3 of the Finest Specialist Tea Shops in London
Take your afternoon cuppa to the next level with the help of 3 of the biggest names in artisan teas.
Tea is one of the most important things in the world. The advanced civilisations of first world countries would literally have not been possible were it not for the invention of tea. One of the most fundamental needs of mankind is clean drinking water. Unfortunately, this is not particularly easy to come by. Apart from basic filtration systems, there were two main historic solutions to this: drink alcohol or drink tea. During the Middle-Ages the main drinks consumed were beer, ale and mead in the west as this was safer than the available water supply, and as an added bonus they also withstood the toils of transportation across long distances more easily than water which can stagnate quickly. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the large number of conquests were probably allowed by the fact that both the soldiers and leaders were slightly drunk all of the time (wouldn’t you want a stiff drink before charging into battle armed with nothing but mud-encrusted clothes and a shabbily-constructed axe?). In contrast to the bacteria-killing abilities of fermentation, the boiling of water for tea killed most harmful microbes and certain teas additionally have antiseptic qualities. So tea allowed for greater numbers of people to live in close proximity to each other without becoming sick, meaning that cities became a possibility. Art springs from necessity, thus mankind has developed a love and passion for these humble dried leaves. Where there is art, there are also art dealers; and these specialist tea shops have certainly elevated their commercial dealings of tea into an art form.
Fortnum & Mason
Certainly not a trade secret, Fortnum & Mason have prided themselves of the stocking of the finest teas from across the world for over 300 years. The large department store is so well and imaginatively presented that allowing yourself to be distracted and wondering throughout its deliciously decadent floors is part of the process of finding your perfect tea. Particularly good at packaging and celebratory teas (such as their sought-after Christmas teas, and their commemorative tea in honour of the recognition of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign as the longest in British history), make sure to pick up some gentlemen’s relish or tin of biscuits on your way out.
181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER
open 10am – 9pm Monday-Saturday, and 11.30am-6pm on Sunday
The Teahouse is a small loose-leaf tea specialist in Covent Garden. Their red interior bears a strong resemblance to the traditional Chinese medicine stores around the corner in Chinatown, giving the visitor a sensation of vague, but inexplicably exciting exoticism upon entry. The layout is an oaky matrix of shelves piled high with jars of loose tea and Chinese and Japanese tea-related implements. They take great care with giving customers the best information on their teas, running a tea club to keep you up to date on their limited-edition brews and offers. Impossible to pass by and miss, their storefront is the most photographed on Neal Street.
15 Neal Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9PU
open 10am-7pm Monday-Wednesday and 10am-8pm Thursday-Saturday
Postcard Teas takes an academic approach to their niche teas, all of which are stocked from small farms spanning less than 15 acres. Selecting a tea from them is an edifying experience as they put the provenance of their teas on their packets, a motif usually found amongst high-tier art auction houses, dealerships and wine merchants. That small inclusion says everything you need to know about the way in which they view teas: as products of skilled artistry. The small and passionate team source their teas from the Far East and the company is well known amongst culinary heavyweights: they supply teas to The River Café, Harrods, and Liberty to name but a few of their clientele.
9 Dering Street, London, W1S 1AG
open 10.30am – 6.30pm Monday-Saturday