World in a Teacup
Community / Food & Drink

World in a Teacup

Words: Emma Sleight Images: Giulio Iurissevich
Published: Autumn '15

From exotic Lapsang Souchong to a comforting cup of builder’s, each culture has its traditions and favourites. Whether you prefer a ceremonial tea or the pleasure of dunking a biscuit, there are exceptional brews around North and East London to suit.

Tea Traditions

The history of tea runs deep in many regions around the world, with tea traditions varying between places and cultures:

Jewish Traditional Apple Tea

Apple tea is a staple for holidays like Rosh Hashannah – as sweetness welcomes in the New Year – and Hanukkah, because the tea has warming qualities that make it a perfect pick-me-up for cold spells.

West Indian Favourites

Steaming herbal teas usually consumed with breakfast include black mint tea, peppermint tea, lemongrass, ginger tea, soursop leaf tea and lime leaf teaseveral of which are revered for their medicinal value.

African Tea-taking

Egypt is one of the world’s largest importers of tea, and several cups of black tea are taken daily by people there. Morocco is home to refreshing mint tea, which is celebrated worldwide for its ability to aid digestion.

Turkish Tea

Turkey has the highest per capita consumption of tea in the world. Cay (tea) is black and served without milk. It is typically sweet and slightly tart, with a mild apple flavor.

House Chai at Dishoom

7 Boundary Street, London E2 7JE

020 7420 9324

India has a rich and longstanding love affair with the tea leaf and masala chai – a thick, sweet, milky spiced black tea – is practically the country’s national drink. This Bombay-style café serves a couple of chai options that vary from the commonplace to the adventurous – from the chocolate version paired with bourbon – to the delightful House Chai; its nutty, fudgy hit of cinnamon and cardamom never fails to transport you from London’s East End to somewhere far more exotic.

Try it with: Dishoom’s Paneer Rolls – a soft naan stuffed with grilled cheese and smeared with spicy mint chutney – to cut through the chai’s syrupy aftertaste.

Buy it: The Shoreditch branch of T2 Tea sells both a traditional spiced chai blend and a chocolate chip chai.

Chilli Chilli Bang Bang at Yumchaa

137 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB

While this tea emporium isn’t strictly based in the North East, their stalls and shops across London have become unmissable pit stops for tea aficionados. Not only is the Yumchaa ethos all about appreciating exclusively loose-leafed teas, they also sell, stock and serve a vast array of top quality brews and sell them online. Visit their shop on Brick Lane and, if you try only one, make it their rocket in a cup Chilli Chilli Bang Bang. It’s a powerful punch of ginger, red pepper, chilli flakes and Rooibos (a naturally-caffeine free tea from South Africa) that will give you the same get up and go as a double espresso.

Try it with: A rare-breed, pasture-fed beef cheeseburger from the nearby Bleecker St. Burger van – this tea’s strong enough to handle it.

Buy it: Right there and other Yumchaa shops and tearooms in Camden or the Granary Building at King’s Cross, or online.

Jasmine Moon at Chinalife

99-105 Camden High Street, London NW1 7JN

087 0010 0023

If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to sample the flowering teas of Hong Kong, you’ll be all too familiar with the mesmerising sight of tight, dry buds unfurling and growing in steaming water to reveal the vivid, feathery petals beneath. Luckily you don’t have to travel too far for a Chinese tea experience of your own – the aptly named Chinalife in Camden brings it to your doorstep. Head to their 1930’s Shanghai-inspired tea bar to sample everything from fresh, fragrant brews to tea-infused cocktails, including blossoming teas like the delicate Jasmine Moon.

Try it with: A blended, alcohol-free cocktail like the intriguing Strawberry Tease, which magically changes from sweet to bitter as you drink it.

Buy it: If you like what you drink, you can purchase it straight from Chinalife themselves.

Breakfast Tea at Kipferl

20 Camden Passage, London N1 8ED

020 7704 1555

Austrians aren’t only famous for their coffee, they’re also pretty serious about their tea as Kipferl, Islington’s answer to a Viennese coffeehouse shows. Created by Christian Malnig, an Austrian who was determined to introduce Viennese food culture to the London masses, this little haven for café lovers serves up home-made cakes and speciality hot drinks. Their English Breakfast tea, is served  Austrian-style: on a silver tray with a glass of water and a mini Milka chocolate, and is well worth a try.

Try it with: There are plenty of brunch items on the menu here: from French toast with apple compote to an omelette made with organic mountain cheese, but the Kaiserschmarrn – shredded pancakes with raisins and morello cherries – are unmissable.

Buy it: Kipferl’s breakfast tea comes from the Algerian Coffee Stores in Soho, who’ve been sourcing tea and coffee from around the world since 1887.