London took to speciality coffee much faster than speciality tea — perhaps because the potent mythology of “builders” (that’s English breakfast tea, milk and two sugars) has dominated the British understanding of an “everyman’s” drink. One that is inextricably bound with Britain’s imperial past, of course. But change is brewing in the capital, and it’s being brewed carefully. World-class tea importers partner happily with the shops, cafés and restaurants that serve their wares; tea has become an ingredient — prized for its variety and clarity — as well as a drink. Get someone else to put the (temperature-controlled) kettle on, and explore a world of loose leaf.Read More
Where to Drink Tea In London
It’s always time for a brew
1. Store Street Espresso
This Fitzrovia/Bloomsbury café has held down Store Street for many a year, and was one of the first of London’s specialty coffee shops to treat tea as its equal rather than an afterthought. Carefully prepared matcha from Lalani & Co is the go-to here: for an off-menu special, a “matchado,” shorter and stronger than the matcha latte, is a fine order.
2. Prufrock Coffee
While Prufrock is probably the essential London coffee shop, it is worthy of note here, too. The same fastidious approach that defines coffee service underpins its approach to teas, too, and a longstanding relationship with Postcard Teas means an intimate understanding of how to best capture the essence of a given tea. That same relationship also means that Prufrock was the first to feature Postcard’s new range of stone-rolled teas: ground to a fine powder in Postcard’s Camden warehouse, the teas are mixed with steamed milk to create an aromatic alternative to coffee.
3. WA Cafe
This little shop on Ealing’s Haven Green specialises in high quality Japanese patisserie, often flavoured with matcha. The offering is exquisite, and so deserves a high-quality drink to partner even though it will most certainly stand on its own. The tea roster is wide, the preparation careful, and its prominence on a residential thoroughfare promising: the kind of tea and pastry shop that any neighbourhood would and should welcome.
4. TAB x TAB
London W2 5RH, UK
TABxTAB is a relative newcomer to Westbourne Grove, but since opening in summer last year, it has stood apart from its neighbours as a cafe that’s singly dedicated to quality and the customer experience. Every detail here is considered, and the tea is no different. A range of teas from pu’er through oolong to a ceremonial grade matcha are painstakingly prepared, with multiple infusions available of the leaf teas to fully express the character of each tea.
5. Postcard Teas
Stepping into Postcard is like stepping into an airlock of sorts; it’s easy to lose track of hours here, in what is surely the most relaxing and welcoming escape from the madness of Oxford Street. Since 2005, Postcard has been committed to championing “small tea”; all are sourced directly from plantations smaller than 15 acres (and frequently smaller than 5) across Asia, and the team are always eager to put the growers at the centre of the picture. A singly disarming location, with an incredibly passionate team selling (and leading tastings of) some of the most elegant teas available.
Matcha, Sencha, Houjicha, Genmaicha and Mugicha: this kimono shop with an adjacent tea bar is a haven for Japanese green teas. Houjicha — a roasted green tea, uncommon as most Japanese green teas are steamed — is a fine order, but the real star is matcha, either whisked up into the usucha (thinner, foamier) or koicha (richer, thicker) preparation. Whether in the market for a kimono or not, this is a focused space dedicated to showing London how specialised tea can be.
Afternoon tea is the big draw in this London institution, but its careful attention to sourcing means that tea at any time of day is a considered, delicious affair. Serving teas from Henrietta Lovell’s renowned Rare Tea Co., Claridge’s balances the need for proprietary blends and myth-making with highly specialised loose leaf: a stand-out is the Malawi Antler, a tea made not from leaves but the stems of spring shoots.