Embark Cafe, Wellington

A week of tea-drinking hell in the Capital is finally broken

6-10am and my two Wellington Airport stalwarts, Best Ugly Bagels (for food) and Freshbites (for tea) are refusing to serve me. They say they’re not open, but the lights are on and the people are there.

Clearly, this is not good for my mood. I’ve been up for more than an hour, and had no tea. Not one drop. And now it looks like the crucial first cup of the day will be courtesy of Air New Zealand. You see my problem.

teapot
A pretty teapot at Preservatorium on Tuesday didn’t lead to a good cup of tea.

It’s been a pretty bad week, tea-wise. Most of it was spent cloistered in a church in planning meetings. Planning Tea is not much better than Conference Tea, so when I could, I escaped into the city on the hunt for something better.

earl grey
Making do with Earl Grey when Hanger runs out of English breakfast.

It wasn’t a very successful strategy. On Tuesday morning, sure I was about to drink a fantastic cup of tea at Preservatorium Cafe and Cannery (it arrived in an engraved silver pot!) I tweeted its praises before I tasted it. Big mistake. So at morning-tea time  the same day, I kidnapped the people I was working with and took them to Hanger in Dixon St, where I’d had a superb pot of tea the day before (Harney and Sons, English breakfast), only to be told they had just run out and didn’t expect to have any more for several days. Talk about a pub with no beer.

So you can see why denying me a cup of tea at the airport is like poking a stick at an angry bear.  Possibly a breach of the Geneva Convention.

But things are about to get better. At the other end of the terminal, the end I don’t usually go to, I spot Embark Café, and they’re making tea.

My marks out of 10

embark tea and pot
Gold leaf for my tea leaves.

Cup 7: Gold-trimmed Dilmah Craighead tea-mug and saucer. A pleasing drinking experience, and totally unexpected (this IS an airport).

Tea 9: Dilmah Vivid range loose-leaf Ceylon Breakfast. “What’s Vivid?” I think when I spot it on the menu. The serving person gives me a tin to look at.

Dilmah describes it like this: “An essential gourmet tea experience; tea from Ceylon’s western high grown region, where the varying climatic conditions produces a perfectly balanced tea. A ruby red liquor yields the best of Ceylon in a tea that offers richness, depth and the slightly grassy, bright note of high quality, fresh tea. Neither too strong nor too light, a delicious tea to wake up to, to revive or simply relax with. A tea for connoisseurs.”

I describe it like this: “A fine cup of tea. Not quite the guts of English breakfast, let alone Wellington breakfast,  but after what I have just been through, it’s darned close to heaven. Made in a small plunger (too small – it holds only one-and-a-half cups and I have to ask for a top-up).

Setting 5. Easy music on the stereo. Pilots debating the merits of burgers to be had in Wellington. Acceptable almond croissant. One of the nicer airport cafes. Without the sartorial flair, perhaps, of The Bach Alehouse at Auckland Airport, but a good place to be if you have to be in an airport.

Dog-friendly? A Customs dog is doing the rounds, but he doesn’t call in.

Open after 3pm? Unknown, but the real point here is that it’s open at 6.10am.

Embark Cafe, Wellington International Airport.

embark wgtn.jpg
As we fly over Wellington’s South Coast,  which is looking rather wild this morning, I decline a cup of airline tea in case it ruins the memories of the tea I’ve just had.

 

Best Ugly Bagels, Wellington airport 

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Best Ugly – a welcome sight for harried travellers

Can the tea live up to the bagels’ high standard?

“White rabbit, EBT with splash,” sings the chap behind the counter. “White rabbit, EBT with splash,” the crew chorases back.

A white rabbit is a toasted bagel with cream cheese, tomato, basil, olive oil and black pepper, and I’ve been obsessed with them for months.

My usual MO at Wellington airport is to skip between Best Ugly Bagels (a chain founded by chef Al Brown, of Logan Brown fame) and Freshbites, where I know that by airport standards, they make a half-decent cup of tea AND serve it in a cup.

 

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White rabbit and EBT with a splash, bag in.

But it’s time to put Best Ugly through its paces, so, taking a deep breath, I order a cup of English breakfast.

The serving chap asks if I want milk (yes, the “splash”) or sugar (no).

“And would you like the bag left in?”

Suppressing a shudder, I tell him I want it strong, and it’s up to him how he achieves it.

My marks out of 10?

Cup 1: Paper. Serving chap comes over to ask how I’m enjoying my lunch, and we talk tea for a bit. They have to use paper cups, he says, because they don’t have a dishwasher. “We’re really a to-go kind of place.”

Tea 6: T2 English breakfast bag. I’ve reviewed one of their cups, but they make a reasonable blend of tea as well. The bag is left in.

Setting 5: 20171128_143627-e1511892773819.jpgIt’s an airport, and some days there are just too many darned people clustered around Best Ugly. But today there are just two of us sitting up at the bar, and the chirpy staff singing every order in unison never fails to bring smiles to the faces of otherwise harried travellers.

Dog-friendly? Probably only for guide dogs and customs dogs.

Best Ugly Bagels, Wellington Airport.

 

I’m not mad, it’s science

 

cups
A hydrologist explains why cups matter.

August 16, 2017:  I have been known to get a little tetchy if I’m served tea in coffee cups, especially those thick, heavy, shallow ones designed for drinking flat whites and the like.

Well, I have science on my side. I was sitting at the Freshbites cafe at Wellington airport today with three scientists when my tea arrived – served in a well-shaped, reasonably thin, teacup!

Rudely, I interupted our conversation about serious environmental issues to let out a whoop of pleasure. Earlier in the day, I had had breakfast with my brother at Loretta in Cuba St. It was a superb meal (poached egg on Loretta’s own seeded bread, free-range bacon, tomatoes and basil with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic) but it was seriously let down by the cup the tea was served in.

You can read my complaints here. Suffice to say that it’s not a good idea to mess with my first tea of the day.

But here I was, in an airport of all places, being given a half-decent cup.

I took a photo and started babbling on about cups that make your tea cold. One of the scientists, hydrologist Dugald MacTavish (he knows about water) became interested.

“You’re right,” he said, muttering something about surface-to-volume ratio, so I got him to write it down in my notebook. Now, whenever I’m given tea in an inappropriate cup, I will fling that phrase at the perps, followed by my notebook if they don’t listen.

*You can read my review of the tea at Freshbites here.

 

 

 

 

Freshbites, Wellington airport

freshbites wgtn
Happy tea-drinking at Wellington airport.

At last! Good tea at an airport! Didn’t think it could happen.

My marks out of 10?

CUP 7: A special Dilmah cup. A proper shape, china (although not fine-bone) and with its own hat to keep it warm.

TEA 8: Dilmah English breakfast. Always good.

SETTING 5: It’s an airport. On the plus side, a good location to spot people you want to lobby; they have to walk past you.

Freshbites, Wellington airport.