IT'S a little Sunny Coast tea shop with a big following that includes Australia's top tea connoisseurs.
The Silva Spoon, in Cotton Tree, has risen above the likes of The Tea Centre to be named the best tea house in Queensland in the Australian tea industry's Golden Leaf Awards.
Tea Master Gina Da Silva said she got "the shock of (her) life" when she found out last October that her tea house, which has 100 types of tea and is a popular destination high teas, baby showers and coffee drinkers, had won the coveted award.
The Golden Leaf is judged by Australia's best professional tea tasters.
Located opposite the Cotton Tree public swimming pool on The Esplanade, The Silva Spoon is owned and run by the Da Silva family, with Gina and her mum Alison in charge.
When her parents first hit on the idea of buying a struggling tea shop on King St in the same suburb seven years ago, Gina was living in Brisbane, working at Telstra and drinking coffee - not tea.
Bean To Tea was up for urgent sale by its owners, and the Da Silvas saw an opportunity.
"Although I was happy in Brisbane, I hated my work," Gina said.
"We ended up buying a small existing business - Bean to Tea, changed the name, and went from there."
The Silva Spoon's tea is sourced from Australian tea growers and imported from Japan, India, China and a host of other countries, Gina said.
"We weigh and bag everything here on site," she said. "Everything's fresh."
While she uses "middlemen" to buy the tea, Gina says she'll soon be sourcing all her tea herself.
The tea house also serves coffee, which is imported by The Silver Spoon and roasted locally every week.
"We haven't done a deal with a bigger coffee company - it's all roasted locally," Gina said.
Describing what customers meet when they arrive at the shop, Gina said: "It's an assault on the senses.
"It's like this massive confusion of sight, smell and taste. You're just drawn to everything and so don't know what to look at first."
Gina said her preference for coffee over tea flipped when she started working with tea and learned about its health benefits.
The caffeine makeup of tea is different to coffee at the molecular level, she says, and while it's an effective energy booster, it was an altogether "different kind of high".
"It's a sustained kind of high, whereas coffee sort of picks you up and plummets you down straight after," Gina said.
Her personal favourite tea was the Blooming Buddha, a hand-sewn ball of parcels of several types of tea including jasmine, white tea and hibiscus, she said.
The Blooming Buddha opens into a 'flower' that's perfect for a glass teapot placed in the centre of the table where it can delight your guests, she says.
It costs 50 cents per flower and can be used for 30 cups if you wrap it in cling wrap and keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
Finding a niche market within the otherwise saturated café scene on the Coast was what kept her business strong, Gina said.
"I don't know about the rest of the Coast but there's nothing else like us in Cotton Tree or Maroochydore," she said.
GINA'S PICK: Three weird and wonderful must-try teas
1. Yerba Mate
"Yerba Mate is a highly caffeinated green tea from South America. It's a tart, yet rejuvenating blend," Gina said.
"A healthy alternative to morning coffee, Yerba Mate is great for boosting energy and is a great pre-workout tea."
"Divine is a tea in the ancient Ayurvedic (Indian medicine) tradition.
"It combines the sacred Indian holy basil known as Tulsi with rose petals, ginger and orange. It's a beautiful tea that's got benefits for the mind, body and spirit."
Rooibos is a caffeine-free red leaf tea grown in Cederberg, in South Africa's Western Cape Province.
"It's full of antioxidants, and its rehydration properties are so high that some athletes drink cold rooibos instead of water," Gina said.
"It also contains mineral nutrients such as potassium, which is important for metabolism, and calcium."
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