Saturday 19 August 2023

#mycheveningyear: Anna's guide to #tea in London

Everyone knows about the British and their tea. What not everyone realises is that most of the tea drunk in England, especially in local homes, is either black sludge or milk with a dash of tea.

Okay, that's a little harsh, but it's also mostly true--at least in my experience. I don't really know why, seeing they have so many great local tea brands. Maybe I just meet the wrong people lol.


ANYWAY, I apparently abandoned this post in January 2020, but after talking to this year's batch of Chevening scholars, I felt like maybe I should finish it. This isn't a definitive guide! This is just a list of the places I went and the teas I liked. (I favour fruit/floral + black tea blends.) Also, I mostly buy looseleaf because it's cheaper and lasts longer, so everything I mention is probably looseleaf unless stated. 


This was from my 2016 trip. I didn't take a new photo in 2018.

This is number 1 on my list because the two "famous" English tea brands you get in Malaysian shops is Twinings and Ahmad Tea, so you're likely to have already heard of this, or tried it before. Many cafes do use Twinings. You can probably get many of their teas in shops around London, but their flagship store is worth the visit because it's "the oldest tea shop in London". (I was just gonna say bla bla bla history, but they do mention it on their website)

What I especially liked was the mix and match section towards the front of the store where you can buy a bunch of individual teabags to see whether you liked it instead of having to commit to a whole box of like 15-20 teabags. (I used this to test the ones I wasn't sure about.) 

Favourite teas: Nutty Chocolate Flavour Assam Tea; Lady Grey (teabags)


You'll see that I also had a couple of Whittard teas in that big first tea splurge. I discovered Whittard at Covent Garden in my 2016 trip, so that's where I went back to. There's a bunch of shops in London, so it's not hard to find. Also, for continuity's sake, there is now a Whittard shop (tiny little island) in One Utama, and they do ship Malaysia-wide, so it's not impossible to find here. (Which can't quite be said of the others.)

I don't know if they're still doing this post-Covid, but what I liked about this shop was they always had various testers out so it was fun to try new stuff and consider whether I should get them.

Favourite teas: Piccadilly Blend; Baked Apple*; Lucky Lychee**

* They still don't have this in Malaysia booooo. Turkish Apple is NOT THE SAME.
** Not sure if this is a CNY special?

Bird and Blend

This is my recent favourite, and it's sad that I only discovered them in my last few months in the UK, in the middle of Dissertation Summer. I wish I'd discovered them earlier! The most convenient shop is the one near Borough Market (which also has a few independent tea shops inside, but those have quite a limited range.), and it's probably on the way to one of the tube stations, because my association is something to do with Shakespeare's Globe + tube + Borough Market. 

I literally just stumbled upon it while walking, but the reason I noticed it particularly that day (instead of just following Google maps and walking by) was because someone in the Sheffield group mentioned "Bird and Blend" while we were there on our road trip so the sign caught my attention. 

Unlike the first two, Bird & Blend does not have a Malaysian store so I have been relying on people to hand carry it back to Malaysia haha. In previous years, they used to have free international shipping on Boxing Day but that's been discontinued. I mean you can pay for shipping but... 

Favourite teas: Tea & Toast, Earl Grey Paradise (might be a special now?)

Also, the advent calendar is worth looking out for <3. I had a lot of fun with this!


Okay, TWG is is a Singaporean brand so you don't particularly NEED to go there, but they have a fancy shop with quite a large range of teas downstairs and a cafe upstairs at Leicester Square. If' you're in the area to catch a play, it's just a nice place to stop and have afternoon tea and feel a little atas lol. 

Favourite teas: I used to quite like their French Earl Grey but I don't know anymore. I don't think I have any repeat buys from TWG, especially not from London.     


Main Takeaways

These are the bigger tea brands in London that are easy to get and have quite a wide range of teas. But I also enjoyed walking into tiny little teashops just to see what they had. Here are some:

From a random market stall in Scotland:

From random shops in Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon:

From some tourist shop in Dublin:

One thing I ended up regretting was not getting a tea subscription when I arrived. They usually do this as an annual thing and could either be a subscription to a tea that you like, where they send you a new batch every quarter or so, or one of those tea boxes where they send you random new stuff every month for you to try! I kind of knew vaguely about stuff like that before, but just thought it was out of my budget. By the time I looked at how much tea I was buying and figured out what the options were, it was kind of too late to get a year's subscription. I'm not sure if they do shorter term subscriptions, but it's worth checking out if you know you're going to buy a lot of tea. 

Final thing to note: London has funny-tasting water, which sometimes translates into weird-tasting tea. (California had that as well but at least London admits to it.) I inherited a Brita water filter from Evelyn, which really helped haha (she was leaving, I was arriving). 

Anyway. This is all. I'll leave you with a tea stash from when I visited Europe. 

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