2 o’clock in the afternoon signals the beginning of a pleasurable pause.
The last time I met Bizu co-owner, Audrey Tanco,Â was back in 2005Â so a recent chance meeting at a restaurant spurred us to get together again. And just like the last time, we get together for tea.
At Bizu’s Greenbelt branch, Audrey is flitting to and fro preparing our repast. In between arranging teacups and plates, she tells me excitedly, “We just got some new teas which will be part of the tea service and retail!”
These new teas are imported from various countries and possess such melodic names as sencha calida, chocolate and mint, rose, tropical rooibos, and thé a la Violette, all guaranteeing a tea reverie.
Now, I’m more of a coffee person myself so tea is something I’m not as versed in. But an open mind begins with open taste buds, and soon, Audrey and I are sniffing the various leaves and discussing the nuances we detect. Fruit, chocolate, mint, rose, and violet transform into something larger than themselves when tea leaves are immersed in hot water. The alchemy of liquid and leaves unlock the aromas hidden within, sending up smells I can scoop up with a teaspoon. My nostrils are tickled and upon tasting, my taste buds are tantalized. I don’t even notice that I have a trio of teapots and teacups lined up before me.
Now, any time is a good time for a hot beverage but it’s in the afternoon when the imbibing of it and sweets seems most appropriate ”“ no, required. Out comes a three-tiered stand representative of the three courses required in a tea service: sandwiches, scones and (quick) breads, and sweets. It’s an awesome spectacle that briefly renders me in mute admiration.
“The salmon is really good,” Audrey says pointing. A crispy flatbread is the foundation for a dill-pistachio mousseline, its flavor brightened with lemon zest and the slippery creaminess of the smoked salmon. Too good. I also like the mushroom duxelle cradled in its puff pastry round, still crispy and hot from the oven.
The wonder of this tea service is the opportunity to flit in and out of the various three tiers, playing with variations of savory, sweet, and salty. The middle tier, which proves to be my favorite, offers up a traditional scone of the genteel sort, nothing like the oversized wedges I make at home. Bizu’s teatime scones are crumbly all throughout and speckled sparinglyÂ with raisins and walnuts. Audrey enthusiastically spreads half of her scone with lemon curd and then whipped cream. “Would it taste differently if I layer the cream first and then the curd?” I blurt out. (Good lord!) “It shouldn’t matter,” Audrey replies, biting into her scone and grinning. The madeleines, a cross between cake and cookie are ”“ what the Brits would say ”“ just lovely.
As we sip and sup and giggle over our teatime largesse, I marvel at how every sip of tea enervates me. Tea time is not a profound experience by any means, but it allows me to reflect on its simplicity and capacity to give pleasure.
Then, what looks like a strawberry St. Honoré is deposited on our table. It’s visually arresting and stops our conversation. “This is a Mamma Mia,” Audrey says. “It’s our Mother’s Day offering.” A riff on the classic Gateau Saint-Honoré, a French pastry named for the patron saint of bakers, the cake is a wonder of strawberries and cream. I need not say more.
Audrey’s brother, Xander, a chef by profession, comes over and sits with us. His youth belies his voracity and fervor for food. He reminds me so much of myself that I can only chuckle when Audrey says, “I told you you’d be able to talk to him for hours!” He has me try the yoga cake, a seemingly benign round flecked with black. It’s an undercurrent of citrus ”“ passion fruit and lemon ”“ rounded out with a yogurt custard sandwiched between sablé and sponge cake then gilded with halves of Bizu’s famous macarons. Xander agrees when I point out that passion fruit is something that one either really loves or really hates. “It’s a lot to take in, really. You’ve got mango meets calamansi meets butong pakwan.” We laugh and after too many bites, I plead that the cake be taken away from me. Obviously, I love it.
Mother’s Day Tea at Bizu
Tea Time at Bizu
At all Bizu branches
Mamma Mia cake