An idea that seems to be catching on with some loose leaf tea vendors is that of custom tea blending. You tell them what kind of leaf, flavor, intensity etc. you want, and they blend a tea for you to hit all of your favorite, right notes. The first time I saw this at an actual afternoon tea was at the St. Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi, and I thought it was such a great idea for afternoon tea.

So when one of my favorite London department stores, Fortnum and Mason, started doing its own bespoke tea blending service for what I thought was a very reasonable fee, on my last trip there I had to try it out. The first floor (second floor for us Americans) has an area set aside for this service, though you can place an online order as well.

You will be asked a series of questions – black or green; what flavor notes (like malty, woody, floral, etc.); how strong do you want it (I was able to say what proportion I wanted of the two black teas that made up the intense “malty” flavor note). Finally, you can add a selection of flower petals to your tea as well.

It gets packaged up in one of the lovely F&M tins with your own personalized label. I stuck with a malty black tea, heavier on the Assam than the other earthy/grassy black African tea leaf, so more intensity that goes well with milk. I added both blue and dark pink cornflower for color.

Then the real test comes when you drink it – and I was very pleased to find that it perfectly fit my taste!

I’d been to Portobello Road antiques markets again on my last trip, and one of my favorite shops is Barham Antiques. I’ve been there several times now – they have an absolutely amazing number of wooden chests and boxes, not to mention a plethora of silver and porcelain items. The last time I was there I’d picked up a tea trio set (=tea cup, saucer and dessert plate), and this time I found another one that I couldn’t resist.

The shop’s owner is this lovely man who has always taken time to answer my questions about various items. I’m sure I’m just one of many tourists that are probably not all that fun to deal with, but he’s always patient, and wraps up the articles I’ve bought really well for traveling back to the States. This time he talked about how he doesn’t buy a lot of tea trios, only when they are good quality, and seem unique and particularly beautiful, which he thought this one was as well.

So my custom tea made for a perfect Saturday afternoon pot that I could nurse while I was catching up on some reading in the library. Was so pleased it turned out to be so delicious! I recommend everyone give the F&M custom blending service a try.

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