Pop-up rongoā teahouse in Wellington

From Afternoons, 1:32 pm on 22 November 2021

If you're in Wellington over the next fortnight, you'll find somewhere special to take a breather at the old Reading Cinemas building on Courtenay Place.

Local artist Tanya Ruka will be serving up traditional Māori medicinal tea amidst photographic and video artworks at The Forest Rongoā Teahouse.

Tanya Ruka

Tanya Ruka Photo: Supplied

Tanya is on a mission to create artworks that promote regeneration and actually benefit the land.

She is also cultivating a Community Rongoā Forest in the suburb of Brooklyn with help from the Wellington City Council.

The Forest Rongoā Teahouse will be a space where anyone can come in, put their feet up and have a korero about their hopes for the future, Tanya says, including the future of Aotearoa's natural environment.

"Wellington City is really well known for [trees] but how we can include more? How can we learn more about what's good for us in nature and really think about the natural world whilst we're in this concrete space?"

The rongoā tea leaves served at the teahouse are sourced locally and will mostly be kawakawa, which is abundant around Wellington.

When foraging rongoā tea leaves and preparing tea, it's important to take your time and think of the whole experience as something that's doing you good, Tanya says.

'For Māori, we think about plants as relatives to us, as grandparents. We're the mokopuna and we have respect for these plants.

"Think about it [as like] having a conversation with a family member you really love. Take yourself to that place as you're standing in front of the tree. And then just ask if it minds giving some of its energy to you. Then take a leaf - you don't need many, just one, maybe two. Then put your tea leaf in our cup, add boiling water, smell the aromas from the leaf. Take your time and enjoy the experience."

Artist Tanya Ruka foraging in the forest

Artist Tanya Ruka foraging in the forest Photo: Supplied

The Forest Rongoā Teahouse is open from Saturday 27 November to Saturday 11 December at 106 Courtney Place (the former Readings Cinema Complex) in Wellington.

The project was commissioned by Urban Dream Brokerage - an organisation that finds new uses for vacant and underutilised retail and public space.

Tohe Ashby (Ngati Hine) is using rongoā Māori to help save the ancient trees of Northland: