Here’s the tea – Botanical Lab opens its new sips and sweets cafe in West End
One of Brisbane’s most beloved tea dispensaries has evolved. After drumming up a loyal following from its cosy Bakery Lane tea house, Botanical Lab has moved across the river – reopening in a bright and airy space in the heart of West End. Not only do guests now have more room to sip on pots of aromatic oolong, comforting masala chai and sweet boba-filled bubble teas, they can dip a spoon into indulgent soft-serve parfaits or nibble on Botanical Lab’s new range of tea-infused cakes and treats.
Although much ado has been made about the specialty coffee boom in recent years, any tea lover will attest to the fact that the steeping scene is as strong as it’s ever been. Just ask Linda Le of Botanical Lab – a popular dispensary that has been fusing the best elements of eastern and western tea cultures since opening in Bakery Lane back in 2018. Linda has experienced tea’s overwhelming popularity amongst Brisbane sippers firsthand – many of Botanical Lab’s regulars trek long distances to visit, and 2019’s Laneway Tea Festival drew a bigger crowd than its coffee counterpart. Despite its popularity, many Botanical Lab die-hards lamented the dearth of convenient parking options that hampered their efforts to visit regularly, so Linda decided an expansion was in order. In early 2020 Linda elected to leave Bakery Lane in search of a bigger space – one that would allow her to cater to greater numbers easier, but also afford room to expand Botanical Lab’s menu. A light-filled space in West End caught her eye – the former site of Baskin-Robbins on Melbourne Street – and Linda engaged the services of Clui Design to help transform it into Botanical Lab 2.0. Linda has retained the original ice-cream counter (which has been re-tiled) and some of the architectural quirks of the original interior, electing to implement a minimal timber and pastel aesthetic bolstered by cosmetic accents such as dried flower arrangements, crystals and ceramic pieces from Bonnie Hislop. Botanical Lab re-opened in early August, and was quickly inundated by new and old clientele – so immediate was the response that Linda has had to implement one-hour dining limits to ensure everyone has a chance to satiate their cravings.
An on-site kitchen space means the Botanical Lab crew have room to get creative. Linda is personally relishing the chance to introduce guests to traditional teas via a brand-new avenue – cakes! Botanical Lab has introduced a concise menu of tea-infused cakes and treats, with a rotating selection of options dictated by Linda’s experimental whims. Of the debut selection, early favourites include mochi doughnuts, Earl Grey vanilla cream puffs and matcha Swiss cakes, plus a range of pillowy soft Hokkaido cheese cakes from Mountain River Patisserie. Speaking of sweet things, Botanical Lab’s signature soft-serve cones and eye-popping parfaits make for an indulgent treat (think swirls of dreamy tea-flavoured ice-cream resting on a bed of fruit, pearls and crumbled cookies – our spoons are at the ready). Naturally, Botanical Lab’s menu of beverages – both traditional teas and the more elaborate Instagram-worthy concoctions – have been carried across to the West End digs. Tea OG’s can sit down with a pot of loose-leaf brew, with Earl Grey, oolong, chamomile, masala chai, pu-erh and sencha tea (many flavours sourced from local businesses such as The Steepery, Tour de Tea and Green Leaf Teahouse) just a few of the options available. Next comes Botanical Lab’s beloved range of milk and fruit teas, with the former category boasting hojicha, matcha, chocolate, Milo, rose and taro varieties, and the latter encompassing the likes of lemon, lychee, mango, pineapple hibiscus, peach and strawberry. Those looking to get crazy with it should direct their attention to Botanical Lab’s teanades (tea with sparkling water) or our personal obsession – the Ombré drinks, which layer different teas in one beverage to create a colourful concoction that looks almost too good to sip. Blue mango fruit tea, pink dragonfruit lychee and purple sunset passionfruit tea are especially eye-catching flavours. Once you’ve made your selection, customise your drink with toppings – think black tea jelly, butterfly blue pea, Oreo, herbal jelly and more. Oh, and if by chance you can’t find a beverage to suit your taste, Linda and her team have a secret stash of off-menu flavours to help you create the drink of your dreams – but let’s keep that tidbit between us (insert a wink here)!
Botanical Lab is open to the public. Check out the Stumble Guide for contact and booking details!
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