There’s a sparkling chandelier in the window display and a closed sign on the door, but when proprietor Midori Peiris sees me standing outside, she opens the door and welcomes me into Euphorium. The lights come on, illuminating a long, narrow room. The walls are a pale pink, the furniture made of solid wood. On one wall Midori has hung an ornate mirror, on another is a shelf filled with knickknacks and Japanese comics. An entire wall is devoted to a display of various teas.
They have been given gorgeous names in honour of the books that Midori loves – A Movable Feast is inspired by Hemingway’s novel of the same name and Chloe by French novelist Boris Vian’s Mood Indigo. Midori knows these teas intimately – she will tell you that the Rooibus is good for migraines and Sweet Berries is rich in vitamin C and perfect for someone down with the flu – and it’s one reason why so many people come in just to buy tea from her.
For as long as she can remember, Midori has loved to make and serve tea. As a child growing up in Hamamatsu in Japan, she remembers her friends telling her that tea in her house tasted different. Now, Midori seems to have inherited that same deft touch, the tea brewing equivalent of a green thumb, from her mother, Hisano Peiris. “I know when I make tea, it tastes different,” she says, smiling. Her love of tea has formed a motif throughout her career. Having studied journalism in Tokyo, Midori has for most part worked with different trading companies as well as in the hospitality industry. Still, she has always found the time to conduct tea appreciation classes and had long nurtured a dream of beginning her own teashop.
On Flower Road, with Dilly’s on one side and a kadai on the other, Euphorium opened its doors just over a year ago. If you do pass by, you’re likely to see Mrs. Peiris and her daughter puttering around happily inside. The two women run the place by themselves, with Midori doing all the cooking and serving herself. The result is wonderfully warm and intimate service. Midori tells me that this has been a deliberate choice – “I wanted to do everything by myself.” The menu is as brief as it is simple. Her chunky Teriyaki sandwiches are popular as are her chocolate cake, date muffins and scones served with cream and jam. She also serves pancakes, makes luscious sundaes and will even turn out a hotdog. She’s contemplating additions to her menu and says she enjoys cooking (“it’s something I don’t have to think about”) and will sometimes offer customers a chance to sample a new dish.
The tea menu is a much longer affair, and offers several varieties of tea. One of her signature offerings is a unique concoction known as tea soda. It’s a beautiful thing to look at – made up of a deep red hibiscus tea, golden yellow passion fruit juice and soda – the drink comes loaded with ice. Midori shares the recipe on her blog (http://euphoriumtea.blogspot.com). (Price wise, you can have sandwich + tea set for around Rs.600; a date muffin can be had for Rs.160 and the scones for Rs. 250. The price for a big glass of tea soda or a pot of tea is in the range of Rs. 300.)
Today, over glasses of tea, we talk about her decision to leave Japan and settle in Sri Lanka. After her father’s retirement, her parents decided they wanted to return to Sri Lanka. Midori and her brother chose to stay on in Japan for their studies, but would often visit their family here, spending time in the family coconut estate in Gampaha. Wanting to discover Sri Lanka for herself, Midori says she first decided to come here for a year in 2002, but that has stretched to nine at the last count.
Though her father passed away in 2005, for now Midori seems to have no intention of leaving. She continues to visit Japan, and especially the tea shops in Tokyo from which she also buys beautifully worked tea sets. “When I travel I always find something related to tea,” she says. Both she and her mother are avid collectors of tea sets, says Midori, pointing out some of the pretty tea cups they keep in the shop.
Midori’s other great love is for jazz music, and you’re likely to find The Bad Plus on when you wander in. She also leans towards classical music, a choice that adds to the already distinctive atmosphere of the cafe. There’s only room for about eight to ten people, and on most days of the week Euphorium tends to be very quiet. Still, Midori seems content to follow her passion. While the fragrances, tastes and colours of tea continue to absorb her, it is the people she enjoys most about the job. “I know I can make people happy with my tea,” she says, smiling.
Euphorium is open Tuesday – Saturday from 11 – 7 and on Sundays between 12 – 5.