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Afternoon tea in a hotel or a tea room is the ultimate treat, but tea should be an everyday indulgence. These fine emporiums sell blends to make the perfect cuppa at home.
If you really care where your tea comes from, this shop run by well-travelled tea expert Timothy d’Offay is for you. Postcard Teas on New Bond Street claims to be the only shop that reveals the true origins of its teas, marking every tin with the maker or estate’s name and the place of production. You can send someone a “tea postcard” by posting a packet into the shop’s own red postbox.
Top tea: The rare Ancient Tree Teas, including a blend from four 100-year-old trees on Wuyi Mountain in China. Only 5-7kg of Oolong tea is made from them every year.
Yumchaa believes the key factors for a great cup of tea are “the leaf, the water and the freedom for the two to mingle”. So it’s loose leaf or nothing across its four shops – one on Tottenham Street near Goodge Street station, two in Camden and one in Soho.
Top tea: Berry Berry Nice, a Rooibos tea with notes of blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, rhubarb, kiwi, vanilla and rose petals. It should be drunk while wearing sunglasses, according to Yumchaa.
Thomas Twining bought this flagship Twinings shop on The Strand in 1706, as tea became an increasingly popular alternative to the coffee houses springing up in London. It still operates today, albeit in a slightly more modern form. It has a loose tea bar with unusual and expensive teas, a sampling counter where you can try warm teas, and even a small tea museum with old teapots and artefacts from the Twining family.
Top tea: The Cutty Sark blend, created to celebrate the reopening of the world’s last remaining tea clipper ship in Greenwich. The black version is a mixture of two Chinese teas: strong sweet leaves from Yunnan province and Keemun tea from Anhui province.
This queen of modern tea shops sits in the Market Building in Covent Garden. It sells tea bags and loose leaf tea in regal purple tin caddies. Among more than 160 whole leaf teas, Tea Palacecreates limited edition blends for special occasions – such as an Ultimate Antioxidant Tea Trio to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Top tea: The Diamond Jubilee Blend – although Tea Palace keeps the exact blend of black teas involved a secret.
If you fancy some tea and cake, here’s our list of the best afternoon teas in London.