It is good when your predictions come true: I said tea-drinking would come back in Britain and it has. Indeed, the Tea Palace at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11 (020 7727 2600) could scarcely be more fashionable.
At the Palace you can drink rare and exotic teas (‘To maintain the quality of our teas we kindly request that you refrain from smoking’ says the maroon menu) more than 150 of them, from Chinese Black Pearls and Golden Needles to flavoured Madagascan Vanilla and White Peony with Pink Rosebuds. Recalcitrant traditionalists can even order Builder’s Brew at £3.50 a pot. These are also for sale by mail order, from £7.50 a tin.
Better still, you can organise a tasting sampler of eight different teas, all in charming baby maroon tins which are packed into an elegant maroon box. At between £24.95 to £32.95 a box, I cannot think of a more delightful present to give to generous country house hosts (no more dreary bottles of wine or wilting flowers bought at the nearest garage, please note).
The Tea Palace list also has rooibos teas, fruit tisanes and 12 ‘tea therapies’ to encourage harmony, sweet dreams and an immune boost, which are taken from traditional Keralan recipes. Another firm dedicated to using tea to soothe or enliven is Tea and Philosophy, which has teas to create happiness, friendship and inspiration. Happiness Tea, for example, contains hibiscus flowers, rosemary and cardamom and Expectancy Tea has raspberry leaf with a hint of peppermint.
Tea and Philosophy (www.todaywasfun.com) has 120 stockists. The venerable firm of H. R. Higgins (www.hrhiggins.co.uk) has not been left behind by these newcomers. Its growing range of fruit flavoured teas includes summer tea with dried marigold and cornflowers, and apple tea, delicious iced. They also have a China White tea, Lung Ching Dragon’s Well, a delicious green tea after rich food, and Gunpowder (which looks like shot) that is used in Moroccan mint tea.e
Read more on where the real foodies go in London.