There’s nothing quite so British as a cup of tea, yet our capital overflows with new-wave coffee shops while the good old-fashioned tearoom becomes increasingly elusive. Or is it? Rosie rounds up London’s dedicated tea bars and reveals a surprising new trend on the rise…
For those of us who love a good cuppa, it’s easy to feel second-best in London. Your average café (I’m hesitant to use the term ‘coffee shop’) will have an extensive menu of flat whites, flavoured lattes and frappuccinos, with other ‘hot beverages’ squeezed in at the bottom as an afterthought.
It would be easy to forget that this is in fact the capital city of the United Kingdom, famous for its tea-drinking culture. In fact, we brew 165 million cups of tea every day, more than double our coffee consumption at 70 million cups.
So where did the Great British Beverage lose its way, and allow the gradual, insidious domination of coffee shops across the capital? I made it my mission to find out, and unearthed some hidden gems in the process.
My search begins at Clerkenwell’s Good & Proper, whose founder Emilie shares my despair at London’s “imported culture of skinny lattes and frappucinos-to-go (that) has meant coffee has dominated our high streets for over a decade”. Her mission is simple: “(to offer) fellow tea-drinkers the same quality experience that my coffee-junkie friends currently enjoy”.
The Good & Proper experience doesn’t stop short at a proper brew, therefore – the tea bar aims to teach customers how to custom brew teas to bring out the best possible flavour in every cup, so that every subsequent sip prepared at home tastes just as good.
I continue to Teatulia in Covent Garden, which serves teas grown sustainably in the Tetulia region of Northern Bangladesh. For those who love nothing more than getting cosy with a good book and a steaming cup of tea, this is for you – the intimate spot features a monthly-changing ‘Living Bookshelf’ curated by famous writers, actors, musicians and filmmakers, the first of whom is actress Tilda Swinton.
By night, a vinyl player plays smooth tunes to accompany tea-inspired cocktails created by renowned mixologist Enrico Gonzato of Dandelyan.
Next on the list is Mint Gun Club, a lively local tea room and aperitivo bar that claims to take its inspiration “from the exotic enchantment, elegance and convivial excitement of an adventurous, expatriate lifestyle”. By day there’s an extensive tea and tisane menu, with bespoke blends sourced from around the world, while by night the cocktail menu includes tea-based drinks such as the aptly-named ‘Lullaby Cocktail’ – a blend of tropical milk Oolong, Chazalette Vermouth, ginseng apéritif and geranium.
There’s no shortage of Japanese food in London, with almost every street now boasting some sort of sushi shop or ramen bar, yet a café dedicated to traditional Japanese matcha tea has been curiously absent – until now. Earlier in the month, Muji on Tottenham Court Road hosted Ohh Cha, a pop-up matcha bar, which was closely followed by the opening of Matcha and Beyond, a café serving matcha-based drinks and matcha-inspired treats such as green velvet cake and matcha chia pudding.
We all know that a proper brew has the power to refresh and revive – but Fuze Tea recently amplified the experience by hosting ASMR Experience Rooms to showcase the sensations of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, also known as a “mind-gasm”. Attendees were invited to descend stairs through a relaxing aroma mist and calming sounds, followed by the chance to experience five rooms – one for each of the senses – and culminating in the Fuze Tea ‘taste’ area with tea samples.
Who would have thought that popping the kettle on could be so euphoric?
Main image: Mint Gun Club