The New Year is a time when most of us are looking for a fresh start. And that fresh start, usually involves something health related. After the December festivities, most of us are ready for some sort of detox and Cha-ology in Manchester would be a great place to begin.
My sister first told me about Cha-ology months ago and we were all set to visit in the summer, but alas this tea house does not open on a Sunday. Or a Monday and Tuesday for that matter, worth bearing in mind if you are thinking of popping in. They also don’t take reservations, which for someone like me who lives for the moment, I can’t call up, book ahead and add a specific time to my google calendar, this can be quite unnerving – almost off-putting.
However, back in November I was determined to give it a go. It was a cold Saturday afternoon and we couldn’t think of anything better to do than sit in a cafe and drink a hot cuppa tea.
There were already a few people waiting to be seated when we arrived so we added our name to the queue list. We were advised the wait would take around 25 minutes, not too bad all in all so we agreed and stuck around.
The venue itself is pretty small. To the right is the tea counter and a very small bar area with two seats. To the left, 2 low tables of six and one window table for two. All three have been placed on a raised platform, surrounded by floor cushions for you to sit on with a basket for shoes and any other belongings. Yes, you read that right, one of the requirements is that you will be taking your shoes off (standard house rules for most of us Asians!).
You see, cha-logy isn’t your average tea house. It’s a place where you go when you need time and space to unwind. Where every process is carried out in a relaxed and calm manner. This isn’t the place to be raucous and have a gossip or pop in for a quick caffeine hit. The room screams Scandi/Japanese design, minimalistic, lots of earth tones, bare wood and soft green and grey felts. It’s the kind of place you enter and time slows down, or to some people it may actually stop altogether.
If you have had a chance to look on the facebook page, you’ll notice there are a number of reviews complaining about the time element at this place. A lot of complaints about slow service, long wait times, unexpected closures… I can totally understand where these people may be coming from. In all honesty as we watched on whilst we were waiting, we too felt some of these emotions. We watched as Mei and her helper seemed to take forever when preparing each order, not just for the cafe but also for the customers coming in wanting take away. Everything seemed to be going at a pace I had never experienced before, it was slow on another level. And when you have a hangry husband eagerly waiting to feast on some cake, I was beginning to feel quite on edge.
That all quickly changed the moment we sat down. After placing our orders at the till, sitting down on a fluffy floor cushion, I felt some of my time-related stress melt away. Maybe it was the relief that we were finally going to be able to taste some of the wondrous treats that I had heard so much about.
Mei, the owner and founder of Cha-ology came over some time later with our order and it was then that I realised I had got this place all wrong. As she perched on the end of our table, large tray fully loaded, she began to explain each tea individually… she prepared it in front of us, explained the benefits, we were able to smell the infusions she created and to finish it off we were given a brewing guide for when we decided to move on to cup two or three. Mei spoke softly so as not to disturb other guests, her hands gracefully performed each tea process with ultimate precision, it brought back memories of Japanese tales I had read which detailed the skill and expertise needed to perform the perfect tea ceremony.
The drinks themselves? Well on our table of five, we realised it wasn’t to everyones taste. At the end of the day, it’s not your average cup of tea. The menu focuses on matcha and you can be sure that everything you order will have pure goodness tied to it. I’m not normally a fan of matcha if I’m honest, but the macha latte was delicious. It must have been the way she had prepared it (using a special whisk, chasen, as every good matcha brewer should) that enabled it to taste so good. When I visit next time, and there will be a next time as I owe my sis a treat for introducing us here! Well that matcha latte definitely has my name on it.
Alongside our teas we had also pre-ordered some of the cakes and desserts on offer. Ok so these were incredible. You MUST order a cake! Or a dessert. Or a biscuit. They’re divine, all tea infused and so beautiful to look at too.
Not a single thing was out of place here. You can tell that cha-ology has been created from a vision. Mei knows exactly what she wants and I love that she doesn’t let any of the complaints from customers who don’t understand her vision sway her into changing it.
It was only when I left that I truly understood it myself. Whilst enjoying our tea it had gone dark outside and we hadn’t even noticed that we’d spent the most part of our day there. No bookings means there is no rush for you to leave. Small space and reduced seating means you’re not stuck in a packed room, unable to hear your own thoughts. Shoes off and cup of tea in hand, you can easily feel like you’re at home.
Cha-ology is a place of tranquillity. I would definitely recommend a visit but it’s vital that you go when you have no time constraints, no other plans and you just fancy some time to find your zen.
Because if you’re going to find it anywhere in Manchester, it’s highly likely to be in this Northern Quarter tea house.
Have you been to Cha-ology? Can you recommend anywhere else that performs tea experiences?
*** FYI a couple of these pics were taken by my lovely cousin-in-law, I chose to leave the big cam at home that day ***