One of my favorite Buenos Aires memories happened in Tea Connection on July 9, 2007 (if I’m going to be exact). Back in the day this popular porteño tea house was one of the few spots in the city with a strong WiFi connection. It was also one of the only places that served a decent salad, a selection of teas other than the generic Green Hills-La Virginia supermarket kind, and healthy food that still tasted good, so naturally I spent quite a bit of time there cramming for UBA final exams. Making sure to arrive as early as possible to hog the prime window seat with an outlet, selfishly taking it over all day long, something special happened on that particular day that had the crowds hovered over me, glued to the windows, cheering with excitement.
On this cold winter afternoon, it snowed in Buenos Aires, for the first time in over 100 years. The old, young, floggers, hippies, chetos, and confused tourists all flocked to the windows, snapping dozens of photos with cameras on old pre-smart flip phones to capture this special moment. Little kids ran outside pathetically trying to make snow men, or even just one snow ball, collecting every ounce of snow that hadn’t already melted. The Tea Connection on Uriburu went crazy that day, and since then, this café, restaurant and tea house has expanded from that one Recoleta location has multiplied into a popular chain.
For some reason, I’ve never given much thought to these types of chain restaurants — writing off a successful spot as whoring their restaurant-selves out, where I just wait for the quality to lower, attention to dip and overall care to be ignored. But Tea Connection has done something special: they’ve managed to maintain the same healthy-spirit, quality ingredients, consistently cooked seasonal menu, welcoming decor and friendly staff.
It’s not hard to guess what this café specializes in: tea. Loose leaf tea, and lots of it. They have a selection of over 40 different flavors from all over the world of black, green, red and infusions. Combine that with fresh salads, sandwiches, breakfasts, stir fries, meriendas and wraps, and you’ve got yourself a great natural food options perfect for a lost vegetarian in Buenos Aires, or just someone in the need of a break with some healthiness.
Tea Connections serves a variety of breakfasts, like an omelette with gruyere and spinach that comes with fresh squeezed orange juice, whole wheat toast and tea or coffee. The natural yogurt with fresh fruit and homemade granola also makes for a good morning wake up — while Oui Oui’s version still wins my award, this one is super fresh, nutritious and filling.
With every meal, they first bring out some grisines, a bread stick like treat with a side dip — like carrot and sesame.
I’ve had good and bad salad experiences at Tea Connection. The good: the ensalada cabra y vegetales, a large salad packed with lettuce, roasted tomatoes, roasted pumpkin, goat cheese, roasted cashews in a tangy dressing. The pollo y maiz used to be my dream salad, packed with chunks of grilled chicken, fresh corn, avocado, tomatoes and bacon, but it was taken away from me, off the menu. The bad: I’ve had not-the-best quality ingredients once or thrice… think wilted greens, browned avocado and once I even found a plastic string in my salad that had been used to hold together a bunch of arugula. Woops.
All different tastes can find a sandwich that calls to them – chicken lovers, cheese lovers, veggie lovers, meat lovers, and overall sandwich lovers — there’s something for everyone. The pumpkin and cheese sandwich makes for some sexy bites, with my favorite fried-melted crispy cheese, fresh bread and flavorful grilled vegetables.
The grilled chicken and gruyere sandwich is also a fan favorite, almost always making an appearance on their ever-changing seasonal menu: chicken, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and greens.
AR$27 in Sep 2010, AR$51 in Dec 2012.
Another great thing about Tea Connection is their inventive flavored waters – which are more like juices – that come in tall glass bottles with a cork stopper. You can choose between a selection of drug-sounding flavors like relaxers, energizers and antioxidant-izers, think sabores like mango, grapefruit and the upper guaraná or a strawberry, blueberry and lime. They also make a great iced tea which is more like a frozen tea iced smoothie, super refreshing and just what a hot day calls for.
Tea Connection has green-conscience branches throughout the city, but the best spot, in my opinion, is on Federico Lacroze in Belgrano with a “green store” and art gallery.
The name may be deceiving – sounding like a girly spot full of tea and scones, but this café is an exception to the chain rule acting as a good go-to spot for a fresh and healthy meal.
Various locations throughout the city