Monday, 11 March 2013

Postcard Teas

In a land so devoted to the ritual of having tea, it's surprising that this seems to be the only place in London that takes it seriously enough to elevate it almost to the level of art. They bill themselves as the purveyor of London's finest teas, and you can believe it, since what they have to offer really is quite special. Postcard Teas is the sort of place you go to when you have time to spare to really soak in the atmosphere and savour what they have on offer. Located off Bond Street, it's a little oasis of calm especially when contrasted with the chaos of Oxford Street not three minutes away. 

When we poked our heads in on a Monday afternoon, the whole place seemed deserted. We wandered in to the back room to find one of the brewers experimenting with different water temperatures as he coaxed flavours out of a new batch of green tea. Abandoning his research to help us find our perfect cuppa, he asked us a few questions on what kind of tea we were searching for, as well as our preferred flavour profiles, before allowing us to take a whiff from a few of the bottles they had on display to help us choose from the dizzying array of over a hundred teas they have for sale.

Q was looking for a special Earl Grey to gift to a friend crazy over the stuff, while I was on a hunt for an exceptional Lapsang. Our guy made his recommendations, and we went for it. One tasting cup costs £2.50 on its own, but it comes free if you eventually buy the tea. 

While waiting for our cups to steep, we admired the beautifully displayed tea caddies on the many shelves housing them. The ones that had been handcrafted in Kyoto cost a small fortune, but looked so exquisite as they sat under the lights and gleamed. 

When our teas came out, we sat ourselves down at the long wooden table that spans across most of the shop floor. We each received a 'carafe' of tea, and a small sipping cup from which to enjoy. Both our teas smelled gorgeous, and the first mouthful of my Lapsang felt like a revelation. 

Tim D'Offay, the proprietor, is completely serious about tea provenance and responsible sourcing, so complete information about where your tea came from is readily available in store and online. This smoky, complex Lapsang came from the original Wuyi village where Lapsang Souchong was first made, in the UNESCO protected area of Tong Mu. Less than 50 kilos are made each year, using only fresh pine tree wood to hand smoke the tea leaves. Their website even has pictures of the area the plantation is located in, as well as some of the equipment used in the process of creating this amazing tea. 

Q was similarly blown away and thought the Earl Grey was the best iteration she'd ever tasted. She was initially tempted to buy the 50g tea postcard to stick in the in-house mailbox, but decided that the tin made for a better gift.

We sat there for a good 15 minutes just basking in the zen of the space, and had a chat about Kyoto with a gentleman who seemed like a regular and was headed there in a couple of weeks. It was relaxed and civilized, which to me is what tea is all about, and Postcard Teas just captures the essence of it so well. 

Postcard Tea, 9 Dering Street, London W1S 1AG

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