In the court of Catherine of Braganza – the tea drinking queen – the true pleasure of taking tea caught on. It was also the Portuguese princess who took the custom of taking tea to the English court, thus making tea one of the most traded products around the world. Aware of this Portuguese legacy, we paid a visit to Companhia Portugueza do Chá, which opened its doors in December 2014, in Lisbon. The unique nature of tea overwhelms with the myriad of tea varieties available in this establishment. The Portuguese capital has welcomed, with open arms, the most refined teas from the Orient, where the Portuguese once traded and where they learned new customs. As we are informed by Sebastian Filgueiras, a true connoisseur of these leaves and owner of Companhia Portugueza do Chá, «Tea was one of them… Macau, Formosa, empires such as China and Japan, or the gardens of India. ‘The finest of teas’ have always been highly appreciated».
An old local shop, in the Rua Poço dos Negros, close to Chiado, gave rise to Companhia Portugueza do Chá, a welcoming and mystical place, decorated throughout with objects related to this world of tea. Every decorative item and its details pass on the idea that everything is where it should be. The jars are packed with the most varied of tea varieties; teapots grab the attention of anyone entering; and the entire oriental feel of the space creates a setting of extreme elegance. The aromas hanging in the air encourage visitors to taste some of the infusions available in the shop. Being able to buy tea that has just arrived from India, from the Azores, from Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, is a veritable luxury, and this is what Companhia Portugueza do Chá tries to pass on to its customers.
Tea is harvested in three seasons – spring, summer and autumn –, which ensures that there are always new teas arriving in the shop. What sets it apart, as a tea shop, is the fine selection, expertise, the quality of products offered, the personal service given to customers, inviting them to try the wares, not dissimilar to someone tasting a fine wine, while explaining the origin and characteristics of every product. Just like wine, which needs time to age and be just right to serve, teas are aged too, boasting the year they are harvested, because it takes time for some of them to become true treasures.
Having entered Companhia Portugueza do Chá indecision sets in. There is so much variety and the aromas are so inviting that choosing one becomes difficult, while ensuring you experience a moment of pure calm before leaving, laden with the tea that seduces your palate.