Cuppa Time : Tree of Delights, Belgrave

The Hills are alive with the sound of a brand new cafe!

Sonja Schaeffner is delighting visitors to Belgrave with her homemade German delights inspired from her Oma Gretel’s kitchen. Having moved to Australia in 2000, she discovered a new dream, to open her own cafe where family & friends could feel at home. Read on to discover her Fast Five answers to our Cuppa Time questions.

Why have you chosen Belgrave to open your cafe?

Because Belgrave is my home. When I first started thinking of opening a cafe, I decided that it could only be in Belgrave. My cafe is my second home, the home I invite my customers into.

Tell us what German Cuisine & Food Culture means to you….

The first word that comes to mind is Childhood Memories. My mum used to bake a cake every weekend. Coming together with family & friends & having some nice food together means comfort & enjoyment.

What’s your fondest childhood food memory?

We went to visit my Grandma on the holidays where my sister & I would sleep in a spare room which was also used for storing the cake for the Sunday after baking it on the Saturday. I can still smell the cheesecake I was not allowed to eat until the next day.

Where did the name Tree of Delights come from?

My daughter gave me a mindfulness colouring in book for Christmas. One of the pictures was the tree with the hearts, which I absolutely loved & coloured in my favourite colours, orange & red. I asked my family to come up with a name for the cafe including the word tree. My son, Josh, came up with the Tree of Delights because I serve delightful food.

What can hungry diners expect to find when they come to Tree of Delights in Belgrave?

Yummy homemade cakes & classic German street food such as Curry-wurst, Bavarian Breakfast & German Meatloaf plus authentic German Pretzels & Ice-cream Sundaes which you find in German Ice-cream Parlours. All the sauces & syrups for the ice-creams & milkshakes are homemade using real, natural ingredients. I am trying to make the typical German foods that Germans living in Australia miss & I know that Australians will love them as well.

I’d like to thank Sonja very much for taking the time to let us get to know her better & wish her all the very best with her lovely new cafe. You can check out her website at http://www.treeofdelights.com.au or find her on Facebook & Instagram.

All photographs courtesy of Images By Tanya & are subject to Copyright.

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I got it all so terribly wrong!

Or should I title this post – How I have managed to sabotage my own blog!

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Some eagle eyed people among you may have noticed that my countdown to the Web Show launch has disappeared from both the blog & accompanying Facebook page. I was ever so wrong to have started down that track at all.

In fact, after a year of sharing my home cooking recipes with the world, I’ve now discovered I have obliterated every rule in the big book of blogging to ensure my complete & utter failure!

So what have I done that’s been so drastically disastrous?!?! Read on, dear friend, so that you may hopefully avoid your own such scenario.

Firstly I followed this philosophy –

A year from now you’ll wish you’d of started today.

I took that quite literally & launched into creating my Facebook page to share my recipes. We were living in Milly, our vintage caravan, at that stage & had just arrived in Melbourne. I didn’t have any cooking equipment or space at all but that didn’t deter me. It wasn’t long before I upgraded to creating this blog to spread my home cooking even further.

We weren’t settled anywhere at that point of start up. We were still nomadic with no solid plans & basically I now look back in hindsight to realise that I just wanted something to be stable no matter where we went.

In this past year we have had 3 different addresses throughout Melbourne.

There has been much debate in our fam-bam of whether it’s time to plant roots, which we do agree that it is, but then the inevitable question of where has been swirling about us ever since. There are many beautiful locations around this great nation that hold a piece of our hearts hostage with loved ones everywhere! However, sometimes opportunity chooses you!

Melbourne appears to be financially good for us. After so very many years bouncing around the nation in an extremely unstable industry, Hubby retrained & has started a new career. We have gone from scattered messed up reluctant nomads to very focussed Company Owners!

Meanwhile, whilst all this has been flourishing, our Mini-Me has suffered through atrocious health issues which are still ongoing. What a roller coaster of emotions!

So, what did I do so wrong to have possibly killed my blog in my first year?

I’ve taken on too much!

I wasn’t focussed in what I wanted to achieve with my blog at the start. This has left my followers confused. Constantly changing direction, I believe, has cost me dearly with not growing. People don’t know what to expect from me therefore they don’t know if they want to follow me or not. Thank you to all who have chosen to give me a go, it’s greatly appreciated.

This first year has been one of complete & utter upheaval in our lives & I’ve allowed that to flow over into a very scattered blog. This is why I now recommend to all new bloggers, have focus! Because I lacked focus, I also broke another golden rule of blogging – I’ve been a hermit. Blogging is an online community. I haven’t reached out to that community because I haven’t known what I’m doing myself, I’ve just been trundling along waiting for a moment of clarity!

What has prompted this introspective? It’s time for me to pay up for another year of hosting this blog.

That means I had to make the decision to continue on or simply let it go.

After a year, most bloggers have successfully collected a large number of followers & are able to take off in another direction. I don’t have favourable figures at all. Despite entering into the saturated genre of food blogging, I alone must take full responsibility for this.

After a lot of soul searching, I’ve decided to give myself another chance. I do believe there is room for my Nostalgic Humble Ingredient Cooking. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of coming up with new culinary offerings each week & my fam-bam have loved chomping them! I do need to get realistic with how busy my life is though to maintain the focus of this blog with consistency. Therefore, I shall be posting recipes 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

I will still share our vintage van conversion in separate posts as well. I’m a Chocolatier & I can’t wait to get back into my sweet creations for all the fabuliciouz people here on our beautiful mountain.

Miss Milly’s Niche

Determine who you are and what your brand is,

and what you’re not.

The rest of it is just a lot of noise.

– Geoffrey Zakarian

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Anyone who has the dream, combined with the determination to achieve it, about opening their own food venue will completely understand the eye glaze over that you receive whenever you dare mention your plans.

I’m sure people don’t mean to do it, yet you see the definite change from brightly lit full of interest sparkle as they enquire about what your business will be to dull, lifeless, please let it be over, sorry I asked, not another cafe blankness.

I have noticed a rather odd occurrence though, I see this first excited interest followed by the zone out at the mention of a Teahouse only to regain their curiosity as I say that I am a Chocolatier. Everybody loves Chocolate!

Rejoice Mountain Chocoholics!

Miss Milly shall be a dedicated temple to the luscious elixir of the Aztecs. Everything on offer will be made of Chocolate! From sweets to drinks to savoury, all will be a Chocolate lover’s fantasy.

Now, I will admit, I am just a tad rusty with my skills. My chocolate equipment has been in storage for the past two years as we travelled in Milly & then started the process of settling down & collecting our life from up north. I know it must be in one of these boxes somewhere! I am yearning to get back to my chocolate work, yet I am a wee bit anxious about such a long break too. Hopefully it’ll be like riding a bike but I am aware it is a skill that if you don’t use it, you lose it! Luckily, I have quite some time to practice & get back up to scratch whilst we convert Miss Milly to the gorgeous Bohemian Teahouse she is destined to become.

A balanced diet is a Chocolate in each hand.

Driving Miss Milly

A Dream becomes a Goal when you take Action to Achieve it.

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Yesterday we brought Miss Milly home! She is now resting comfortably beside the holly bush on our Home Farm.

Hitching up in the caravan storage did take a wee bit longer than anticipated. Her jockey wheel latch had completely shattered! This meant we needed to improvise to get her on the road!

Dragging out the jack from the back of our trusty Toyota FJ Cruiser, hubby got his workout with spinning the handle to lift Milly high into the air before I used my eagle eyed judgement to guide him back onto the tow ball. Our hitching up distance calls are rather comical for any onlookers, often producing giggles, but best not written down for posterity 😉

Then it was my turn for some upper body exercise as I spun the handle to gently lower the old girl onto the car as hubby secured her. We were on!

What was Mini Me up to during all this? Well, she had discovered the stash of chocolate bars in mum’s handbag………

Dragging Milly up the steep, narrow mountain road through the National Park rainforest saw us in such high spirits. All of this long awaited, dreamed & multiple planned for lifestyle truly is materialising as reality right before our eyes! As well as the eyes of the extraordinarily long traffic queue stuck behind us, sorry about that.

So what shall become of Miss Milly now that she is finally basking in the lovely sunshine of our mountain Home Farm?

My friends, I have a dream!

It’s been a dream I’ve been boring people with for about 20 years! I have always longingly desired to open my own Teahouse. Whilst I’ve come close to it a few times, for various reasons it never quite got over the line. Clearly, a traditional bricks & mortar establishment is not the right avenue for my glorious Teahouse!

Quite a few years back, we used to enjoy being a part of the market stall community. We loved our time on the market circuit, setting up at a wide array of locations 3 times a week to sell our wares. It was vibrant, exciting & just a whole lot of fun. We remember looking enviously at the stallholders who had converted caravans into their commercial kitchens as they could simply open & close the server hatch each market whilst it took us 2-3 hours of set up & pack down each day.

I can’t believe it took us so very long to see the blatantly obvious solution sitting right in front of us!

Use what you already have!

Miss Milly shall now be transformed into the most stunning Vintage Bohemian Teahouse for the enjoyment of mountain market go-ers serving Gluten Free High Tea for people to be able to relax in eclectic style to truly soak in the alternative vibe of our beautiful Dandenong Ranges.

Meet Milly

Part of our home farm master plan is converting our vintage van into a commercial kitchen.

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Our 1973 Millard Caravan is a 21 foot beauty! We actually lived in her for a whole year whilst we were roaming, seemingly lost, in this big wide land of Australia which we call home.

You can see by the picture, we had a pretty sweet set up going on.

Our travel plans had always been about trying to find home. Where did we want to finally plop ourselves down & plant some roots? We’ve been the length & width of this great nation & to a certain degree, still can’t categorically say we’ve arrived……yet. We’re going to give the Dandenong Ranges a good crack though.

The question had always loomed over us of “What about Milly”? What would we do with our precious home on wheels after our nomad days were done?

We’ve been through many ideas in our heads of what would become of her & even listed her for sale for a time, but no sensible offers were made so we accepted that she is now a part of our family. Yet still the question remained of how to utilise her now to benefit us the most.

Quite a few years back now, I went to a wee culinary school here in Melbourne & became a Chocolatier. More recently, you would of noted the couple of cake classes I’ve attended since arriving into Melbourne to set up home.

In Australia, to be able to sell food for consumption you need to prepare it in a licensed commercial kitchen which has really strict rules. Of course renting our home farm, we won’t go through the lengthy & expensive process to register this kitchen inside. However, we’ve seen a growing trend of savvy entrepreneurs converting caravans into these commercial kitchen spaces that they can then take anywhere with them they go! Absolutely brilliant! We’ve got the van, so why not give it a go?!

The first step will be to haul Milly out of the van storage she’s currently relaxing in & drag her up the mountain. Wish us luck!