Tea Bars: London’s Coolest Cuppa

There was a time when the Flat White reigned supreme. Now Londoners have a new obsession: loose-leaf tea. Thanks to this emerging scene of hip tea bars, it’s never been cooler to sip a cuppa.

Jing: experience a tea flight

Jing tea is served at some of our favourite places from the Savoy and the Connaught to Gail’s and the Tate. This week the experts opened their first bricks-and-mortar space in St Christopher’s Place, all pale wood and glass teapots. Particularly cool is their polished marble tea bar where they are now offering ‘Tea Flights’. Much like a wine or whisky flight, these 45-minute experiences offer informal tastings of select Jing teas. Pull up a stool and listen to a master share the fascinating stories behind each of the six types of tea: white, green, yellow, oolong, black and puerh. Despite being avid tea drinkers – even going so far as to pack Twinings Earl Grey tea bags in our suitcase when we go abroad – we soon realise just how little we know about the origins of tea. We learn that all tea comes from the Camelia Sinensis plant, and it is the terroir and treatment that form the differences we taste. For example their delicate Jasmine Silver Needle is made by laying fresh jasmine flowers over the tea tips for up to 5 days to infuse with flavour – cheaper jasmine teas may simply be sprayed with fragrance resulting in a delicious smell but no taste. Jing taste thousands of teas every year to select the very best from growers’ and farms all over Asia and their suppliers can vary year-on-year depending on weather, crop quality and so on. Sourcing so carefully no doubt results in their fine selection, each brewed expertly for 3-minutes before it’s your turn to taste. Watching the leaves swirl about whilst the tea brews is mesmeric; a reminder of just how relaxing it is to stop and enjoy the ceremony of making a cup of tea. Once you’ve tasted and learned about the teas, you can of course buy delicious packages to take away. As well as loose-leaf teas and teabags there’s chic and practical teaware including a clever on-the-go Matcha shaker and the essential glass tie-iere tea infuser. Booking someone a tea flight experience would make a lovely Christmas present, £25 per guest.

Jing, 18-19 St Christopher’s Place, W1. Open Mon – Sat 10am – 7pm, Sun 12pm – 6pm jingtea.com

Teatulia: cocktails and books

Tea cocktails are order of the day at Teatulia, a tea bar in Covent Garden. Perch at high stools or recline into a cosy nook to sip an Oolong Old Fashioned or a Builder’s Bourbon made with black tea syrup. All of Teatulia’s garden-to-cup teas are organic and grown on their Fairtrade cooperative in Bangladesh, and can either be drunk as they are by day along with a tea-infused cake (try the rich Dark Chocolate, Black Tea & Cherry Brownie) or blended into zippy cocktails come the evening. As well as delicious tea, Teatulia is a cool place to hang out. Owned by a poet and writer, there’s a ‘library’ here where people like Tilda Swinton, Esther Freud and William Boyd have suggested their top 10 books, arranged on various shelves. There’s also a tiny post box at the back of the bar with postcards and pencils ready to use – write a note to someone, post it into the box and Teatulia will mail it for free.

Teatulia, 36 Neal St, London WC2H 9PS. Open Mon – Fri 8am – 10pm, Sat 9am – 10pm, Sun 9am – 7pm, teatulia.com

Good + Proper: tea and crumpets

Whilst there’s no end of take away coffee shops in London, tea-drinker, Emilie Holmes spotted the gap in the market for anywhere to buy a decent take-away cup of tea. Quite simply, it wasn’t as good as you’d get at home. So, she launched Good + Proper in 2012, converting a 1974 Citroën-H van into a mobile tea bar and selling loose-leaf brews at festivals and street food markets in London. Enormously popular, a flagship followed in Clerkenwell where exposed bricks and houseplants reinvented the tea room into a Tea Bar. Here you can order something as familiar as an English Breakfast with a warm, buttered accompaniment  – but at Good + Proper expect that tea to be loose-leaf and brewed to perfection and served with one of their famous square-shaped sourdough crumpets topped with ‘House Notella’. Traditional teatime made contemporary and cool.

Good + Proper Tea, 96A Leather Lane, EC1N 7TX, open Mon-Thurs 8am – 6pm and Fri 8-5pm. Saturday’s and Sunday’s closed. One Saturday per month the van pops up at Brockley Market. goodandpropertea.com

— Daisy Allsup
20th November 2019