (like wine, but without the hangover) or on-going art exhibitions – there is a lot going on here and it’s well worth a visit for anyone who wants to drink quality tea without sacrificing on comfort.
Čajovna V Síti
Jana Masaryka 46
Prague 2 – Vinohrady
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