The Best London Tea Shops
Plenty of cafes can make an Earl Grey or an English Breakfast, but London tea shops have far more to offer
A haven of tranquility amid the chaos of Piccadilly Circus, My Cup Of Tea has a fantastic range of Japanese teas and herbal tisanes, hand blended in their workshop in Bermondsey. Orange blossom, verbena, lavender and sage sit in glass jars along one wall, while another holds sencha, gyokuro and other teas picked by a 4th generation tea master in Japan.
At a small table with a view into the street outside you can have a bowl of matcha with Japanese sweets or a pot of any of the teas. If you feel like a more involved experience, you could attend a tea tasting, blend your own tisane or learn flower arranging in a workshop at their Ham Yard shop; the next event is a tasting of Japanese green teas on 24th September (tickets can be bought here).
Where: 5 Denman Place
Our favourite tea: Genmaicha Matcha Blend
East India Co - Soho
Although the original East India Co ceased trading in 1874, and Sanjiv Mehta, an Indian businessman, bought the name and logo several years ago and started selling luxury goods - the result is the East India Company Fine Foods. Tea, chocolate, mustards and spices all grace the shelves, but the tea is the highlight. As well as a range of high quality Indian teas (Assams, Darjeelings etc), there are teas flavoured with Saffron and rare teas from China and Sri Lanka.
Where: 7 Conduit Street
Our favourite tea: Milk Oolong
Fortnum & Mason - Piccadilly
Fortnum & Mason is the oldest and grandest of London's luxury department stores; from its humble beginnings as a candlemaker, through creating the scotch egg, it has a special place in London's consciousness (especially at Christmas). Usually, tea at Fortnums means afternoon tea, not a packet of loose leaf, but the fame of their afternoon tea has made it a bit of a tourist trap. Instead, head to the rows of caddies on the ground floor. A large range of Darjeeling first flush teas is complemented by oolongs, green teas and, of course, the blends for which they are so famous, such as the Fortmason, black tea with orange blossom oil. They make wonderful gifts too - the Eau de Nil packaging is as striking as the tea.
Where: 181 Piccadilly
Our favourite tea: Lingia 1st Flush Darjeeling
Twinings Tea Shop and Museum - The Strand
Don't let the rows of little teabag boxes in supermarkets fool you, at their flagship shop and museum opposite the Royal Courts of Justice, Twinings are still serious about tea. You have to make you way past the tourists through the long, narrow shop, but when you get to the back you are rewarded for your efforts. There is a tea bar for tasting, a wide selection of teas from around the world, knowledgable staff and an enviable collection of tea paraphernalia collected over the 300 years Twinings have been selling tea on the Strand.
Where: 216 Strand
Our favourite tea: High Grown Nilgiri
Postcard Teas - Mayfair
If you want expert knowledge and ethical sourcing, look no further than Postcard Teas. They source all their teas from individual producers, so you can immediately know the name of the farm (or even the person) who created your cup of tea. The quality is a step beyond that available elsewhere, with some really hard to find teas; early picked Chinese Long Jing from the mountains of Hangzhou, or Wuyi oolongs from 100-year-old wild trees. As well as offering samples of all the teas for a fraction of their price, Postcard Teas will let you send their tea anywhere in the world in postcard form, a perfect gift for faraway friends or family back home.
If you want to find out more about the teas on offer, you can pop along on a Saturday morning and take part in the Tea School, a rotating set of tastings where, depending on the day, you can taste a range of black, green oolong or aged teas, or a bit of everything on the first Saturday of each month. Tickets can be bought here, and should be purchased well in advance, as the small table often fills with tea lovers a week in advance.
Where: 9 Dering Street
Our favourite tea: Master Lou's West Lake Long Jing