A tea lover’s guide to London: from the best afternoon tea to the most charming shops

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But I digress: the events of Johanna and Jatinder in London are always worth seeing. I could write a complete guide to designer shops and bookstores in London just from the Journal du Thé UK stockist list.

One cannot delve into the world of tea without looking into the history of colonialism, and this is particularly true in England. In the late 1600s, King Charles II married Portuguese princess and avowed tea lover Catherine of Braganza, popularizing the drink in England. British East India society gained a monopoly of trade in China and India at this time, which led to England making a fortune trading tea and eventually integrating it into British culture through the classes. A history of tea by Laura C. Martin recounts this, telling the story of the Opium War in today’s London, which is now a hub of international tea traditions and South Asian culture and food. Accordingly, a trip to the city would be incomplete without tea from traditional Indian or Pakistani cuisine.

I knew I wanted to eat Indian food and drink masala chai in London, so I ended up at the vegetarian restaurant Rasa with Johanna and Jatinder. Dosas and idli brought me back to my college study abroad trip to Bangalore. Somewhere I was hoping to go, but didn’t get the chance as a New Yorker who refuses to wait in line, was Dishoom, which came highly recommended by almost everyone I spoke to. (It was only after I learned that they serve masala chai while you wait.)

Tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant, and its processing determines whether it is white, green, oolong, or black. White tea is virtually unoxidized while black tea is fully oxidized and there is a spectrum in the middle. Tea cultivation started in China and spread from there. Whereas in New York our tearooms mainly specialize in one region – we have entire stores dedicated to Japan, Taiwan, China – in London I have found that most places have more options wide.

I was woken the next morning at the Corinthia by a knock and a breakfast tray containing a pot of Earl Grey. I started the day looking out the window, leafing through the latest eighty degrees magazine, “a magazine for dreamers.. about tea”, before heading to my morning Japanese tea tasting at My Cup of Tea.

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