Chado Tea Shop - Avo Toast & Istanbul No. 2 tea

A Review in Cuisine - 20/12/2022

Chado Tea Shop
Cihangir, Istanbul

quirrelling my way around the "Camden of Istanbul", my other half told me about a perfectly lovely little tea shop. One that I simply had to visit due to my recently acquired interest in any tea other than the mundane English Breakfast tea I'm so accustomed to. So, whilst she had to jet off to a different country for work, I thought I'd head down the road from our Airbnb and kill some time before she came back.

Open until late and serving light bites and fantastical herbal infusions from all corners of the earth, the Chado Tea Shop in Cihangir, Istanbul, sat between antique, coffee, custom jewellery, and convenience shops on a tiny road constantly used by cars and trendy smokers just milling about. Stepping inside, the outside and all of its charming chaos vanished away as a realm of wood, tea, and relaxed people flooded into view and created a new world for me to exist in. A world where my tense shoulders dropped, my furrowed brow relaxed, and my fear of being run over at any given second fluttered away. On the left-hand side was a wall of contained tea leaves ranging from black, green, rooibos, white, and almost everything in between, and on the right was a large wooden table with various people on laptops actually working instead of mindless scrolling on social media. I sat down by the window and was handed a menu by one of the tea experts and was soon insanely overwhelmed by the different variations they had on offer; sakura petal tea, ceremonial matcha powder, turmeric lattes, and a huge selection of other tea leaves mixed with various flowers and spices, some of which I'd never heard of. My stresses immediately regrew as the tea expert made her way over after a few minutes of me frantically scanning the menu selection to no avail. Seeing that I was politely withholding a heart attack, I was gratefully recommended the Istanbul No. 2 - a bergamot and lavender black tea. I also went for the Avo toast snack to help stave off the hunger I accrued from the stress of trying to select a tea.

As hectic as the outside world is, especially in Istanbul (which is a fantastic city because of it), the Chado Tea Shop is one of the few places around the area where you can truly relax, gather yourself, and maybe take out life insurance before stepping back out onto the maddening streets as the coffee shops and restaurants up and down the same road pump out high-energy/low-production trance music and everyone seems to be cracked out on super strong caffeine mixed with blood-pressure spikes from sucking cigarettes down like a diver gasping for air after a potentially fatal mishap within the burly blanket of the sea.

Before long, a small wooden tray with a glass teapot and a sand timer was presented with instructions not to pour until the timer had been completed. Accompanying that was my avo toast, looking like a small lost surfboard returning to shore along with the treasures and plantation of Atlantis placed atop.

Picture from my second time here as I bloody liked it so much

As the sand timer slowly poured itself empty, I took a bite out of the avo toast snack. The first bite tasted like the first bite of an exotic tuna mayo with malt vinegar which baffled me. How did this sandwich know what my previous favourite sandwich was during my time as a non-vegetarian (yeah yeah, I'm one of 'those' lot)? Magic was afoot here, that or I had finally visited a place that knows how to get the best flavours from vegetarian ingredients. All previous toasts/sandwiches with sliced or mashed-up avocado taste like wallpaper paste with the consistency of phlegm...I'm looking at you Pret. And as a man who sometimes watches cooking shows and thinks he knows quite literally everything about flavour profiles because of it, this innocent-looking slice of slightly toasted bread with cream cheese and pesto, tomatoes, avocado, topped with walnuts and possibly drizzled with honey blew my tits off to Mars. The cream cheese with pesto that served as the cement in the construction held it together with a soured and zingy touch while the non-salad-tomato tomato and avocado shined through. Speaking of which, I've never seen a green avocado in the UK; they're usually splodged onto the plate already browned and bruised as if a boxer punched the goods right out of the skin 5 days ago under a hundred heat lamps.

Acutely aware that I was probably gawking at a piece of bread with stuff on it like it was alien schematics for light-speed travel written in plain English, I turned my attention to the tea, of which the sand timer had already bled itself dry. Pouring the dark brown, satin-like tea into a cup and I was visited by the smells of subtle spice and sweetness and it drank like warm medicine. No need for sugar, and rightfully, none was presented either. I used to have mountains of sugar in everything I could get my hands on as the only flavour profile I could wrap my mouth's mind around was 'ultra-sweet', but since forcing myself to grow up and try out different foods, I realised that we don't need to sugar-coat everything. So go ahead, call your boss a dickbag, and go eat some fresh fruit.

The Chado Tea's avo toast and Istanbul No. 2 tea would be, on paper, something I'd skip right on by going on the idea of it being too basic and not complicated enough for my complicated soul. But I'm glad I didn't turn my nose up at the idea of 'simple ingredients for simple food' as it's shown me a different side to eating, one where I might just be able to taste the individual items and not just use my mouth as a cement mixer for sustenance.


Bringing it back to basics with the simplest of ingredients resulting in brain-shaking flavours