Postcard Teas – London’s Finest Tea Store
In the pursuit of finding the right tea supplier for the PostTea gift boxes, I’ve been drinking a lot of tea, and visiting lots of tea shops, both online and in person.
One thing is abundantly clear – there is SO MUCH TEA out there!! And I don’t just mean Twynings or Tetleys, but proper tea! Tea that’s quite often personally hand selected by the people who stock it, on overseas trips to China and India. That shows some dedication to the product that they’re selling, and true commitment to providing their customers with the best tea they can source!
I’m a fairly sporadic tea drinker. Up until recently, I didn’t drink tea every day, and certainly don’t have a favourite tea, or a definitive way of drinking my tea! Sometimes I’ll have regular tea black, sometimes I’ll have it with milk and sugar. Sometimes green, sometimes peppermint. Never lemon and ginger. And nearly all the time, I drink it cold. Not by choice, but by forgetfulness! The one element that links all my tea consumption is that I like it STRONG. Tea has to have a great flavour – there’s not much point in drinking lightly scented brown water now is there?
Today I visited ‘Postcard Teas’, and tiny little tea shop on Doring St in London (just off Oxford Street, down a side street opposite John Lewis). I absolutely adore wandering down the little side streets and seeing what you can find. Postcard Teas is nestled next to a Young’s pub, and their frontage reminded me of any old Victorian shop front. I have to admit, I’d expected Postcard Teas to be more of an afternoon tea shop, indeed, they have they space to be that, but I can see now that it would rather detract from it’s main selling point – the art and practice of drinking tea, and appreciating tea for it’s own fine delicacies.
My visit to Postcard Teas was spurred by intrigue in their name, having originally found them online. The name, I thought, stemmed from one of their products, which is exactly that, a tea postcard. Available in their shop and online, you simply write a message on the side of a small sealed packet of loose leaf tea or tea caddy, and it’s then popped in the post and delivered by Royal Mail. Sounds great. Not so sure on the practicalities, and I feel it’s more of a gimmick than the main selling point of their venture, like the name might suggest. Having said that, I’m sure it’s wildly popular with tourists, and a great ‘unique’ product.
As it happens, the name ‘Postcard Teas’ is not just based on this one product, but the fact that all of their teas display accurate and ‘proper tea provenance’. Each of their teas displays the name of the maker or estate and the place of production, much as you might expect from a fine bottle of wine. Their branding revolves around a series of ‘postcards’ that form the decorative element of each tea caddy and pack, complete with a ‘postmark’:
Each tea is also adorned by it’s own postcard, picked from owner Tim D’Offay’s personal collection. I was reliably informed that the most popular tea was not only decided by it’s flavour and type but also by the style of it’s decoration!
Entering a shop like Postcard Teas can be quite daunting, and I have to admit feeling like that. I suppose it’s akin to looking at a tome of a wine list in an exclusive restaurant and not really understanding what you’re reading. People LOVE tea, and people LOVE wine, but how many people really understand it?! Certainly not me, at least on the tea front!
Having perused the teas, and the exquisite, but eye-wateringly expensive tea caddies and tea sets, I decided I better try a cup. Because Postcard Teas isn’t a cafe you can’t just go and buy a cup of tea and enjoy it as you might anywhere else. Visitors to the shop are invited to ‘try’ a certain tea, for £2.50. The tea is carefully made by the staff, and presented in gorgeous china from 1660 London, with the tea leaves in separate container.
Not knowing where to start, I asked the server what he’d recommend. Seeing as I have a preference for green and herbal teas, I thought I should try a black tea, with quite some flavour. I was recommended the Beijing Breakfast tea, a ‘sweet, malty, single estate black tea from the famous Taoist mountains’, grown by Mr Mou in Lao Shan, China. My tea was brewed in mineral water, heated to 90 degrees, and had quite a delicate flavour. Pleasant enough, but definitely not strong enough! The server took away the leaves and came back with a stronger brew, this time using water a little closer to boiling, which brings out more of the flavour. It was absolutely delicious. I have to admit to feeling a little awkward sitting drinking tea at a low table on my own whilst the server continued his work, but all in all it was delightful. I’d decided I would buy some of the tea I tried even before I knew what it was, and was even more pleased when I saw that the accompanying postcard was one that had cats!
Beijing Breakfast Loose Leaf Tea
At £8.95 for a 50g caddy, this is probably the most expensive tea I’ve ever bought, but definitely worth it. It’s also worth noting that if you buy the tea that you try, the tasting is free. Of course, you need all the extra paraphernalia that comes with drinking loose leaf tea as they don’t have any pre-bagged teas, but if you’re really serious about tea drinking then there’s a high chance you’ll have the requisite equipment already. Of course, I now want some lovely oriental tea cups rather than my clunky, sturdy builder’s brew mugs, but that’s another adventure