Places to Eat: eteaket Cafe and Tea Boutique

I spent part of my 4th of July holiday meandering through the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, taking in the sight of many a Stuart monarch and aristocrat. It was lovely (I highly recommend you visit–it’s free!) but walking around a climate- and moisture-controlled environment for a while can be hard on the feet and leaves you with quite a thirst. I emerged almost precisely at teatime and decided to head around the corner to eteaket on Frederick Street and sit down with a reviving afternoon cuppa.

It being teatime and all, the place was busy, but I was able to find a table in between a young couple and a pair of middle-aged ladies, all catching up over the obligatory pots of tea. I perused the menu, bypassing the sandwiches and salads and going right for the sweet stuff. A slice of the cake of the day–chocolate Earl Grey–and a pot of the intriguing-sounding Chili Rooibos if you please.

While I waited, I took in the sight of the place and deemed it almost self-consciously eclectic. By that, I mean it’s actually rather trying to be funky. The magenta and torquoise furnishings, vaguely Indian design on the walls, and Beck on the soundtrack seem to be aiming towards a young-and-hip crowd (tea’s not just your gran’s drink–it can be sexy and cool!). But then the tea itself comes out in squat, serviceable teapots with mismatched floral cups and saucers alongside, just like what your gran would use (we’re cool, but we’re not so cool we’re stuck up or make you uncomfortable!) Somehow, though, it all works and I felt pleasantly cozy as I settled back against the banquette with the most recent copy of The Pulse to peruse. Smiling staff members delivered my cake and tea (which comes with a little timer, so you know exactly when to take the tea filter out to avoid over- or underbrewing) just as the heavens opened up outside, delivering a drenching downpour. I have to admit, I felt a little smug over that bit of good timing.

Both cake and tea were actually rather surprising. I was, to be honest, expecting a heavy sugarbomb slice with the cake, but it was nothing of the kind. The chocolate sponge was light and fluffy, its richness cut by the tangy cream cheese frosting, which worked so much better than buttercream would have. The Earl Grey flavor wasn’t terribly prominent, but the cake was good and I happily downed every little bit.

The tea menu actually warns you to approach the chili rooibos with care, and I will warn you too: it does actually pack some heat. Not so much it blows out your palate, but if you’re sensitive to spice at all you might want to try a different brew. This one prominently features rich cherry flavors before moving on to the lingering spice at the end. Apparently, there are also rosebuds, safflower petals, peony petals, and carrot flakes in it, but I didn’t really detect any of those flavors. Maybe on the second try (it was delicious enough that I purchased some to take home with me).

For those looking for a soothing afternoon cuppa, lunch, snack, or full traditional tea, this is a lovely place to get it. Unstuffy, charming, friendly, and delicious.

eteaket Cafe and Boutique
41 Frederick Street

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