64 Dixon St, Te Aro, Wellington
Opens 8.30am weekdays, 9.30am weekends; closes 4pm
Matcha porridge $19, granola smoothie $19; Flight coffee, house teas
Qilin Tea House concentrates, naturally, on tea. It’s not your Asian bubble tea shop though. There is a good selection of green, black and herbal teas on offer, including iced and floral teas (all at $6), as well as a variety of tea lattes and standard coffees. The menu has just a few Asian oriented dishes and there is some counter food as well, including salads, soups, sandwiches, scones and sweet baking.
The porridge is not listed as such on the menu, and maybe it is indeed not actually porridge. It is called ‘creamy vanilla matcha oatmeal’. I think the oatmeal is a misnomer, for it appears to be made with small-flake rolled oats. But these are barely cooked, hence why you may not call it porridge. It seems as though boiling water has been poured over the oats, and maybe they have been given a bit of extra zap for 20 seconds or so in the microwave to create quite a nice chewy slurry. The taste of vanilla comes through strongly, and clearly there is powdered green tea (matcha) in there too, but mercifully without the high sugar content that usually goes with packaged matcha drinks.
The ‘porridge’ is topped with sliced banana and kiwifruit, dried raspberry, dark chocolate chips and warmed-up frozen blueberries. It’s a pretty nice combination, and well balanced. Some cafés add far too much chocolate to porridge, creating a gluggy, over sweetened effect, but here the quantity is just right.
I tend to be a green tea drinker but I resisted the temptation to try one of the many varieties on offer here as green tea was already in the oat mix. So I had the Earl Grey tea. I was told it was more flowery than your usual, and I would agree. It is served with an hourglass timer, so you don’t have to guess when to pour, and the strength came out spot on. A very nice tea and without excessive astringency.
I had a cheese scone here on another day with Assam tea. The tea was also good, but I wouldn’t bother with the scones again. Mine was toasted in a sandwich press and was pretty ordinary. As you can see, the scones are not the carefully shaped sort made from a stiffer dough but more like splodges of wetter mix, rather like the sort I would make at home.
Qilin is not a big place, but there is a nice atmosphere with a distinctive design aesthetic. There are a variety of seating options, from padded bench sets to tables with stools. There is only one corner where the seating has a back to it. Everything else requires you to exercise your back muscles. On a good day the concertina windows along the front bench can be folded open.
You can buy various teas blends to take home, as well as tea pots, cups, strainers and other bits and pieces of tea making paraphernalia. And there are magazines and a few books to read, but no newspapers. I’ve never seen the place packed out in the morning, but it may get busy later.
Really excellent porridge – one of the better ones in Wellington. Could it be improved? Maybe I would like some slivered almonds or other sorts of nuts, but that could be overdoing it, as there are quite a few ingredients already. And very good tea. My only complaint is that the place doesn’t open until 8.30 am on weekdays (too late for breakfast on the way to work) and 9.30 in weekends (too long to wait around for breakfast if you don’t have other things to keep you occupied).
Reviewed December 2021.
Menus, ingredients and opening hours may change. Check with eatery before you visit.