Bite sized Ballarat: Chat for Tea a vegetarian delight

WHEN in doubt, add tea. 

It worked for Ballarat brothers Steve and Geoff Ling when naming their new vegetarian restaurant Chat for Tea more than a decade ago.

"Cha is Chinese for tea," Steve said. 

"Initially we wanted to call it Cha for Tea." 

But  the business name had already been registered in New South Wales. 

"So my brother just added a 't' to end of Cha. It became Chat for Tea," he said. 

"Grammatically, it doesn't make sense." 

Ballarat's only specialty vegetarian restaurant opened its doors 11 years ago and the demand for faux meat and bubble tea hasn't been stronger. 

"I grew up vegetarian," Steve said. 

"My parents have been vegetarian for most of their lives. I have eaten meat, but its not a part of who I am".

Steve and Geoff decided to open a restaurant after Steve became bored in his chosen career. Steve was working in computer sales and Geoff had just completed high school. 

"My brother and I started looking at doing something together and we decided to open a tea-based restaurant," Steve said. 

"We wanted to include an all-Asian menu, everything from Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian and Thai food." 

It explains why the 30-item menu groups Japanese goyzas, Thai green curries and Chinese fish soups together. Mock meats, made from textured soy protein, also feature on the menu. It is something head chef Geoff will not be removing anytime soon. 

He said faux duck, beef and chicken dishes were more appealing to the meat eaters accompanying their vegetarians companions to dinner. 

MORE BALLARAT FOOD STORIES HERE

"They are eating something they are familiar with," he said. 

And it wouldn't be a Chinese tea garden without a large range of the staple drink.

There are 50 varieties of tea, including Japanese sencha, green tea, mango sencha, French earl grey. 

Tapioca drink Bubble Tea is also a favourite, especially in summer. 

"A vegetarian tea garden was something that we had in Taiwan and we wanted to develop the concept in Ballarat," Steve said. 

"The idea was still new 10 years ago." 

As Ballarat's food scene grows, Steve said he wouldn't change anything about Chat for Tea. 

"We would still keep the business as a family business," he said. 

"We think it is a way to retain the quality," 

"Ballarat's food scene is a bit slow, but once you're in there, you're in for life," Steve said.

AT A GLANCE

What: Chat for Tea

Where: 25 Armstrong Street, Ballarat. 

Open: Wednesday to Saturday: lunch  11.30am to 3pm; dinner 5.30pm ti 9pm. 

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