This is a list of resources that I normally share with anyone who comes along to any of my tea workshops, tastings, courses or demonstrations. You may find them helpful in your tea journey:
Places to buy good quality tea:
Probably the most well known tea merchant in London, Fortnum and Mason have an excellent selection of high quality teas from a Puerh block of tea costing £3,000 down to the humble breakfast blend. All taste is catered for here. There is excellent advice from the staff about brewing techniques for each tea that is practical and not too faddy. They are happy to show you the different high grade leaves before you buy. I would recommend them for the special teas more than the every day ones.
Mariage Freres at Selfridges (400 Oxford Street, London). This French company now have a concession in the basement in Selfridges. I found the tea buying experience quite different as all the staff are French and have very clear views on how all the teas should be brewed i.e. using water heated to 95 degrees for all their black teas which I found quite surprising. It is worth remembering that each nation has a different palate and how they enjoy their tea though. I did buy some excellent first flush Darjeeling here and again there is an opportunity to see and smell the leaves before you buy.
Newby Teas (offices located at 105 St John Street, London EC1M 4AS; Telephone 020 7251 8989). I worked for this company for some time and my appreciation of tea really came about during my time here. Excellent quality tea and very importantly the packaging of the tea is treated with equal respect. All their loose leaf tea is supplied in vacuum packed foil bags so it does not really age. It is possible to buy their loose leaf teas by mail order. A small selection of high quality loose leaf silken pyramid bags can be found in Waitrose. Really excellent superior ‘every day’ Darjeeling (first and second flush blend), and similar quality Assam, English Breakfast and Earl Grey. Excellent website for purchasing tea.
Postcard Teas located on Dering Street, (off Bond Street) London W1S 1AG (Tel: 020 7629 3654). Owned by an English husband and Japanese wife team, the focus in the shop is on very high quality delicate teas, early season Darjeelings, Chinese and Japanese teas. This shop has a far more oriental feel.
The Rare Tea Company (tel: 020 7681 0115) have a small selection of very fine, mainly Chinese teas. Sold mainly by mail order and top end supermarkets. Henrietta Lovell owns the company – she calls herself the Tea Lady.
Canton Tea Company (tel: 0844 4176363) – another company specialising in high quality rare teas – many from China and Japan.
Twinings (on 216 Strand, London, WC2R 1AP) is the most ‘English’ of tea companies, their history can be recorded back to the early 18th century. They have a tiny little shop just off the Strand with a large selection of teas that are of a far higher quality than those found on the standard supermarket shelf. The quality varies from a selection of top end teas to a wide range of cheaper teabags – the shop is charming and has many teas to choose from.
The Algerian Coffee Store (address: 52 Old Compton St, London, W1D 4PB, tel: 020 7437 2480). This company has been strongly recommended to me by a student on a tea tasting course I gave at City Lit. It is always worth remembering that Coffee Houses traditionally sold tea along with a variety of other products including tea – however always known as coffee houses.
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