Thursday, 18 April 2013

This is 'My Cup of Tea'

Lime Blossom
My Cup of Tea

I've always enjoyed a nice cup of tea.  My tastes were unsophisticated, mostly involving a tea bag, a mug and a splash of milk.  Sometimes a spoonful of black leaf tea, maybe with a little bergamot, brewed in a pot and taken as it came.  But those ubiquitous cloying 'flavoured' teas and stale tasting herbal infusions have always made me recoil.  I was going to take some persuading that teas and infusions don't have to be like that.   

Then, one day, I noticed a new trader at my weekly shopping haunt.   A trestle table appeared.  A small display of teas and herbs.  I walked on by, several times.  After all, it was just tea.  Over the following weeks the display grew and was so beautifully laid out.  Finally, I could no longer resist taking a look.  Little pots of Green and Black teas and finely rolled Sencha leaves sat alongside dishes of vibrant Lime Blossom and Camomile and hand-tied muslin teabags containing ginger and lemongrass.  A few exquisite little teapots and drinking bowls dressed the table.  So it was that I put myself in the hands of an expert to see if my prejudices could be overcome. 

Orange blossom
at My Cup of Tea

My Cup of Tea is a modern, artisan, tea specialist established in 2008.  The recipes are inspired by tradition and the rich and varied cultures of the world.  The attention to detail is clear, from the quality of the teas, herbs, blossoms and fruits which go into the blends through to the delicate china cups customers taste from.    

Ausra Burg and her team do more than just import teas. They make their own superior quality blends and herbal infusions.  Ingredients are sourced direct from growers who have to meet strict specifications to become My Cup of Tea suppliers.  They work with tea makers of many generations who have direct ties to Estates and share a commitment to quality.  

Rooibos, blackcurrant & blackcurrant leaf
at My Cup of Tea

Ausra picked wild herbs from the fields with her mother, who recorded every detail year by year in her 'Bible' of herbs.  This instilled in her a passion for their benefits.  That 'Bible' now plays a very important part in My Cup of Tea.  For me, this small business stands out from the crowd by sourcing herbs which are grown naturally, specifying when and what parts of the plants are harvested, how they are dried, separated and packaged.  Then there's the hand-cutting and expert blending when they reach My Cup of Tea's Workshop.  The quality of the ingredients on display there is impressive.  The display of covetable thick glass apothecary jars is not just for show but serves to keep the ingredients in optimum conditions.  

The blending process is extensive, starting with a base to which herbs and, sometimes, fruits are added.  In the herbal teas, sometimes several parts of the plant are able to be used, such as the leaf, fruit and stem, each imparting subtly different aromas and taste.  There are no artificial flavourings here, no unnaturally perfumed brews or muddy tasting infusions made from dessicated herbs.  Ausra told me "we refuse to compromise because we believe if we love what we make then our customers will love it too".

Inhale, then try a cup of black tea, subtly flavoured with cassis and vanilla; a delicate White Jasmine green tea, the uppermost tips having been dried scattered with Jasmine flowers; a fragrant, clean tasting Orange Blossom or Lime Blossom tea.  Based on past experience, I almost ignored an infusion containing fruits but by now I was prepared to try anything.  Raspberry leaf and fruit makes use of the leaf, immature fruits and stem, each imparting subtly different flavours, and it was astonishingly good.  Rosehip, apple, hibiscus flowers, natural strawberry and raspberry flavours go into the Wild Berry teabags.     

You don't have to take my word for it.  Go into the *My Cup of Tea Workshop on Saturdays and see and taste for yourself. Ausra and Emiko will even help you put together your own personal blend.  I came away with a bag of Green Rooibos with blackcurrant leaf and fruit.  Yes, me, the "teabag in a cup" tea maker.  Well, not any more .  A mug of black tea with a splash of milk will always go with a bacon sandwich, for me, but a visit to My Cup of Tea's Workshop has changed my tea drinking habits for ever.

My Cup of Tea
96 Druid Street
London  SE1 2HQ

* UPDATE AUGUST 2014 - The Saturday Workshop is no longer open as My Cup of Tea has now opened its flagship store in the Ham Yard Hotel courtyard in Soho open 7 days a week.