When your preference is tea over coffee it can be difficult to find a really good cuppa in the Brisbane CBD. Especially if you factor in a preference for modern or slightly quirky surroundings. Bonsai Botanika may just be my new favourite cafe.
What makes this place special?
Bonsai Botanika is set up loosely in the style of a Japanese Kissaten, a tearoom that serves coffee, delicious sweets and other light meals. The decor is modern and laid out in a way that provides nooks for couples, benches positioned to watch the world go by for singles and tables for large groups to crowd around too.
As with a Kissaten, you are welcome to settle in and stay for a while, catch up on your email, finish a blog post or read your book. You’ll pay a slightly higher price for your cuppa and cake than some places but you’ll be left alone to relax and enjoy them.
The Japanese toasted rice tea (genmai cha) is perfect, loose-leaf and steeped in a pot. The Kyoto style slow drip coffee also got rave reviews. The cakes cabinet radiates a heavenly glow that’s almost impossible to stand next to and ignore. The flourless chocolate cake was indeed divine; rich and dense, and served alongside a tot of liquid white chocolate cream to dip into.
Presentation is a big part of the experience but service was mediocre. Staff at the counter seemed a little unsure of what was on the menu and found the concept of drink plus additions difficult to explain to some customers causing a bit of a bottleneck.
In the evening there were staff coming in and out of the bar area on the second level but they didn’t seem to be available for service and walked away leaving one customer hovering uncertainly. On the other hand, if you’re happy to take your well-made drink and enjoy it in a comfortably modern environment without interruption it can’t be faulted.
Where to find Bonsai Botanika
Situated on Elizabeth Street opposite the Myers Centre, Bonsai Botanika is laid out over three levels.
The top-level seems to be roped off during the day and reserved for evening dining. The mid-level is a mezzanine layer opening out over the serving and lower seating area making it feel very airy and spacious despite the seating being quite tightly laid out. There’s a bar on this level but during the day and early evening I haven’t seen it staffed, all food and drinks are ordered through the main counter on the ground floor.
The lower level gets quite crowded just inside the door as people stop to read and make choices from the menu board that is shown here rather than over the counter. The counter is behind and the kitchen is further to the back. To the right is both table and counter seating.