I had a couple of free days in London recently, and had decided it would be the perfect opportunity to do a “tea shop crawl” (or two, or three!). I wanted to check out as many new tea shops that I’d been finding out about via Instagram or otherwise, and get some samples of new teas to try.
In planning to do this, I found the best way was to make a list of the tea shops of interest, map them out by location in London, see where there might be a concentration of them in one area, and then plan on hitting them in groups by London neighborhood.
And this turned out to work rather well as an approach – by the time I’d left, I’d managed to visit 10 different tea shops in London over a couple of days. Plenty left to check out on the next London trip, and gave me more than enough new samples to try out that ought to last quite awhile!
I started out in the Borough Market area. In general, there’s almost nothing I like better to do in London anyway first thing on a Friday or Saturday morning but to head to Borough Market and have a little wander.
Even before finding tea sources, what better way to kick off a tea shop crawl than to head down any of the inviting passageways or side streets of Borough Market to stumble upon stall after stall of fresh plump berries, tangy citris, veg in every shape and size, scrumptious cheeses and meats, beautiful flowers, lovely baked goods that give off heavenly smells of cinnamon, caramel, chocolate, vanilla….wait a second, where was I, again?
Oh yes, tea!….so tea places I found in Borough – let’s start with Tea2You, which I found in a stall in the market.
Two friendly staff and a cup of their authentic Masala chai got me going for the day. The tough part was deciding which teas to take with me; ending up picking tea bags of their House blend, loose English Afternoon blend, and the Bamboo Pu’erh (aged 3-5 years in bamboo stalks; scroll the pictures below for the story).
As with any of the tea shops I visited, it’s hard to tear oneself away from reading the descriptions of all the teas, much less figure out how to narrow it down to a few! What a great start for a tea crawl.
On to shop number two, Bird & Blend Tea Co.! The interesting names of B&B teas have always intrigued, and I wasn’t disappointed when I got to the store. I mean, who couldn’t be tantalized by “Enchanted Narnia”, “Bonfire Toffee”, “Elderflower Prosecco” and “Chocolate Digestives”, not to mention the “Great British Cuppa”! (I know, major black tea-lover and sweet tooth here, if you haven’t guessed already.)
It was early enough on a Friday that I was on my own in the store, and had the staffperson’s full attention. So when I would ask about this or that flavor, she would immediately pull the big tin off the shelf behind her, and pour copious amounts onto the upturned top of the tin, so I could get up close for a good whiff.
Another thing I love about B&B is they let you purchase small samples – so I bought a bunch of them – about an ounce, enough to brew a few cups to figure out if it’s a tea you like enough to want to get more of. Not every store I went into let me buy in those small amounts.
Finally, for my third tea stop in Borough, I went on the hunt for the Cornish grown Tregothnan tea, which I had seen on offer in the Market previously in one of the stalls. It was served at afternoon tea at Brown’s Hotel on one of my previous visits, and I’d loved it ever since.
And after poking around a number of them, I found it! at the Wild Beef stall, which sells various West Country specialities. Here, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with the “Great British Tea” blend.
Finally, though not a tea stop, I went by Spice Mountain and stocked up on (to me) new and interesting sounding spices that I won’t find on any of my grocery shelves in Texas. Like Wattleseed, Dukkah, Tonka beans, and a range of fruit powders, among others. I find it about as hard to resist the rows and piles of spice containers as I do tins of tea, especially ones so exotic (to me)!
What I loved about this shop, in addition to the amazing variety of global spices I have never seen before, is that you can 1.) buy in small amounts, 2.) for a few pounds apiece, and 3.) each comes with a brief description of what they may be used for. So lots of ideas for spices and powders that could make for interesting variations to any afternoon tea sweets and savories – yet to be experimented with in the coming weeks!
Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how to spend an enjoyable morning in London, what to visit when visiting Borough Market, or planning a tea shop outing of your own!
Next stop, tea shops in Mayfair/Piccadilly….