Drinking tea in Melbourne, Australia’s coffee capital, is actually not as difficult as you’d expect and in many ways it is less tethered to Asian style teahouses and more inventive with its venues than Sydney. Here is Teashirts’ (by no means definitive) guide to Melbourne venues that serve quality leaf.
Please note this section covers venues that are primarily designed for sitting down to enjoy tea, not tea retailers.
Shop 53, 1 Main Street, Box Hill
Proprietor: Spencer Wong
This Box Hill teahouse is located a step away from a busy pedestrian mall, in a suburb heavily populated by people of Chinese heritage. A pleasantly decorated venue, Cha-T offers customers a gongfu cha set to brew their chosen tea, which you can choose from an expensive, though well curated, menu of Chinese and Taiwanese leaf.
Milan Tea House
33D Buckingham Ave, Springvale
Proprietor: Wendy Wong
Situated in an area with a significant Vietnamese population, Milan Tea House offers a respite from the bustling town centre. It is elegantly appointed, though crowded with teaware, and offers a range of unusual teas, including 60-year-old pu’er and Tibetan brews.
1218 High Street, Armadale
A nicely furnished cafe concept with basic food and coffee but a rich and varied menu of teas from around the world. If you’re ordering anything you think may warrant a second brew, let your tea maker know to keep the leaves for another infusion. Some good quality teaware for sale also.
Tea Drop Brew Bar
Stall 34, South Melbourne Market
Proprietor: Ashok Dias
This smart fitout carves out a nice corner of the market offering much more than the standard blends for which the brand is renowned. Take your time over a pot of $7 single origin tea, from recently harvested greens to aged pu’ers. The only drawback is it’s opposite a fishmonger, so protect your brew’s aroma.
171 Toorak Road, South Yarra
Proprietor: Terry Wu
A step away from busy Toorak Road and you’re in another world, one where you can sit with Terry to taste what he’s drinking or try your hand with a DIY gongfu cha set to brew your chosen tea to your taste (don’t worry if you don’t know how, the friendly staff will teach you). T Hub also offers a small selection of vegetarian dishes and snacks.
Tiwari Tea House
1/578 Barkly Street, West Footscray
Perhaps the only Indian joint in Melbourne that focuses on tea first, food second, Tiwari Tea House offers a menu of leafy India favourites such as Darjeeling and Assam, alongside blends from that part of the world, from spicy chai masala to saffron-blended tea. For a tea-first venue, the snacks are surprisingly excellent.
Venues where tea is not the main focus but they’ve put some effort into offering decent loose leaf tea.
60-62 Pelham Street, Carlton
They love their coffee here but they are also adept at preparing specialty tea.
Kyo Tea House
Lower Ground Emporium Melbourne, 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Lower Ground Chadstone Shopping Centre, 1341 Dandenong Road, Chadstone
Matcha-infused sweets and lattes are their specialty, with matcha ice cream intensity ranging from 1 (mild) to 8 (intense), but you can also get it in a bowl straight whisked. Warning: they do it properly at a strength that allows you to see through time.
The French sweets are the highlight here, but they are paired with Mariage Frères tea, a Parisian institution.
Mary Eats Cake
558 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
A tastefully decorated tearoom with a high tea offering to match, serving Impala & Peacock tea. It’s harder to ‘pop in for tea’ than it used to be as the service is more formal.
72a Acland Street, St Kilda
This St Kilda eatery serves all manner of matcha-laced drinks and food. I advise against the ‘matcha tea’, however, as it is not a bowl of whisked powder but a (bad) infusion of it.
378 Little Collins St, Melbourne
455 Chapel Street, South Yarra
Chadstone Shopping Centre
Come for the dumplings but make sure you have some tea to accompany them.
While coffee is its lifeblood, Sensory Lab has a soft spot for fine tea and it brews its select menu well.
146 Swanston Street, Melbourne
It’s big in Japan… this dessert bar has plenty of matcha-laden and houjicha-flavoured desserts as well as tea lattes.
Vue de Monde
Level 55 Rialto, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne
The food is the focus here, plenty of artisan morsels with fresh local produce, but instead of an accompanying wine flight you can request a tea flight with the same professionalism applied to matching tea with the food. (Warning: This is a budget-breaker, so come armed with plenty of cash or an excellent credit rating.)
WATCH THIS SPACE: By Josephine (Brunswick), Laoshe (Box Hill), Tea Drop (Brunswick).
Have I missed naming your favourite venue? Maybe I haven’t been yet! Nominate it here.
All photos by Adeline Teoh.