Few things are more delightfully decadent than catching up with good friends over a cup of tea. From hotel restaurants to proper teahouses, here’s where to go on the weekend (or any day of the week really) for the best tea Athens has to offer!
Grande Bretagne Hotel
The ultimate “proper” English afternoon tea drinking ritual can be enjoyed in the polished Winter Garden City Lounge of Athens’ plushest hotel. The service is set for two and you can choose from a variety of 16 classic and lesser known tea blends. Friendly to the philosophy expressed by the Dowager Countess (so exquisitely played by Maggie Smith) in Downton Abbey, “nothing succeeds like excess”; and fully honouring authentic the British high tea tradition, your blend of choice will be served in an elaborate China teapot and cups along with warm scones and fresh clotted cream, to be topped with the hotel’s rich marmalades; fluffy white finger sandwiches filled with cucumber or egg mayonnaise with cress or smoked salmon, vibrantly coloured macarons, profiteroles and other pastries.
A: 1 Vasileos Georgiou A’, Syntagma Square
“A woman is like a teabag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
With an award winning architectural design (architect Giorgos Batzios was awarded the European Architecture Awards for his design in 2017), To Tsai serves and sells tea varieties from around the world in pots relevant to where the tea comes from – Japanese tea is served in cast iron pots, Chinese tea in clay pots from Yixing and other teas in porcelain pots. Over 500 varieties imported from tea-producing countries by Mlensa Hellas are served in the warm yet minimal environment. Soft lighting concealed behind rows of timbre panels, (“to resemble a sunrise”, the architect has said) creates a Zen Japanese vibe that enhances the feeling of restoration. To Tsai also serves a high quality selection of light meals such as freshly made salads, eggs Benedict and quiches as well as desserts, including vegan options. A great option for a business brunch.
A: Alexandrou Soutsou 19, Kolonaki
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S. Lewis
Now with three stores in Athens (Kolonaki, Pangrati and Halandri), this cozy cafe serves around 25 varieties of ethically sourced tea blends in a colourful, stylish environment. With a mix of old school charm and a playful vintage theme (a piano, ‘60s vinyl records, an old record player, faux early-19th Century tiled floor, a jazz music soundtrack and furniture reminiscent of the Belle Epoque in Paris) it serves heartwarming teas such as Ceylon Black Wood with orange peel and cinnamon stick, green gun powder and Kusmi, as well as a delectable variety of hot chocolate and coffee beverages, always accompanied by delicious desserts and satisfying snacks. The perfect spot for catching up with a friend for a few hours of serious banter.
A: Omirou 44, Kolonaki, Platia Platia Eleftheroton 16, 16, Halandri and Aminta 1 (Proskopon Square) Pangrati
“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Madras – House of Tea for sophisticated takeaway
Inside the Bolani Stoa in central Athens you’ll find this delightful little store, which boasts one of the largest varieties of tea in Europe – 400 to be precise, with imports for 14 tea producing countries in Asia and Africa. With 45 years of experience under his belt, owner Stefanos Papatzialas has a well-trained staff of flavour experts who can explain, inform and recommend brands and varieties. The Madras company also creates their own trademark blends with aromatic plants and fruits, with wild, organic, pest-free Greek herbs and more. Here and in the Piraeus store you can take tea to go rather than linger over a cuppa, but the proprietors are planning to open a store in Athens where customers can drink tea in house. Just what you need when you’re on the go on a cold winter day.
A: 7 Voulis, in Stoa Bolani, Syntagma, Notara 21, Piraeus
“Tea … is a religion of the art of life.” – Kazuko Okakura
One of the capital’s best coffee shops also serves a great cup of tea. Selling a broad variety of herbal, fruit and black or red tea loose leaf blends created by the British Suki Tea brand, first set up in 2005 by Annie and Oscar. Popular choices include Lemon and Ginger, Red Berry, Green Tea Sencha and Mango Tango but there are also more classical blends like Earl Grey and Breakfast Tea. The ambiance is urban chic with colourful touches and minimal furnishings, perfect for a working morning.
A: Emmanouil Benaki 7-9, Exarcheia
“If you are cold, tea will warm you;
if you are too heated, it will cool you;
If you are depressed, it will cheer you;
If you are excited, it will calm you.” – William Ewart Gladstone