It’s not always easy being a tea drinker when you’re working in an office full of java aficionados. Don’t get me wrong; I love triple shot lattes just as much as the rest of the crew, but sometimes a cup of tea just sounds better. Whenever I brew up one of our delicious Rishi teas, I end up having to explain why I chose to indulge in tea rather than coffee. If only I could pretend to be drinking espresso while secretly sipping on a cup of tea!
Amazingly, I recently discovered that one of our customers has come up with a way to drink espresso without actually drinking coffee. How is this possible? Natasha Robson-Lovato and her mother, Cecile Robson, of Cederberg Tea House pull Rooibos tea espresso shots using a Nuova Simonelli Appia that they purchased from us. Once I heard about this fascinating technique, I had to experience it for myself. So now that their store has been open for a couple of weeks, I stopped by to pay them a visit.
The charming shop, which is located on Upper Queen Anne, is named after the region in South Africa where Rooibos Tea naturally grows. Upon entering the store you’ll notice the walls are covered in beautiful shots of South African scenery and animals, some of which Cecile took herself. You’ll find cozy couches as well as a number of tables and chairs that invite you to relax and chat. In fact, Natasha says that taking the tea tray out to customers, seeing their reaction to its attractive design and getting to talk with them are her favorite aspects of owning the store.
Speaking of the tea, I had to try it. I ordered a Rooibos tea latte, and Natasha prepared the drink by filling up the espresso machine’s portafilter with finely ground Rooibos tea, loading it into the espresso machine and pulling pressured hot water through it. The beauty of making drinks with tea rather than coffee is that there is no tamp, grind or timing to worry about, which is great for espresso newbies like myself. Natasha explained she can tell a shot is right when it has three layers — heart (a dark brown layer at the bottom), body (a medium tan layer in the middle) and crema (a creamy-yellow layer at top, just as you would find on a shot of coffee). The two shots of Rooibos espresso are then combined with steamed milk, then topped with a swirl of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.
Of course, I couldn’t drink my latte without sampling at least one of the many tasty looking pastries displayed in their deli case. I asked Natasha which pastries were the most popular and she said the malva pudding (a pound cake, filled with apricot jam) and koeksisters (a braided donut covered in sweet syrup) were the most popular sweet treats, while the sausage rolls were the most popular savory. The shop also serves a couple of vegan goodies as well. While I didn’t sample them myself, I couldn’t help overhearing a fellow customer exclaiming how the pastries were so good that she wouldn’t have guessed they were vegan at all.
I ended up going with a sausage roll to accompany my Rooibos tea latte. Both the latte and the sausage were served to me a on a cute black and white tea tray, making me feel as though I was at teatime. The Rooibos tea latte, served in a clear glass so I could see all of its layers, was almost too pretty to drink. The honey and cinnamon on the top of the drink provided an added sweetness, which went well with the smooth, slightly sweet taste of the tea. The sausage roll was made up of spiced pork and beef sausage covered in puff pastry, also delicious.
Natasha, a former teacher, was inspired to open the shop so she could bring South African culture to Seattle and she clearly has succeeded. Cederberg is likely one of the only stores in United States where you can get a Rooibos tea latte made on an espresso machine, and the food she serves and the way it’s presented are unique as well. Even though the shop has just opened, they already experience a morning rush and another at teatime, not to mention a growing number of regulars. I know I’ll definitely be one of them!