Monday, February 18, 2013

The Art of Tea at Tea Lounge

Good tea shops in Manila are hard to come by. When I say good, I mean a nice balance between quality leaves and an affordable price tag. Also, I think the good reputation of tea time has been sullied in Manila by the misconceptions that:
  1. Only old Chinese folks drink tea;
  2. You only really drink tea if you aren't feeling well or trying to lose weight; and
  3. Good teas are expensive.
There may be some truth to the last misconception since I can only find good quality teas at overpriced at hotels or that other tearoom at Greenbelt. But this doesn't have to be the case!

I was so happy to discover a tearoom that didn't smell like something out of Chinatown with a wide variety of teas that are sold at a Starbucks-friendly price. Strategically placed at The Fort at the brand spankin' new Net Lima building, Tea Lounge is the place to hunt down if you're hankerin' for tea that's done the right way. Tea Lounge (pronounced da-you-deh) is known for its custom teas, curated and blended by the owner, Certified Tea Master Renée Sebastian, as well as their tea-infused menu. Renée has apprenticed under other tea masters all over the globe (with pictures on the walls to prove it), and continues to supplement her education with field training. Her goal is to educate Filipinos about tea culture through wellness seminars and every year she travels the world scouting for rare tea ingredients.

The whole vibe at is an extension of the owner - modern, chic, minimalist, but with a whole lot of sass! All the details from the door, to the chairs, and the pretty tea canisters have been so well-thought out - nothing is done just for the sake of getting it done.

During my first visit, I was surprised that they served tea-infused food. If I'm to admit it, I'd say my love for started with their Pho - delicate rice noodles bathed in Spice N' Everything nice tea broth, sprinkled with sprouts, herbs and a generous amount of Lapsong Souchong Pork to tuck into. Yum!

I opted to try their other Vietnamese dish this time around, and ordered their Crisp Pork Bahn Mi. The crispy tea-infused roast pork was laid on a tea Sriracha and vegetable slaw, sandwiched in between a hefty baguette, with a sprinkling of sprouts and cilantro and hand cut fries on the side. The order was good for sharing (at least in my opinion), with each bite into the baguette and pork skin giving off a loud crunch that, at least in my head, echoed all over the tea room. I cannot even begin to describe the roast pork - it's like lechon minus all the grease and fat, perfectly seasoned, with a very, very, very crispy skin. Very crispy, indeed.

I was nice enough to share my Crisp Pork Bahn Mi with Jericho, who was having a pretty rough day, being locked out of his car in a towing zone. I probably would've hogged it all if I didn't feel so bad for the guy. I downed my sammich with a cold glass of Street Side Masala Chai which reminded me of Malaysia - it was spot on sweet from the milk with a kick of spice from the chai. Ah, heaven.

We didn't want to leave after a while and used that as an excuse to order a Madeleine Trio and a pot of Skala tea. The madeleines were served with unclotted cream and a homemade citrus marmalade that was so fantastic I totally forgot to snap a picture. The tea came in custom tea infusers that drain the tea into the teacups below when you're ready. The Skala was sweet and tart at the same time from the combination of the tea and bits of fruit. Unlike the other tearoom where they throw away the leaves so you had no choice but to order a second pot, we had our pot re-steeped a few more times, enjoying all the subtle nuances between each steep, before calling it a night.

When mucking around BGC, make sure to give Tea Lounge a discover what tea should really taste like. I liked the teapot and teacups so much I took a set home along with a bag of Skala!

Just mucking around Manila,
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+ 63 2 478-3579
G/F Net Lima Building,
4th Ave. & 26th st.
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Open Daily: 10am - 11pm