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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ten Ren Cha for Tea, Haymarket Sydney

No, duck fat chips don't fill you up for long.

Even before we've settled in our seats after dinner to see David Sedaris, Yas and I are already planning supper for after the show.

We tumble onto the street and find ourselves trekking toward Chinatown. Bellies full of duck fat chips and wagyu and lamb cutlets and crema Catalan could do with a little counterbalance, which is how we end up at Ten Ren on George Street.

Ten Ren

Ten Ren takes its tea seriously. Downstairs, the shelves of this Taiwanese tea house are laden with a seemingly endless array of dried tea leaves in packages, containers and decorative tins. The counter area is busy with teas being prepared, mostly bubble teas for takeaway by patrons off the street.

At the back of the store, a steep staircase leads to the cafe upstairs, usually filled with uni student or resting shoppers. The warning on the menu -- "no card games allowed"-- is presumably a deterrent for loitering non-drinking customers.

Ten-Wu tea (high mountain oolong) $6.50 large
Black milk tea with pearls $6.50 large

I order the Ten-Wu tea, a high mountain oolong which arrives ready sweetened. If you're looking for black tea, make sure you order from the "Tea-pot" section, as "Traditional Favourites" apparently means traditionally sweet as well. The tea has a pleasant cooling effect, and the froth on top--from the blended ice--does make it look more like a schooner of beer than a brewed tea beverage. Yas has the black milk tea with pearls.

Tea flavour red bean crushed ice $7.50

We end up forgoing savouries and heading straight for dessert. Yas has his usual of sweetened red bean on crushed ice. It's drizzed with rivulets of condensed milk, and he struggles though the brain freeze barrier.

Today's random fact: brain freeze is caused by cold items touching the roof of your mouth, triggering the trigeminal nerve that runs from the palate to the brain. The nerve dilates the blood vessels, creating a sense of pain in the forehead and the dreaded brain freeze. The solution - allow the cold foods to warm up slowly in the mouth before swallowing, and try to avoid direct contact between the cold substance and the roof of your mouth.

Crushed ice with peanut cashews and milk $7.50

I'd had high hopes for my dessert, one that eluded me on my last visit. The last time I'd been here, I was told that they'd run out of QQ or pearls, the chewy tapioca balls that were to adorn my crushed ice with peanuts, pearls and green tea ice cream. Instead I'd had to contend with peanuts and red beans. Today I was certain I'd finally get my order. It seems a comedy of errors that this time I was told they're run out of peanuts. Would I be happy with cashews? Certainly.

The cashews are generously littered on the plate - I'm guessing the profit margin on this dish was significantly reduced. The pearls have a pleasing chewy, but not sodden, consistency. The cashews add richness and crunch but end up being too overwhelming and we leave about half of them behind.

I relish the fun of the ice though, chipping off chunks that slowly melt in the mouth, both a drink and a dessert, sweetened by the melting scoop of green tea ice cream and made texturally interesting by the chewy tapioca balls and crunch of cashews.

Coffee jelly milk tea $7.50
Tea and coffee blend $7.50

On a previous visit with Billy, Simon and Yas, we'd had more luck in covering the savoury elements of the menu.

Crispy chicken fried $5.80

Crispy fried chicken was nubbly with batter, the crunchy coating flavoured with five spice.

Pu-Erh flavourd beef with noodle $10.80

Pu-Erh flavoured beef with noodle offers a healthier supper option, the dark broth herbal and sweet. The beef is tender, its richness countered by the serving of pickled vegetables and shallots on a bed of thick and languid udon noodles.

Taiwanese meat ball $8.80 two pieces

Tawainese meat balls are a surprise package. Literally. Two flat dumplings have a sticky semi-opaque skin that is starchy and heavily stretchy. A filling of pork mince, garlic and mushrooms is fragrant but its general stodginess doesn't really appeal to our palates, especially with the ominous pool of flurousecent orange chilli sauce.

Japanese Macha ice cream $4.80

Macha green tea ice cream has sufficient notes of bitterness and Yas's red bean ice was interestingly serve with condensed milk the first time around.

Tea flavour red bean crushed ice $7.50

Crushed ice with peanut and milk $7.50

My crushed ice was served without the tapioca pearls and replaced with red bean as mentioned above. Who knews, perhaps on my third attempt, I'll finally hit the jackpot.

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Ten Ren's Cha For Tea on Urbanspoon

Ten Ren Cha for Tea
696 George Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 1887

Open 7 days, 9am - 11pm (till 2.30am on Fri and Sat)

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Ten Ren Cha for Tea, Chatswood

18 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/20/2010 02:02:00 am


  • At 1/20/2010 4:53 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    So many red beans! I love the nubbly chicken, so delish.

  • At 1/20/2010 7:55 am, Anonymous An Affair With Fashion said…

    Having just commented on your food photo shoot post, I still think you take great food shots with the available lighting and sets you have when you do reviews. I have a friend who takes a photo of every meal she eats out n about. I'll be sure to show her your blog!

  • At 1/20/2010 9:09 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    lol @ the profit margin!

    Gotta admit, that initial shot of the crushed ice with red bean reminds me a lot of natto... Hope it tasted a lot better! MMm I feel a craving for some iced tea now.

  • At 1/20/2010 10:01 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    That first shot of Yas' crushed ice with red bean makes me think of natto, for some reason... but give me that sweet treat over natto any day!

  • At 1/20/2010 10:15 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Shame to hear the dumplings weren't as great as hoped! It's hard to go wrong with dumplings. But gosh all those desserts make me envious - am currently salivating at my desk over the macha ice cream and iced coffee with jelly. Ooft..

  • At 1/20/2010 10:30 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    I've only been to the Ten Ren in Chatswood and have yet to try the savoury dishes. The teas look so nice, though I always struggle to destroy that mountain of ice in the iced desserts without making a big mess!

  • At 1/20/2010 10:54 am, Anonymous icie said…

    While it may seem awfully pedestrian, their jellies are a must-try. The osmanthus is particularly fragrant.

  • At 1/20/2010 1:30 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    I love the teas from here but I've never tried any of their desserts. Your elusive dessert sounds nice though, if only they could get it right! Love the random fact of the day hehe

  • At 1/20/2010 1:38 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    That broth sounds good, particularly the languid noodles.

  • At 1/20/2010 2:14 pm, Blogger foodwink said…

    I like how you plan your meals ahead :) I have been to Ten Ren Cha once and thought the food was pricey for what it was. Anyway, red beans and green tea is one of my favourite food combinations.

  • At 1/20/2010 3:05 pm, Blogger Kate said…

    Ive never tried red bean before. Whats it like? The ice cream looks pretty good. Did they have many flavours? I haven't really tried any of the ice desserts before. What would you recommend as a first? Hope you're well Helen. x

  • At 1/20/2010 9:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm all TW pride and all but I have to disown their crushed ice cos they make it with just a blender! That is horribleness when it comes to crushed ice :(

    but their teas are the real deal :)

  • At 1/20/2010 11:09 pm, Blogger A cupcake or two said…

    Coffee jelly is so good. Anything with pearls to me is a winner. I have to go and check this place out.

  • At 1/21/2010 8:55 am, Anonymous Trisha said…

    in this hot weather, anything with crushed ice would be my bestfriend instantly!!!

  • At 1/21/2010 2:26 pm, Anonymous Susan at Charm of the Carolines said…

    Your photos are incredible. Makes the chili I had for dinner seem awfully provencial. Would love to try some of these dishes!!!


  • At 1/21/2010 9:35 pm, Anonymous Hungry Hedonist said…

    Whoever thought to combine tea with beef and all other meats is a genius. Or a very tea-addicted adventurist. Either way, it looks delicious! Thanks for the post.

  • At 1/23/2010 1:36 am, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Red bean crushed ice & black milk tea with QQ are my usual! and now I know how to avoid getting brain freeze haha

  • At 1/25/2010 12:31 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Joey - They are generous with red beans, and yes nubbly chicken is always good if we're talking about batter!

    Hi An Affair With Fashion - Thanks. It's been a steep learning curve and as they say, practice is the best way to learn!

    Hi Minh - Ha, I didn't even think of natto. And lol, there seriously were a lot of cashews!

    Hi Hannah - I'm not a fan of natto either :) I'll take condensed milk on red beans anyway!

    Hi Margaret Tran - Perhaps the dumplings weren't a good idea so late at night, but if you're in the mood for starch, you know where to head! It's always a good idea for dessert too :)

    Hi Stephcookie - I think half the fun of the iced desserts is the digging :)

    Hi Icie - Thanks for the tip. I admit the crushed ice always gets me, but I had noticed the jellies. Will have to keep it in mind for next time.

    Hi Jacq - I think it's going to be a running joke. I will probably fall off my chair if I actually manage to get the dessert in its original form one day. lol. And I love trivia :)

    Hi Arwen - Languid noodles are the best kind, aren't they? lol

    Hi Foodwink - I think it's quite scary how far ahead I think about my meals. lol. Ten Ren does seem a little pricey at times, but perhaps a reflection of their teas being natural and not just flavourings. I guess their meal prices are also structured around a lower table turnover rate?

    Hi Kate - Red bean is hard to describe, but I guess imagine a sweetened bean, like a kidney bean? The ice cream only comes in green tea. There's a menu on their website and I say go for whatever you fancy. Never ventured, never gained :)

    Hi FFichiban - Crushed ice outrage! lol. Their teas are good although I find the menu can be intimidating if you're familiar with all the tea varieties.

    Hi A Cupcake or Two - I love pearls too. Like a meal and a dessert in one :) Coffee jelly is also so refereshing.

    Hi Trisha - I adored crushed ice in hot weather too. The best way to get cool.

    Hi Susan - Thanks so much. And nothing wrong with homecooked food either. I'd love some homemade chilli right about now!

    Hi Hungry Hedonist - Using tea as a flavouring is an interesting idea. I think it does go well with beef especially. They have quite an extensive menu of tea-flavoured dishes which I've yet to fully explore.

    Hi Yas - Ha, I understand your fondness for sticking with the same dessert. Shame mine keeps changing. lol. Hope the brain freeze tip helps!


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