Romania continued to delight us as we travelled through Transylvania, with the best coffee we’d tasted since leaving Budapest, and some surprises when it came to searching for a cup of tea.
We almost didn’t manage to review anywhere in Sighisoara, the beautiful mediaeval town between Cluj and Brasov. We were so heat exhausted after the long, slow train ride with no air conditioning that we simply dropped into bed although it was 2.30pm when we got there. Five hours later, though, I was up for a cuppa.
And we had the good fortune (complete fluke, actually) of having a room in the guest house that also had the best tea and cake in town.
Casa Cositorarului is a fantastic guest house with a little tea room and two large terraces which were buzzing with day trippers as we slept off the heat stroke.
By 7.30pm, a little later than normal for tea, I had the place virtually to myself. And although it was tea bags only, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality, not to mention the amazing plum cheesecake on offer to go with it.
All of this is round the corner from the house where Vlad the Impaler lived (or was born, I forget, though it doesn’t really matter since experts have shown that he wasn’t in fact the person Bram Stoker based Dracula on).
We actually saw more Dracula stuff in Sighisoara than in Brasov, which traditionally is the town nearest to Bran Castle, which brands itself as Dracula’s place (again, even though it’s been shown now that there is no connection to the area in Stoker’s work).
Brasov just felt like a lively, cultured European city, with lots of cafe terraces, crowds of people sauntering the streets (we subsequently learnt that it’s still school holidays for a week or so yet in Romania) and a lovely combination of the modern alongside its history.
The coffee at Cafeteca was the best we had in Romania, by a long way. They roast their own beans on-site two or three times a week, and they have a great selection on offer from all over the world, though Ethiopia seemed to feature most of all in their house blend this week.
For coffee in Brasov, you won’t find better than Cafeteca, and others clearly think the same, as in the four visits we made over 48 hours there were already signs of familiar faces we had seen before sitting sipping their coffee while working on their laptops.
But they also have great tea here, too. Indeed, this is the furthest from home we have ever seen Suki Teas on sale. The Belfast Brew we had on the first day was prepared beautifully, with timer to tell us when to drink it, and a dose of cold milk alongside (sadly the colleague who made our brew on the second visit didn’t quite heat the water enough so you might want to keep an eye on that if you go for tea here).
It was a delightful surprise, though, to find one of our favourite UK teas on sale in deepest Transylvania.
So if you’re after a tea in Brasov, you could do worse than go to Cafeteca, especially with its stay-a-while relaxed vibe inside.
But as we walked up one of the streets in the old town, we came across a place with the rather odd name of Open Heart Tea Lounge, which might sound more like a serious bit of surgery than a place for a cuppa to some. Funnily enough, our google search had found a tea room of the same name just outside Brasov on the way up to the ski resort of Poiana.
In fact that place closed down, we were told, and they are now a city centre tea room.
The tea here was excellent quality and there was a wide range to choose from. But they served no food. I mean nothing.
There was an empty cake stand upstairs suggesting they had thought of serving cake. But nothing on the menu except teas and a few alcoholic drinks for when the lounge converts to a bar in the evening.
There was a big chunky biscuit served with the tea, but we did leave a bit hungry, and began to wonder how a place this big (at least 80 covers upstairs alone, and probably as many on the terrace outside) could make ends meet. Was there more to it than met the eye…?
Actually, to be fair to the very friendly staff, when we raised the food issue with them at the end, they did say the owner was reconsidering his decision not to serve cake or other food and things might change in the near future.
So, if you’re a real tea lover and like a wide choice of brews, the Open Heart Tea lounge could be just for you. But if you’re after the tea and cake or afternoon tea experience you might have back home in England, maybe stick to Cafeteca…
Overall, though, we loved Transylvania, and had some great tea and coffee experiences here, with the tea perhaps conjuring up more surprises than the coffee, with the hippy feel to Cluj, the Belfast Brew in Brasov and the Open Heart venue too.