Tea 34, Riga, February 12th 2012Posted: February 12, 2012
I started to like Riga a little more today. I went into the city centre, by foot once again, and headed straight for Aspara Tea House. This was one of the ones I hadn’t managed to find yesterday, I think it is because the internet seems to think it is in two different places, but today I picked the right one! The Tea House is a circular building, with glass windows all around, almost as though it is built on an old bandstand or something similar. There are two floors, the upper is a full circle with loads of cushions and a view out over the park in which the tea house sits. I chose to sit downstairs though, in a comfy arm chair. I ordered a Milk Oolong tea. This doesn’t involve any milk for any of you who are wondering. The tea leaves come in a pearl form which then unravel with the addition of water. This was served to me in a semi-traditional style, with kettle / thermos, teapot, fair cup and drinking cup. The tea can be steeped between 5 and 7 times, with moderate increases in the steeping time with each new round. The waitress told me to leave the second steep for around 1 minute, which I considered much too long, so I left the second steep for just about 40 seconds, this was still too long, in my opinion. The first steep gave a refreshing, smooth and delicate taste, and yes, sort of milky, creamy sensation. The second steep, which was far too long gave a much deeper, more bitter flavour, with far too many tannins attacking the sides of my tongue. The flavour had become much dirtier, almost alcoholic in it’s sensation, with the flavour flooding the front of my mouth. The third steep was better, this time I gave the tea only 25 seconds. This was still a little long, but the flavour was much better, the smoothness and milky sensation returning though still a slight tang. The flavour of the tea improved a lot as it cooled, becoming sweeter and more fragrant. The fourth steep was for 25 seconds once more, this time the flavour was much more balanced, the dustiness and bitterness was totally gone now and there was much more clarity in the flavour. The tea hadn’t become more delicate, but purer in flavour and fragrance. Steep 5 and the colour had become beautifully golden now, the flavour was deeper, at the base of the tongue and the sweetness had begun to dissipate. Steep 6, the final steep and the tea finished with a flourish, the floral notes in the tea coming out, super refreshing and clear in flavour. The tea had seemed to come alive. That’s why I decided to stop it there, there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing…
A couple of hours had passed now so I got up and went wandering through the lovely, peaceful parks. The city was sleepier today, less people and traffic, the snow was falling again, covering up the brown-grey piles of old snow and ice, making it a little prettier. I wandered past the congress building, various consulates, that line the Kronvalda Parks. People walked their dogs, a guy had his girlfriend filming his snowy Parkour tricks. Ducks splashed around in the few bits of unfrozen river. The city felt a lot more inviting today. I kept wandering like this, around the North-East of the city centre, past museums, official buildings, shopping malls for a good long while. Then I met up with my host for more walking. This time much farther North, along Brivibas Bulvaris. The architecture along this road is pretty amazing, huge Gothic and Baroque style buildings lining the streets. Busts and faces staring out at you from the Facades.
We found ourselves on Miera Street, another one I had failed to find yesterday. There is a nice mixture of traditional wooden houses and the more Baroque styled stone built buildings. Miera apparently means ‘peace’, and we found this small, beautiful cafe there with the same name. At number 9 Miera Street this little cafe is beautiful, with French music playing gently throughout the cafe, handmade hats, candles and teapots in the window. I had a really, really good Chili Latte, with a beautiful syrupy decoration on the top. We sat there and warmed up for a while, the chili doing the perfect job, then we decided it was dark and getting colder so we are both home. More couchsurfers have arrived so the flat is getting full, but it is good to meet some more people.