Melbourne’s Vanilla Lounge preserves nearly 50-year-old family tsoureki recipe

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Located at Eaton Mall in the heart of Oakleigh, Melbourne, Vanilla Lounge is where you will find some of your Greek favourites including traditional Greek coffee, frappe, freddo espresso and cappuccino, and not to mention the best Greek sweets.

Coming up to Orthodox Easter, The Greek Herald spoke with the team at Vanilla Lounge to ask them about their tsourekia (a traditional Greek sweet bread made for Easter), and just how popular they are.

One of the owners of Vanilla Lounge, Tia Spanos said the family business has been around since 2008 and is known for selling a variety of different tsourekia.

Tia revealed their tsourekia are made two weeks prior to Easter “because our recipe doesn’t involve any preservatives or artificial flavours or colours or anything.”

“We’re very mindful of the fact that some people will purchase them and put them in the freezer a couple of weeks before Easter, or they will eat them before Easter, but that week leading up to Easter is the biggest week for us,” Tia said.

“This year however, we had people coming in for Catholic Easter asking us to make batches of tsourekia earlier, and I think that’s just representative of the fact that there are so many mixed marriages and people celebrate the Australian Easter as well.

“Even if they are Greek, they’ll go visit someone, and they’ll take something from our culture to offer as a gift and to celebrate that multiculturalism, so it’s really lovely to see.”

vanilla lounge oakleigh melbourne tsoureki recipe
The tsourekia. Photo supplied.

Tia added that the tsoureki recipe they use has passed down from nearly 50 years ago.

“The recipe came about during the mid 70s, when my late father, Thanasis Spanos, and my mother, Helen Spanos started Medallion Cakes and Coffee Lounge on Lonsdale Street, in the city of Melbourne,” Tia said.

“Now obviously, the recipe has changed slightly. We’ve sort of adapted it, and even the quality of ingredients has changed over the years, but we’ve modified it to keep up and suit the current palette and tastes and quality of ingredients.”

George Giannou, co-owner at Vanilla Lounge and head pastry chef, said they offer six different flavours of tsourekia.

“We do a lot of different versions,” George said.

“We have the classic tsoureki which is the most popular one, then we have a chocolate dipped one that’s filled one with the Nutella, we also have a classic tsoureki that’s chocolate-dipped, then we have the white chocolate-dipped and filled one, and we also have a Biscoff-flavoured one.

“This year, we are thinking of adding a pistachio flavoured one as well.”

vanilla lounge oakleigh melbourne tsoureki recipe
George decorating the tsourekia. Photo supplied.

George explained that by making tsourekia by hand in the bakehouse with top-quality ingredients, it allows them to make the Greek sweet to the highest quality.

Each year, more than one tonne of tsourekia are made in the 10 days leading up to Easter at Vanilla Lounge.

“The tsourekia don’t have much shelf life as they don’t have extra preservatives, and as you can imagine, as we get closer to Greek Orthodox Easter, it is very busy,” George said.

“The last few years have been hard, but it’s good because Easter is our busiest time of the year, and we always look forward to a lot of people coming into the shop and buying tsourekia. Even the reviews and feedback we get from the customers are really good and positive, and better than last year too.”

Tia said she loved working during Easter time.

“It’s just beautiful, especially in terms of the people and the hospitality part of Easter,” she said.

“At Easter, it’s a really vibrant and special time for the community here in Oakleigh and that’s what I love about it.

“The people are just amazing and they’re the reason we’ve been in the industry for almost 50 years now, as we have four generations of hospitality in the family, so that’s really special.”

To find out more about their tsourekia, visit Vanilla Lounge at Oakleigh.

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