We have the countries of China, Japan and Taiwan to thank for the tradition of serving tea in a beautiful set alongside delicate, carefully prepared dim sum. With multiple teapot refills and endless snacks, the ceremony creates a peaceful pace to slow down the frenzy of daily life and engage in considered conversation.
Tea and dumplings is the lazy Sunday afternoon antidote to a fast-paced working week. Here are some locations around Sydney where it’s done best.
The dark timber and row of ferns with a strong aroma of frying garlic make the escape off busy Flinders Street into Missy K a particularly welcome one. Proceedings are a little less traditional here, with bouts of techno tunes heard from the stereo at times. Along with a wide variety of dumplings there are also rice paper rolls, salads and noodles. The tea offers a global tour – the usual Western teas like English breakfast and peppermint as well as Indian, Chinese and Japanese. A cup of Chinese white tea was delicious and unusual – very full-bodied, with a tannic wheat flavour and a silky finish. The plump, pale peach-coloured dumplings are sprinkled with fried garlic and chives. Shop 1, 160 Flinders Street, Paddington
Pu’er’s large outdoor area makes for lots of sunny eating, with pretty lacquered blue and white tables and wooden benches. A lunch menu is available but the dumplings stick around for the twilight zone between three and six o’clock. Arriving in sets of three, they allow for more flavour sampling. The spicy prawn and baby bamboo dumplings in a chilli pastry are blood red and spicy with a thick, soft skin. A peanut and pork dumpling is a little unusual, combining Thai-inspired flavours with a crunchy texture. The tea list focuses on tradition Chinese varietals like the Premium Yixing Golden, a golden red served in delicate set with a glass teapot and matching sipping cups. Instructions of exact brewing time are given in case you’re a little nervous.
20a Danks Street, Waterloo
Zensation is an Aladdin’s cave of wonder – beautiful teapots of every design, tea ‘cakes’ in a deli display case, smoky incense lingering through the store and Christina Leung behind the counter (she runs Zensation with her father Raymond). The multi-page tea menu can be overwhelming, so stick to a classic: pu’er. This silty, muddy tea is not for everyone but is terrific with dumplings as it possesses helpful digestive qualities. Choose a small, medium or large basket and pick the flavour of each dumpling – an excellent arrangement that lets you try lots of different types. The roasted duck dumpling is packed with tender meat and xiao long bao soup buns are juicy. Red bean and sesame puffs are full of sweetened red bean in a chewy casing. Unsurprisingly, the tea knowledge here is excellent. If you can nab the little outdoor table, it makes for a great afternoon of people watching on Bourke Street.
White Rabbit Gallery
You need half a day to begin to truly appreciate White Rabbit Gallery, housing the world’s largest collection of contemporary Chinese art. After all your cultural absorption, a plate of dumplings and a pot of tea is just the ticket. There are two choices – chicken and coriander or egg and chive, coming in sets of eight. The dumplings are well-made, fresh and tender but perhaps a little lacking in flavour. The carafe of lychee green tea is sweet and refreshing; our new favourite hot-day drink. The tea list has helpful explanations of taste and history and a strong range of oolongs, as well as green and white teas.