THERE’S a new addition in the Sirao Garden Little Amsterdam: a quaint, old-fashioned English Tea House called Casa Bella. For owner Elena Chua, the tea house is a childhood dream come true. She relates that even as a child, “I loved collecting small souvenirs and knickknacks which served as keepsakes for treasured moments in my life.” She also enjoyed playing with her childhood friends with a tea party using “toy miniature tea cups and pots, pretending to drink real tea or coffee.”
When she grew up, she started to collect “miniature bone chinaware—cups, saucers, teapots and flower vases.” When she worked as a flight attendant, she was able “to buy real beautiful fine china cups from different countries.” She was also able to taste different kinds of teas in the various countries she visited, and she particularly loved English tea houses and she dreamed of owning one someday. Now that she has retired from her job, she has been able to make her dream come true, beautifully set in her year-round flower garden, the Sirao Garden Little Amsterdam.
It’s a quaint, small teahouse that can accommodate 10 people or at the most, 12. All around the walls are Elena’s collection of different teapots, miniature bone china, knickknacks, hats, vases, quaint lamps, frames, small stuffed toys and animal figurines…which, she says, “gives a glimpse into my world… my journey, my love of tea.”
The place is quaint, cozy, restful. One can view Elena’s collection on the walls comfortably seated. Or one might want to examine them more closely, but please don’t touch: most of them are breakable and in some cases, irreplaceable.
Elena limits Casa Bella guests for the simple reason that the place is small and usually, she serves the guests herself. She offers a set menu that consists of unlimited tea of various flavors, a sandwich with a crunchy and zesty vegetable salad on the side, and perhaps, also her specialty, chicken macaroni salad, some cupcakes, fruits, juice drinks and if one prefers it, coffee.
To be in Casa Bella is to experience the ambiance of an English tea shop, and to share in Elena Chua’s world of beautiful miniature china and keepsakes of her travel as a flight attendant.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on August 13, 2017.
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