Marie-Lais Emond
2 minute read
15 Mar 2014
1:00 pm

Other Side of the City: Tea-total

Marie-Lais Emond

Each week Marie-Lais scouts another urban reach, tasting, testing alternative aspects to pique our curiosity about places and people we might have had no idea about.

Take time to reflect over a cup of tea in Rivonia. Picture: Pawel Kot.

This week she has her mad hat on.

I don’t particularly care for leafy brews. I’ve always been with the other brew. Then a friend brought me, from China, Laoshan green tea. It was so unexpectedly delicious that it has me travelling with tea-keen Pawel, across the city, to Rivonia, to Contessa Tea Connoisseur and Bistro. I want someone to convince me about even more teas.

“I’m a coffee drinker, like you,” asserts one half of the owner-couple, the Churches.

Rita, alias the Sauceress, got into this tea shop through her catering businesses. She and her husband took over Contessa in 2010. Rita knows I know the story of Marisa, the original owner, possibly related to a titled Italian socialite at the turn of the previous century, who wore a python and drank exotic drinks, like tea.

Here there is certainly variety, over 150 teas.

“A woman who’s been living in Portugal came in and filled up her suitcases with tea, to take it all back.”

Among many who’ve lifted their cups here are Leon Schuster, Bruce Dennill and Justice Malala.

The previous owner wasn’t mad for children or animals, even tea-drinking ones, but Rita Churches laughs, “We love them. We run a happy family type place now.”

A table away are two businessmen drinking Bos, eating cake and agreeing that, “He’ll never be able to understand – he battles already”.

A mother and daughter relax out on the patio. The schoolgirl drinks from a can but mum has tea. Their Jack Russell darts under a sign that reads, “take away coffies” (sic).

Picture: Pawel Kot.

Picture: Pawel Kot.

Contessa is opposite the Rivonia Primary School. Rivonia is where you used to go if you wanted riding boots. The boot shop is now North Western Tiles, next door. Things have changed and now Rivonia is where you go if you want Chinese goods from the umpteen red emporia that line the Boulevard.

“At seven-thirty, they come in for their morning cups of Chinese tea.”

I’m sniffing glass jars. Rita holds out one with an intriguing stink. Osmanthus Green is a Chinese green tea scented with flowers. Made up into emerald liquid, it smells more frangipani but the taste is delicate, delectable.

Sitting at our tea kist, Polish Pawel has a pot of Moroccan Mint. But yes, we’re in an Italian styled teashop, run by a Yorkshire couple, managed by Zimbabwean ladies, catering to Chinese people. Something seems mad but very familiar. It’s very Joburg.

 Contessa Tea Connoisseur and Bistro, Shop 2a, cnr 11th Ave and Rivonia Blvd.  Tel: 011-234-6641