Five great places to drink tea in London
Few things are as brilliant as a truly delicious cuppa. Alexi Duggins gives you the five of the best places to drink tea in London
Teahouse by day, theatre by night, this light airy space manages to feel like a big, cosy living room. It’s full of mismatched chairs, comfy vintage sofas plus stacks of retro board games and newspapers. The soundtrack is soothing classical music, every table is topped by a home-baked cake in a display case and there’s also an excellent tea menu, offering 35 varieties ranging from black tea to more unusual varieties such as Chinese fermented Pu’erh tea. They also offer suggestions for how to fuse multiple blends together to create your own and let you buy loose leaf to take away. So not ENTIRELY like a living room.
If your idea of a proper cuppa is a strong mug of builders, Terry’s Café will definitely be your cup of tea. What once was a no-frills greasy spoon has been turned into a vintage haven, teaming crackly speakers playing wartime jazz with black-and-white photos of local street parties, chequered tablecloths and plenty of cockney banter from the owner. They have their own brand of pure Ceylon tea (which is available in a bottomless version for a quid with any meal) and from 2.30pm onwards, you can shun the fry-ups and book yourself in for an afternoon tea instead, choosing from five different blends. Oh, and Eddie Redmayne’s a customer too, so they must be doing something right.
This isn’t just any old shop: it’s the oldest tea shop in London, having been selling rosy lee for the 300 years since British kings had the same bouffant hairstyle as a 1980s prom queen. There’s a loose tea bar offering around 50 blends at a dinky counter, which you can also book into for a two-hour tea masterclass (£30) with one of their ‘expert tea ambassadors’. Tea is only available on a takeaway basis, but at £2 per cup for a high-quality brew it’s cheaper than most of Starbucks’ cuppas - and way better.
History drips from the walls at this wood-panelled Mayfair institution that’s been serving tea since the mid nineteenth century. If you head along before or after their set times for afternoon tea, you’re free to sit and have just a cuppa - a rarity in the world of high-end London hotels. Their ‘tea library’ offers over twenty varieties, including a homage to a Chinese tea ceremony and the more homely option of a Cornish brew which is the first ever tea to be grown in England.
Tea bags are very much not the thing at this mini-chain of tea obsessives. Only brewing from whole leaf to avoid offering customers ‘the tea dust that gets left over after all the quality tea leaves have been collected’, there’s even a photo on their website of a ‘No Tea Bags’ placard behind the counter at the Goodge Street branch. The atmosphere of their various cafes varies from a white-washed post-industrial feel to wood-panelled cosiness, but they’re all relaxed places to enjoy a high quality brew, with each one offering over 40 different blends.