‘Siva’ is the name of a Saharan oasis, offering rest and peace to weary travellers and traders. Siva Čajovna is located on Masná in the Old Town and describes itself as an Arabian coffee and tea house. How did it compare to its namesake?
Siva makes a good first impression. On entering I was struck by the cosy warmth Siva offered and the lovely, heady smells emanating from the back room. The ground floor is split between two rooms (there is also a downstairs area), each with similar décor – wall tapestries and low sofas and tables. The back room is warmer and more comfortable. The front room is too drafty and busy, especially if you’re planning on staying a while. The rooms are possibly a little too dark, however. Whilst this is clearly the feel Siva is going for, a few candles would go a long way to avoid resulting dinginess. The music was reminiscent of the chill out rooms in some night clubs – not particularly authentic Arabian and at times a little too loud for Siva’s relaxed vibe.
The menu listed 30 – 40 tea varieties. Like many more touristy establishments, Siva also offers soft drinks, juices and coffee and alcoholic beverages including mead, beer and Egyptian wine. The food offerings include traditional North African snacks such as baklava, Japanese rice crackers, and nuts, and savoury dishes including couscous, hummus and stuffed vine leaves. Hookah are also available.
I chose Shui Hsien (45 CZK), an oolong tea whose name means ‘Water Sprite’ (our waiter told us). My companion opted for White Monkey (90 CZK) (a green tea, despite its name). Being of a sweet-toothed persuasion, we also chose baklava (25 CZK) and honey cake (40 CZK). We also ordered a hookah with apple tobacco (100 CZK).
The Shui Hsien was served in a blue and white china teapot with matching cup. It had a woody, almost burnt taste, which is typical of Oolong tea. It also smelt slightly of cannabis, which I am not sure is quite so typical…!
The White Monkey was served in a little china cup with a lid. After brewing, the liquid is strained off into a second cup. The White Monkey smelt sweet and tasted quite dry yet refreshing.
Our waiter brought a pot of extra water, heated over a little candle stand on our table, allowing us to top ourselves up as we wished, which was a nice touch.
My baklava and J’s honeycake were both very generous portions. The honeycake was very good. The baklava was disappointing – too dry, quite tough and chewy and missing the sickly sweet honey stickiness I expected.
The hookah was very authentic – similar to those I’ve had in Egypt and Morocco. A sweet, fragrant apple flavour which was not too overpowering. Go easy if it’s your first time. My companion became quite lightheaded!
The prices were reasonable – we spent a total of 300 CZK and were there for two hours (and felt like the staff would have been happy if we’d stayed all day). However, some of the teas were fairly pricey – 90 CZK for White Monkey is possibly as much as you can pay in Prague for tea. Whilst some of these teas are rare and imported, I did feel that the prices may reflect the central, tourist-focused location of this particular čajovna.
Although service was rather slow at the beginning, it was helpful when it came and our waiter was knowledgeable about the teas. Slow service can be expected in čajovny – these are places that people come to linger, not rush.
Overall, I didn’t particularly love Siva’s décor. The waiters were very friendly though, the tea was lovely, but the food was quite mixed. If not an oasis, it’s good to have such a relaxed venue just a stone’s throw from the Old Town Square.
Siva is located at Masná 8, 110 00 Prague 1.
Open Mon-Fri 12.00 to 23.30, Sat 14.00 to 23.30 and Sun 14.00 to 22.00