Waterloo Gardens Teahouse in Penylan is one of my favourite places in Cardiff and without a doubt the best place to go for a pot of good quality, correctly brewed tea. Also, the fact that it was here that I had that fateful cup of Vanilla Black which started my love affair with tea means I feel a great affection for the teahouse. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to write about it!
When I’m on my way to the teahouse my only thoughts are usually about which tea to have as it takes me a while to decide considering the amount of choice. At this time of year the new season teas are starting to arrive so I normally ask if anything has arrived recently. This was my plan until I saw the beautiful blossom in the park opposite the teahouse but more about that later….
Waterloo Gardens Teahouse is my favourite place for tea in Cardiff for a number of reasons. The main reason is for the tea. The tea is sourced directly from tea plantations, is fantastic quality and is always expertly brewed. Time, water temperature and water quality are all considered to ensure you get the perfect pot of tea every time. There is a lot of choice but the staff are more than happy to help with recommendations. The teas are listed on the wall but it’s worth asking if there are any new teas in at this time of year.
Their passion for, and knowledge of, tea is another thing I like about Waterloo Tea. I also like the busy, but nice, atmosphere of the teahouse and I always enjoy looking at the art on display. The teahouse is used as a gallery space and holds exhibitions for local artists which is a nice touch.
Even though there is a new food menu, and I always enjoy the soup of the day, I decided upon a scone on this visit. They always arrive warm with strawberry jam and clotted cream and have a crumbly, melt in the mouth texture.
Now for the main event… the tea! After seeing the blossom on the way I decided upon Sencha Sakura, my husband picked Ginger and Lime Rooibos and we both chose Mao Jian. We both really enjoy Mao Jian and as it was ‘Tea of the Week’ (making it £2.50 instead of £6) it was an obvious choice. We usually get two pots to share between us but decided to go all out and have the three to share this time.
Sencha is Japanese green tea and Waterloo Gardens currently have three varieties. Sencha Sakura is Sencha blended with sakura cherry blossom which is preserved to keep its freshness and sweetness intact. Sakura blooms in Japan between late March and May and is used in confectionary and tea amongst other things. I generally prefer pure teas but Sencha Sakura is one of the exceptions to this. It is brewed at 65C, for 1 and a half minutes, which is the lowest temperature of Waterloo Gardens’ teas. Due to this, they have a water boiler specifically dedicated to it. We enjoyed two infusions of the tea. When brewed Sencha Sakura is a cloudy green and has both a fresh grassy smell and taste. It is a steamed tea which makes it really refreshing. The sakura is a background taste but the sweetness does compliment the Sencha well. The taste of the sakura is stronger in the second infusion. I would be interested to see how the third infusion tastes.
Mao Jian is a Chinese green tea. It has similarities to Japanese green tea as it has a slight grassy taste in the background. It is a lot more delicate than Sencha and has a slight floral taste. It has an astringency that reminds me slightly of asparagus. It is a nice pale lime-green colour which is really appealing. It is brewed at 75C for 3 minutes. I was very pleased to see it was ‘Tea of the Week’.
Ginger and Lime Rooibos
Rooibos is not technically tea as it is not from the camellia sinensis plant. It is a legume! It tastes nutty and the ginger is a strong taste. The lime cuts through the ginger and continues as a aftertaste. As Rooibos is not tea it is naturally caffeine free and is a nice alternative. It is brewed at 95C for 4 minutes. Rooibos is quite robust so if you brew it hotter or longer it will not go bitter.
Recently I have been to cafes and teahouses that insist you must have one teapot per person. This is not something I necessarily agree with and it is not something Waterloo Gardens practices. We were also offered clean teacups for all of our pots of tea so that the taste of the different teas wouldn’t be tainted by used cups. The baristas are also happy to advise you if your tea can be reinfused and are happy to provide more water. In fact, some teas can change flavour during subsequent infusions and, as they are passionate about tea, this is something the baristas would encourage. This makes a visit to Waterloo Gardens Teahouse about the true enjoyment of tea. I think this proverb sums it up perfectly…
[Waterloo Gardens were unaware that I would be writing a blog post]