Sunday, 4 November 2012

Tsely Mir - Best Tea in the Whole World

Okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration. But it was voted the best Tea Entertainment in St Petersburg by Lonely Planet users. Technically I haven't drunk tea in every café here (FML), but I don't know how others could feasibly top this. It's so awesome, you guys.
On entering, we were surprised to be met with a tea shop and not a tea house, but an assistant with some seriously good English showed us where to leave our coats and shoes, because you can't even go to a Stolovaya here without expecting somewhere to hang your coat. Having persuaded him to talk to us in Russian, we padded after him down a corridor filled with tea paraphernalia to a tiny room decorated in Japanese style. Our booth had cushions for us to lounge on and was situated next to the tea bar. 
Our server quickly established that we had no idea what we were doing, so he left us with a menu (which proved pointless) and brought over a selection of teas for us to solemnly inhale from a yonic utensil that fit snugly in our hands. As we'd walked around for ages trying to find the distant Erarta museum on foot (my idea), I decided we should go for the Pu-Erh tea to restore our energy levels. 
Our server returned with a lot of authentic-looking equipment and showed us how to carry out the Chinese tea ceremony for ourselves, which was fascinating and excellent Russian practice (looking at you, lingos). There are a lot of stages that reflect the significance and experience of tea in Chinese culture. I won't ruin it for anyone planning to go there themselves, but all I can say is they would be horrified at us chucking a teabag in a mug and tossing it out with a teaspoon. 
From my dazed perusal of the menu, you can expect to pay between about 250-500, or even 1000 for some of the more exclusive teas and they do charge you the written amount per head. However, you get an enormous thermos of hot water and you can ask for unlimited amounts for no extra charge. Obviously our response was:
I don't recommend drinking 1.5 odd litres of heavily-caffeinated tea between you, although the toilets are very clean and very warm (so, so needed). 
Additionally, the crockery is beautiful, as is the room itself - and there are little teapots in the fish tank! All you can hear is quiet, instrumental Japanese music, the clink of china and the hushed tones of the few other customers in there. The servers are very friendly, knowledgeable and genuinely seem as in love with tea as I am. Oh, and there's free Wi-Fi. What more could you want?

To get there, head to Vasilevsky Island and walk up 3-ya Liniya (the side of the island closest to the Palace Bridge, lucky for everyone) - Tsely Mir is on the left. 

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