TCHAI OVNA, a very special little tea house in Glasgow, is under threat from developers. Ruth Hedges explores the campaign to save this wee gem.
ea is a wonderful thing. The hot. wet liquid in
all its many incarnations. quite simply. makes
life better. Whichever way we take it. to share a pot and go through the ritual of warming. pouring and slurping is one of the few things we can rely on. From the deserts of north Africa to the crowded mountain-top homes of Darjeeling and tea houses of Prague. people sit about gossiping over their brew. And in Glasgow. down a little lane. past a record store. a second-hand book shop and an antique clock repairer. in a Czech-inspired tea house with 85 varieties of the stuff and hookahs to boot. people are doing the same. But they‘re also on a 24 hour vigil as Tchai Ovna is currently ﬁghting for survival against the big boy developers who don‘t seem to appreciate the importance of tea.
Tchai Ovna is a ramshackle little place built with love and dedication. Hippy. yes: phony. no. Martin Fell and his brother opened it in 2()()() while they were still students at Glasgow University — they ploughed in student loans and gathered together a lot of friends to help turn the old dairy into a tea shop. Beginning with 20 teas. the number has more than quadrupled and the rat infested wasteland that lay out the back has been transformed into a garden.
But Glasgow City Council has granted planning for the development of a block of luxury flats in the space right next to the garden along the riverside and workers and patrons of Tchai Ovna are rallying support to protest against what they see as a shortsighted. unthinking planning policy. In an unusual alliance they have been meeting with Glasgow Braendam Link. the Govan anti-poverty alliance. ‘We don‘t need more luxury tlats.‘ says Fell. ‘Wc need good. affordable housing. The council did not consult any of the small businesses along ()tavo Lane for planning or access.‘ Across the river in
86 THE LIST 1)? .Jul .‘3 Aug 2004
‘THE COUNCIL DID NOT CONSULT ANY OF THE SMALL BUSINESSES ALONG OTAVO LANE FOR PLANNING OR ACCESS'
Govan. he describes half the buildings as ‘windowless‘. and a sense of community and green space throughout Glasgow is a commodity in diminishing supply. ‘()ur cafe has become the centre of a small community »- it brings people together. There‘s a mosque up the road and a lot of people come after they‘ve been. People from all round the world come in and suggest new recipes — we just had a Pakistani daisy recipe the other day..
The spot is also the venue for poetry readings and the occasional live music gig.
The fact is that the garden isn‘t theirs. and the council and developers have stayed just by a whisker within their rights. but it’s important that a development policy that disregards the benefits to a city of initiatives such as Tchai ()vna is questioned.
‘We want to protest against the council‘s policy of
planning. It is just taking the side of people with money.’ says Martin. ‘As a matter of necessity we've widened the protest to include as many pressure groups as possible. l’ve become fairly politicised through this. The Scottish Socialist Party. Friends of the River Kelvin and Glasgow Braendam Link are all involved. We want to force for change in law here.‘
It could all be dismissed as a storm in a trippy old tea cup. But there's a serious point here. On one side. projects developed through dedication. serving an important role in their community. are swept away without consultation. and on the other. housing that doens't even reach basic human needs is allowed to slip futher into decline.
Members of Franz Ferdinand and Belle and Sebastian have backed the campaign to save Tchai Ovna and there is a demonstration planned for Sat 24 Jul in George Square from 1 1 am.
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Five more favourite tea rooms in Edinburgh and Glasgow
No 1 Tea Art Studio Bright. airy and comfortable. this newly opened specialty Chinese tea house is proving massively poular in the West End. It opened just a month ago by Yang Xu. and her meticulous approach to the calming surroundings is matched by the careful preparation of tea (of which there are 40 varieties) — pots and cups warmed, water poured at an angle of 70 degrees for optimum flavour over a wooden tray with an overflow System draining away spillages. 407 Great Western Road. Glasgow. 07906 952 27 7
Plaisir du Chocolate it shouldn't be forgotten that the Royal Mile store and restaurant is also a tea Shop and has an impressive 130 varieties to its name. You can even have your tea mixed into an alcoholic cocktail. Ask for the special tea menu and pretend you're living in some exotic city where it's normal to hang out in a atmospheric salon du the. 25 7/253 Canongafe. Edinburgh, 556 9524
Caledonia Hotel Once in a while you get the urge to relive some of that old-style grandeur. And what could be more grand than afternoon tea in the Castle Suite Lounge of Edinburgh's venerable Caley? Served between 3pm and 5pm. the 214.95 service can hardly be called good value in the usual sense. but you can't put a value on the kind of discreet, high-class experience that is straight out of another era. Princes Street, Edinburgh, 222 8888
The Willow Tearooms True to its name. the Willow Tearooms offers an extensive selection of teas. Among the fruit teas are apple. Caribbean crush, and orange blossom. The herbal teas include camomile. nettle and rosehip. While y0u‘re savouring your pot. you can take in the famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh interior. 27 7 Sauchieha/I Street, Glasgow. 332 0527
Clarindas Clarindas continues to offer all that is expected of a traditional tea shop. In a room laden with romantic artefacts such as old
photos and typewriters, customers are tempted by the mouth- watering display of home-made cakes which can be washed down with an array of teas including an exotic mango option. 69 Canongate, Edinburgh, 557 7888 (Mark Fisher)