Matthew Bax has never been one to follow the road most taken. You expect him to bob, and he’ll weave. He trained as a certified practicing accountant … and opened an internationally celebrated and pioneering cocktail bar in Richmond. He became known as a cocktail pioneer … and became a visual artist instead. His bars were huge in Melbourne … so he opened a venue in Munich. It was time to go big … so he opened the tiny, perfect Bar Americano on an alley off a laneway.
And now, some eight months after the heartbreaking closure of the original Bar Americano, he’s back. With … tea. In a yoga studio.
In fairness to Bax, it’s not like the tea is something he arrived at overnight. Chado, the way of tea, is something he’s been exporing for more than 20 years, and studying in depth for the last seven. He ran a tea pavilion, Samu, in the basement of Supernormal back in 2016 (“We prefer the term ‘tea meditation’,” he told Gourmet Traveller at the time. “We’re not calling them tea ceremonies because that would be like comparing opera to a 30-second YouTube clip.”), and in one of those brief breaks in lockdowns in 2020 when we were allowed to leave our houses but bars were in limbo, he served ceremonial-grade matcha from Bar Americano.
The 2023 iteration of Samu is a tasting at Good Vibes, a tony Collingwood yoga studio, at the end of the month. You’ll have the choice of two Samu teas: 4”33’, a ceremonial-grade matcha from Uji, and Fear No Tea, a rare ground tea called tochu that Bax says is given the same care in cultivation and production that’s typically only afforded to ceremonial matcha. Sammy James, a Good Vibes Yoga teacher, will join Bax to lead a restorative 75-minute yin yoga practice. In other words, if you’ve been looking for a chance to savour extremely refined and expensive Japanese hot-water beverages in the company of strangers wearing exercise wear, your time is now.
“It’s all about breaking through the cultural baggage of chanoyu,” says Bax (‘chanoyu’ is the word for tea ceremony). He wants to give Melbourne an opportunity to experience the taste of real matcha, but also its contemplative context, something that’s usually confined to the ceremony. “Without privileged access to this world, it’s something few among us get to enjoy.” Students at all levels of yoga experience are welcome to attend.
By Pat Nourse
Samu x Good Vibes, $48 for Good Vibes members, $60 for guests, 2pm-3.30pm, Saturday 29 July, Good Vibes, 62 Easey St, Collingwood, goodvibesyoga.com.au