Seeminlgly one of the more obscure findings for the blog, this traditional tea-house on Oranienburgstrasse in Mitte was donated to East Berlin by the Soviet Republic of Tajikistan in 1976. A bit of internet research told me that far from being obscure this novelty cafe is listed among the ‘hidden gems’ in the more alternative tourist guides and seemed well known and well reviewed.
image from http://www.tadshikische-teestube.de/
I met a friend there for a late afternoon tea on a cold early December afternoon and it felt like the right time of year to cozy up in the warm, ‘Oriental’ style salon. (Using the word oriental conjures up exactly the images I want to convey here but I use inverted commas because of Edward Said and how Oriental can be seen a powerful, negative discourse)
Anyway, I digress. One can choose between sitting on cushions on the floor or on a few proper tables, even at 4pm just after opening it was busy with several reserved signs on the tables. We left our shoes and coats by the door and sat at a small table at the back, there was a lovely booth behind us which I imagine would be nice to book if you were with a largish group. The decor was very opulent as you would hope from such a place with mahogany wood floors with huge embroidered Persian rugs, emerald green walls furnished with tapestries and paintings, and the low wooden tables had cushions for sitting and were jeweled with sweets and nuts.
There was a lot more alcohol than I imagined on the menu with different vodkas and liqueurs featuring as part of some of the set teas. It was also a bit expensive with pots of tea averaging at 5 euros and some of the more extravagant samovar tea ceremonies costing 9 euros per person. I resent paying for tea when someone has just put hot water on a tea bag so was hoping that we would get at least something more than some PG Tips in a pot. We chose the appropriately named ‘Five O’Clock’ tea partly because it seemed one of the more authentic offerings and partly as it was early and we didn’t fancy any vodka. It came with with fresh cream, lemon-cheese marmalade (lemon curd), biscuits, toast and orange and ginger marmalade. We also took a plate of Wareneki with potato and mushroom to share as we were not so hungry to try many thing and hadn’t tried this variety of dumpling before.
The menu as a whole was a real mishmash of Uzbek, Russian, Eastern European and Iranian cuisines which is unsurprising considering Tajikistan’s location on the silk and spice trails. You could really imagine traders from all over the near East stopping off for tea somewhere like this, their camels tied up outside expecting home comforts, vodka and hot teas to warm them on their way. I guess this place is like an ancient form of a motorway service station but with fewer blow up neck cushions and less varieties of pick-and-mix. If I went back I would like to have tried the Plov which is an Uzbek dish of lamb and rice and the pierogis with meat.
The five o’clock tea was lovely. Tasty black tea and slices of wholemeal toast and biscuits with yummy marmalade. The wareneki were okay but nothing special, the texture was nice, the potato filling tasty enough and the mushroom topping was interesting but we had unthinkingly ordered the vegan version so we couldn’t help but think about how much better they would be with cheese or sour cream to give them some moisture. The value for money wasn’t so good either at over eight euros a plate but I guess the prices reflect the surroundings and being in a nice part of Mitte.
I would come back here but maybe for a special occasion with a group and book a table with a full tea ceremony as this seems to be the essence of the place. It is a certainly special place to visit, evocative of another time on a distant windswept Tajik plain where moustached men on horses with their precious cargo of spice and silks would stop off to refresh themselves and share their tales. And that is not something you get to experience every day, especially not in the centre of Berlin.