It’s been difficult to find the focus I need for this first post of my adventures. Part of it is that many of my adventures so far have been within pubs and restaurants, not in tea shops. In fact, there has not been a single day on my trip so far that does not feature me in a pub having a few drinks. Literally.
I was interested to find, when wandering about London, that tea shops are not nearly as common as I had hoped. There were quite a few coffee shops, but most of those simply had a selection of bagged Twinings behind the counter, and I’ve already had plenty enough of that to be satisfied. To be fair, I hadn’t exactly done advance research into tea shops around London, so I was wandering blind.
I did go to the British Museum and, in the Japan section, found a really neat set of old tea tools and a mock-up tea room. They were very cool!
Later that night, I was in East London with my friend Louise and we went to this hipster-y pub in Dalston called the Talbot. I enjoyed a nice, semi-dry organic cider and was entertained by the fact that this pub had a full-on DJ playing very mellow, nice music (I noticed some Ella Fitzgerald). The best part was that out of nowhere, he was sipping a cuppa and I knew I had to take a photo. His name was Tim (I believe! “Tim”, if you’re reading this, sorry if I got your name wrong!) and he was very nice about a weird girl from California talking about how much she liked tea and asking him to “sip your tea and pose… like a DJ… I guess.”
The next morning, I met up with some old friends from the States who are now living in London. We had a nice breakfast at a restaurant called The Breakfast Club. Definitely an entertaining spot! I especially enjoyed their cups for the tea and coffee. I ordered a typical breakfast tea from Tea Pigs. It was pretty nice, but not the best I’d had. Though I have a feeling the water was a bit too hot when the bag was introduced to it, as it had that slight edge of bitterness that is unique to scalding your tea.
Afterwards, I got to wander about Spitalfields with Louise and a couple of her girlfriends. We had a grand time in the market and the Sunday Up market (sort of a flea market in an old brewery that is only up on Sundays). Found a nice tea vendor in the market first. The shop was called TeaSmith and they had a very nice array of fine Chinese teas. They behaved a little condescending and seemed to assume that no one understood what tea was. They offered a nice, cold-brewed white tip oolong and, when one of Louise’s friends asked what flavor it was (referring to what kind of tea it was), the shop girl had a sneer on her face as she said, “It isn’t flavored. It’s a nicer tea.” Or something like that. When she had handed me the tea and mentioned it was an oolong, I asked what kind and she got all hoity-toity and said, “It’s a kind of tea that’s between green and black…” and I had to interrupt her to explain that I know what oolong tea is, but that I also know that there are many different kinds of oolong. I did end up purchasing a sample set of some of their oolongs, but I honestly would prefer not to walk into that shop again. They were quite rude.
In the Sunday Up market, we found a fine tea vendor as well. I was out of cash, so couldn’t purchase any then, but I got their card so I can order some online at my leisure. It’s just called Tasty Tea YumChaa (I totally didn’t look at the business card I was given until JUST NOW. I fail.), but from smelling the teas and having conversation with the boy manning the booth (see what I did there?) I’m pretty eager to try them out.
Well, I think that’s it for my update for now. Will hopefully get a chance to get to Warwick with a slightly shorter day on Thursday so I can explore the shops before they close. More updates to follow, I’m sure!