Halita’tea. Image Barry A Kaplan
How do you say “sipping tea” in Hebrew slang? Halita’tea. Where do you go for 60 different kinds of tea to buy and take home or a cup of tea with breakfast or brunch, a sandwich, salad, sweets or a special theme?
Halita’tea is the place – a warm, homey tea shop in Jerusaelm with with a few tables outside, a large picture window with white lace curtains on the lower part, soft-lit sconces on the walls, a brick bar at the back and a wood tea cabinet on a side wall.
For 27-year-old, 12th generation Jerusalemite, Gabriel Piamenta, his tea house is a casual place with ceremony, to share with your friends and drink high-quality tea paired with vegetarian and vegan-friendly food.
Before Piamenta opened probably the only tea house in Jerusalem, in September 2012, he had acquired a Bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from the Hebrew University, a Master’s in business management and entrepreneurship and done an amazing amount of serious research of tea houses inside and outside Israel.
Owner-chef, Gabriel Piamenta. Image Barry A Kaplan
In addition to brunch all day, there are three breakfasts and shakshuka with accompaniments and tapas; quiche, patties, soup, and three salads are served with bread and three tapas; five sandwiches are served with salad; and there are five specialties which combine food paired with tea.
The variety of sweets is mind-boggling including platters with three different sweets, served with marmalade, cream cheese and honey (42 NIS); English house cake, made every day (24 NIS); Scottish shortbread and date balls; and scones in a basket with butter and marmalade.
Cookies and cakes are made four times a week, also lemon and nut pies, vegan apple pie, cheese cake with crumbs on top, and coffee-flavored mascarpone cheese cake with layers of caramel biscuits and chocolate on top.
Each morning chocolate, cheese, cinnamon, and walnut croissants are made. Butter croissants, which they also serve, are made in Paris and flown to Israel by a special supplier.
Are you vegan? Require gluten free? Two vegan desserts and one gluten free are available every day such as vegan oat, cranberry and chocolate chip cookies as well as vegan and gluten-free chocolate fudge cookies.
Moroccan Desert Tea Time. Image Barry A Kaplan
We tried two specialties from the menu which pair food with tea. Desert tea time (45 NIS) is Moroccan and consists of fried Halloumi cheese on a skewer with roasted cherry tomatoes, green pepper and red onion, served atop a green salad; on the side was roast eggplant with raw tahini, which my companion loved and thought tasted like peanut butter; and stuffed grape leaves with pickled lemon give it just the right flavoring. This platter is accompanied by toasted bread triangles. Topping off was the sweet of dates stuffed with cream cheese and chopped nuts. This was served with a golden-colored, mint tea with lemon verbena, whose mint and lemon were very subtle. The glass teapot was kept warm on a lit candle base with potpourri underneath.
The second specialty was Indian Journey – da’al (vegan stew) with red lentils, root vegetables and coconut cream accompanied by spiced chai (38 NIS). My companion liked this because it was a little spicey although the curry was not overpowering. This would definitely be an India food lover’s specialty.
Mint tea with lemon verbena in a tea pot; chai on the right. Image Barry A Kaplan
For dessert, we tried the vegan house cake which is very fruity; and scones in a basket with butter and jelly. Sweets are available to take home; one can also buy any one of 60 different teas in as little as 50-gram bags which can range from 14 NIS to 110 NIS.
At 9 p.m., the kitchen closes and only coffee, teas, drinks, cookies and cakes are served, so this is a great place to come after an event or to come in and attend their late evening programs such as the book club, book readings, lectures and more. Every Friday, daytime, is live music.
As tea drinkers, we found the atmosphere charming, the owner/cook–knowledgeable and friendly – the wait staff very professional and the tea – great!
The author and photographer were the guests of the restaurant.