Storm in a Teacup owner Hannah Dupree takes Camellia sinensis seriously. Peppermint? Not a tea. She serves it, but it’s a herbal infusion and she’ll tell you so. Don’t even get her started on yerba mate – Argentinean sham-tea.
It’s at her specialist tea shop in Collingwood where you can pick up a bag of oolong, and thanks to some recent renovations, park yourself at the curved bar three nights a week and spike your tea with gin.
A 'Too Drunk to Drive this Russian Caravan' is what we’d expect to find lushes necking on the porch: a ball of frozen Russian Caravan tea (actually Chinese oolong, keemun and lapsang) diffuses a sweet smoke bomb of aniseed and limone liqueurs amped up with vodka, ruby port, and a dash of peat whisky till it's a citrusy tannic iced tea.
The Golden Shower is snigger worthy in name only – a scorched-marzipan stirdown of dry vermouth, whisky and Amaretto, scattered with lightly roasted oolong Golden Wuyi.
Not into cocktails? They’re rocking great beers from Holgate and Stone and Wood’s breezy Pacific Ale and there are a short, sharp handful of local wines. But you don’t have to drink at all. There are as many people nursing straight lapsang as liquor.
The vibe is still that of a café. The bar/tea tenders launch easily into the personal and political banter only caffeine dealers seem comfortable discussing with strangers.
Whoever’s got control of the iPod really likes garage and pop. We like it too, although it’s perhaps not the soundtrack we expect against the star anise-scented turquoise room full of nanna-style lights and flickering candles.
No-one seems fussed though. Everyone just seems grateful to have a sniff of that great post-sundown café culture where you could as easily get all up in a book as on the booze. We are too.