Instagram was not how I expected to discover my new favourite spot in Manchester. Through my avid love of images of food and drink, the photo sharing app led me from person to bakery to Cha-ology. And how pleased I am that it did. Cha-ology is one of the newest additions to Ancoats, and those blocks of flats look more tempting with this tea room nestled in.

As a great tea lover, I have often felt glum at my current disinterest in going for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. What used to be a pastime is now rarely done and not half as tempting. Sadly, the prices and sense of ‘I could make this at home for less’ have stunted my tea-fuelled meet ups. Thankfully, I have a feeling Cha-ology is going to change the game for tea-drinking entirely.

I often note to coffee-loving friends that there is nothing inherently wrong with coffee. It tastes nice, it’s a caffeine hit, it smells good, and is even good in cakes. The problem is more with the philosophy of coffee, or at least how I’ve found it to be consumed today. It’s a grab and go, one shot hit, love you and leave you experience. Whether you want to nab, grab, down or rush an Americano or a filter coffee, it always seems to be in a hurry, on the way somewhere else. Sadly, it feels like tea often now joins this club, not necessarily in the rushed drinking, but in the busy hectic life we lead, tea fits in around it. It’s no longer the main event.

Having recently appeared as Google’s daily doodle as well as on any kitsch wartime-styled memorabilia, and in this, Britain’s 358th glorious year of importing tea, apparently tea appreciation is trickling rather than pouring down to the youth of today. A recent piece of market research shows that only 16% of 16-34 year olds enjoy five cups of black tea a day, and whilst I find that hard to fathom, perhaps not everyone relies on the brew to get them through as much as I do. What’s good for Cha-ology is that green tea sales are up 39% in the past two years. So whilst lamenting the loss of designated teatime will be of relevance to very few, the concept of taking some time out of a busy day, of the whirl of noise and worry in our minds, to sit and enjoy a delicate cup of matcha should be very relevant indeed.

Situated on the busy motoring highway that is Great Ancoats Street, the glass fronted-minimalist Cha-ology looks more Scandi clothes shop than tearoom. Thankfully, the clean style and woody smell is where the shop similarities end. With a gentle and unassuming atmosphere, Cha-ology slowly transported me away to a happy place, until eventually the din of Market Street and the hassle of the tram ride were far behind me, and it was just me and the tea.

After ordering at the counter, we were warmly invited to sit down. Seating room is kept to a minimum, with a few seats at the counter, and three tables on a raised platform. Shoes must be removed (holey-sock wearers beware!) and a basket is provided to keep your belongings safe and tidy. This meant that coats and shopping bags didn’t intrude on the experience, again bringing the focus back to the enjoyment of tea. Sitting on the floor isn’t for everyone, but comfy cushions and the novel experience make it easier for those prepared to give it a go.

Matcha is the ground powder of Camillia Sinensis green tea. The plant grows in the shade, which is said to be partly responsible for its celebrated reviving powers. Anyone who has had matcha knows it’s not the cheapest tea on the market, and Cha-ology is no different. But here you pay for the experience and age-old technique of tea brewing through the tea ceremony you are able to enjoy firsthand, right at your table.

The proprietor came to our table with an array of bowls (chawan), hot water, a whisk (chasen) and the tea. No bag dunking or scalding hot water in sight. The ceremony showed great skill. With nimble fingers and wrists, she swirled the warm water, in a wabi-sabi chawan, at a sharp angle, never spilling a drop. The ceremony is done with great care and affection. Nothing is rushed, despite a queue forming at the door. Her concentration is unfaltering and the act is surely meditative, for both the tea maker and customers lucky enough to drink it.

There are varieties of thin matcha and thick matcha. As we hadn’t tried thick matcha before she suggested we work up to it next time. Trying both a subtler variety and the stronger, more umami brew gave a good comparison of tastes. Drinking out of large chawans, it was the most mindful cup of tea I’d consumed in months. I was in no hurry to finish and enjoyed the subtlety of flavours throughout the drink. The experience was only interrupted by the deliciously light matcha roll cake, which was as good as it looked. The roll cake looks like a Swiss roll, and as such you might expect a certain level of sweetness. But this roll doesn’t suffer from that cakey sweetness that turns sickly or overpowering after a few bites. It gets better the more you eat, and doesn’t leave you feeling heavy or in danger of a sugar crash shortly afterwards.

Truth be told, I didn’t really want to leave. Slow drinking or mindful sipping, call it what you will – I hope it’s here to stay. This tea room gives the buzzing metropolis something very few are offering: an oasis of calm, and an experience. No humming coffee machines, no overplayed indie rock (as much as I love it). This isn’t a tea room for the everyday cuppa, nor for a quick brew, but for when you want to savour your time, relax, and do something out of the ordinary, Cha-ology is ideal, and a lot cheaper than any therapy session.

instagram.com/Cha.ology

Amelia Bayliss