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A Guide To Reykjavík's Tea Houses

Reykjavík is a relatively small city, but even so, sometimes you need a bit of local advice to find what you’re looking for, whether it’s a good people-watching spot, somewhere to see some contemporary art, or the best place to catch an Icelandic movie. Don’t worry, friends—we’ve got you covered via our Best of Reykjavík 2016 series. Here are some of our favourite spots in Reykjavík, for all kinds of super-fun days and nights out. Enjoy! And if you try our list, you can let us know what you thought of the selections via letters@grapevine.is.

Okay, full disclosure: the idea of a “Tea House” guide in Reykjavík is a little bit misleading. Reykjavík runs on coffee, so it quickly becomes apparent that a tea guide will be more of a guide to coffee shops that just happen to serve tea, sometimes. But we needed to weed out which readers are really looking for a well-brewed cup of leaves, and which are just trying to get their caffeine fix.

There are plenty of places for the latter—type “coffee” into your Google Maps search engine and Reykjavík’s centre will explode into a caffeine emporium. And while there is no proper tea scene in Reykjavík yet, the waters are warming. We’ll just give you this cup here and let it brew…

There are four main suppliers of loose leaf tea in Reykjavík: Te og Kaffi, Kaffitár, Tefélagið and Krydd og Tehúsið. Te og Kaffi is a bit Starbucks-y in that there are so many of them packed into 101 you can hear what someone is ordering from the branch across the street. But we’re not here to talk about ambience. We’re here to talk about tea. And if it is tea you seek, then there is only one branch of Te og Kaffi for you: Laugavegur 27. This shop is the only one in town that carries all of their 50 different teas—from their least expensive herbal blends like chamomile and lemongrass to more high-end greens, blacks, and whites. You can order a pot on the spot or buy a 100g bag to take with you.

If you want to try a tea from this Reykjavík staple but aren’t into the whole corporate monopoly thing (or you just forgot your computer charger) you can head to Kex Hostel, which serves some of the main names from the collection. Here you’ll find a few fewer laptops, and a lot more view—the back wall of Kex’s café-bar-restaurant looks out toward Esja, and the sea. You can practically feel the wind whipping your hair, which makes grabbing onto that warm mug all the more satisfying.

The second main distributor of teas is Kaffitár. Kaffitár has an outlet café at Bankastræti 8—as central as it gets. Because of its high-traffic location, the café itself stays pretty full most of the day. That may sound like a turn-off at first, but in the depths of winter a little bit of colour and sound actually pair quite well with a hot pot of their personally blended teas.

For a different scene, Grái Kötturinn on Hverfisgata serves a selection of Kaffitár’s loose leafs. This just-off-the-main-drag and just-below-street-level café is tighter, dimmer, and packed in all sorts of ways with books.

Kaffibrennslan on the corner of Klapparstígur and Laugavegur also carries Kaffitár’s teas. Brennslan stays open until 23:00 on weekdays, which makes it a great place to do some after-hours work, in that interim when it’s too late for coffee, but just right for tea.

One tea treasure that we dug up isn’t actually a café at all—it’s an herbs and spice (and everything nice) shop called Krydd og Tehúsið. The shop is teeming with scents that are at the same time comforting and exotic. The owner, Omry, hand-selects all of the teas that make their way into the well-organized display. They import from all over the Far East and carry a little bit of everything, from the “charismatic” ginger- and lemon-infused green teas, to more specialty teas like dark Pu-erhs from China.

Just up the street from Krydd og Tehúsið is Reykjavík Roasters on Brautarholt. Reykjavík Roasters opened its first location at the small triangle lot on Kárastígur, and built a strong reputation on local sourcing and hand-crafting. Keeping in tune with their emphasis on what’s local, Reykjavík Roasters is one of the only places in town that you can order a cup of Krydd og Tehúsið’s finest.

Sufistinn is the always buzzing book café on the top floor of Mal og Menning (bookshop), and the only other place you can get served a selection from Krydd og Tehúsið. Besides the two main distributor cafés, Sufistinn had one of the best selections of loose-leaf teas that I came across. On a small end-table was a display of about ten different beautifully paper-wrapped canisters, each one holding a different white, black, red, green, or berry blend.

Tefélagið supplies several of Reykjavík’s nicest cafés, including Grapevine’s brunch-spot favourite Coocoo’s Nest, and the nice little 107 joint, Kaffihús Vesturbær. If you get hooked, they also have a website where you can buy a wide range of teas, including some excellent Japanese whites and greens, or subscribe to get a different tea sent to your home each month.

Originally published in The Reykjavík Grapevine: Best of 2016.