A visit to Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour means enjoying a perfectly brewed, lovingly made cup of artisanal tea. CTE.com chats to Jessica Bonin, Cape Town’s tea lady, about her calming sanctuary in the heart of Woodstock’s buzzing community.
Tell us a bit about Lady Bonin…
Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour started out of a 1975 Jurgens caravan in December 2010. It was Cape Town’s first food truck and the world’s first mobile tea caravan. Travelling to various markets, functions and events, the idea was to use this as the tearoom daily, but due to city trading limitations, it wasn’t possible. Instead, we began packaging and distributing hand-blended artisan teas to local cafes, restaurants and retail outlets. In 2012, we had enough production to open the tea room and workshop in Woodstock.
Lady Bonin’s mission is to create a platform for consumers to reconnect with themselves and others through the rejuvenating, comforting and age-old art of tea drinking, by reforming the tea tradition to suit a modern lifestyle. We ensure that every aspect of the business is accountable to and respectful of the environment and society through soul-invested practices.
How did the venture start?
I worked in the film industry for five years, stuck behind a desk, miserable with limited creative output, compromised ethics and seven-day work weeks. I didn’t want to give any more of my precious life doing something that made me unhappy. If I was required to put the majority of my day into earning money, I was going to be damn sure it was in line with my passion. Tea had always been there, when I look back on it, but it was only when I was on the path that I realised it was the one.
Needing an immediate solution I decided starting my own business would be the best way to express my passions. I had many years in the restaurant trade and decided to utilise these skills. Tea became an element that was going to create the mood, feeling, and intention I wanted in my ideal cafe. Bridging borders, common to all the world and soothing in any circumstance. Soon it was all about the tea and the caravan was a solution to limited finances since it was self-funded. I had no idea it would work so well.
Describe the store and your workspace.
The store is a tearoom meets retail space. All tea is for sale in packaged, sit down or takeaway form, among an array of tea wares and products. The tearoom also serves eats and treats aligned with the healing, loving and healthy aspect of the tea, including gluten-, wheat-, sugar- and dairy-free options. Tea is fun and soothing, so the space not only provides a retreat in the heart of the urban buzz, but allows visitors to recharge and rejuvenate from a busy lifestyle.
Who are your regular customers?
Young business types and creatives who are health-conscious or curious.
Where do you source your leaves from?
Our herbal teas are sourced from South Africa, and traditional loose-leaf tea from around the world. Green, black, oolong, puehr and white tea is sourced from China, Japan, Sri Lanka and India.
What are some of your signature or most popular leaves/brews?
Red choc chili chai – a rooibos spiced chai with raw cocoa powder and chili flakes
Bliss blend – rooibos, lavender and strawberries
Bush doctor – honeybush, buchu and star anise
Cinnamon bun – rooibos, cinnamon and orange
Matcha-ccino – matcha green tea with frothed rice or dairy milk, coconut and a dash of honey.
What is your favourite thing about being a Cape Town-based tea purveyor?
I get to tea in a forest, on the beach or on top of a mountain.
Your favourite tea?
Which one of my children do I prefer the most? Impossible! Each tea is its own unique adventure. When I choose to drink a tea I pair it with what that moment requires. Tieguanyin Oolong, however, is the one that most solidly connects me to me. When I need to come back to myself she is the compassionate one to sooth and recharge me.
Where The Woodstock Exchange, 66 Albert Road, Woodstock
Trading Hours Monday to Friday 9 am – 4 pm, Saturdays 10 am – 4 pm, closed on Sundays
Contact +27 83 628 2504, www.ladybonin.com