Wednesday, 13 April 2011

For the Love of Tea - The Tea Palace

I was always a girl who wouldn’t stray far from a cup of Tetley tea, sure as I was of it's elixir of life qualities, and the ability to make or break a girl with a hangover after overdoing it on the vino the night before. That was until we took my grandma for afternoon tea for her 83rd birthday two years ago, and they served REAL tea, with a very, very cool swively tea strainer. At the time I was having a new kitchen with fancy shelves for displaying things and I just had to get my hands on that tea strainer. So, you see, it wasn't the posh tea that got me, it was the accessories (come to think of it, wasn't it a very cute cookie cutter set and a sexy kitchen aid that got me into baking? Believe so). 

I asked nicely. I flirted shamelessly with the waiter. I even tried a small crocodile tear but I could't quite bring myself to do that. Flirting has so much more decorum, don't you think?  But to no avail.

I searched high and low online for that tea strainer, but google didn't return results for 'swively tea strainer.' I searched in tea shops in Cheshire. Nothing. And then, one sunny weekend in London, I happened across The Tea Palace in Covent Garden, and there, like a beacon in the window, was my swively tea strainer, apparently called a Revolving Tea Strainer. I prefer swively, much more descriptive.

Then, to compliment my new swively tea strainer I needed some loose leaf tea, posh of course... and this is where my new found tea obsession begins.

It does help that the staff at The Tea Palace are so helpful, knowledgeable and polite and that the shop itself is a treasure trove of stunning tea pots, cups, strainers and all things tea. The aroma in the shop is like nothing I have experienced before- not the headache inducing, man-made fake smell of certain cosmetic and beauty stores, but a subtle whiff of something delicious passes you by as you wander round in awe, when people open the little tester tins of loose leaf tea to have a good sniff and decide on their purchase, not to mention the glass tea pots of sample teas to try (beware the delicate nature of these tea pots - not for the faint hearted).

That first time, as I was feeling a little green around the gills from sampling the best of London nightlife the evening before, I went for Peppermint Green and Morning After teas on the recommendation of the Tea Masters (I need, no, want, that job).

I chose Peppermint Green thanks to the sensation on the nostrils of the pure peppermint leaves when you pick up the tin, just what my poor head needed. The leaves are blended with chinese gunpowder tea, which I always have at the local Chinese so I knew I would like it (told you I was a novice). I was advised by the tea master that the tea is also good for you, full of antioxidants from the green tea as well digestive benefits of peppermint! Who knew?

Peppermint Green Tea
The name of Morning After was attractive to both me and my husband at that moment in time and we were again advised, very knowledgeably, that the organic tea was a blend of ginger root, ginseng and lavendar, all of which have the medicinal properties to ease aches and pains and boost energy - just what I needed to deal with the dry mouth, achy limbs and sore head. 
Morning After Tea
As I was paying for my teas, strainer and a crown tea pot (couldn't resist) I was also given a little 'Lemon Myrtle' sample tin, I'm yet to open this delight but when I do, you'll be the first to know.

I left begrudgingly (well, was dragged actually) but as the bell tinkled as the door shut behind me, a notice for Bespoke Blends caught my eye. My husband loves Chinese Tea and received a cast iron Chinese teapot for Christmas.  A suitable gift for Valentines Day was a bespoke tea blend, lovingly designed by his one true love (me... just a reminder in case you read this, love). From a simple email to The Tea Palace asking for advice, a very helpful lady, Sarah Vardy, replied almost instantly with questions, advice and recommendations. With her help I decided on a blend of Gunpowder tea with lemongrass and vanilla, creatively named by me as 'Col's Blend'. The tea comes in a distinctive dark purple caddy, with a personalised label on the front and a message of your choice on the back, above the brewing instructions (which is a whole other post on it's own), all presented in a dark purple satin bag. The tea itself, whilst not really my thing (current favourite is English Rose - just like me) smells divine and is so loved by hubby there's only a little left. The whole pieces of lemongrass and vanilla (no extract is good enough for my man) give off their aroma and taste the second the not-quite-boiling water hits the bottom of the tea pot.

Fabulous tea, service, packaging and store. I love this place. Next time you are in the Big Smoke, pop in.  If you live elsewhere, you can buy online or email for your bespoke blend. I still go back to my Tetley every so often, by my heart now lies with The Tea Palace.


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