There are three indicators that Thea Tea Shop is a seriously good lunch option. One, the opening hours are limited. Two, it’s busy most days (be careful of the reserved signs on the tables). Three, it regularly sells out of popular dishes (such as spicy cold noodles, curry rice and curry laksa).

The exclusively vegetarian and vegan menu sticks to an established roster of daily specials – a previous attempt to change resulted in customers pestering for old items to return.

It’s easy to walk past the unassuming restaurant without giving it the time of day. But to do so means missing out on a family-run institution that’s been operating in Adelaide for more than a decade.

Two generations of vegetarian Taiwanese migrants own and run the place. Siblings keep check on the day-to-day operations (service is generally quick) while the parents potter around the restaurant dolling out friendly smiles and free cups of oolong tea.

With a name like Thea (chosen randomly from a dictionary prior to opening), it’s no surprise there’s an extensive bubble tea list.

The chief tea maker changes the options seasonally, manually adjusting the concoctions instead of using an automatic machine like most bubble tea chains. And if you’re really passionate about tea, collar the owner’s dad and he’ll teach you “tea tao”, the traditional Taiwanese way of drinking oolong tea.

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Updated: February 27th, 2018

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