Five of the best: tea merchants
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Imperial Teas of Lincoln
Founded by Ben Pooles in 1991, Imperial Teas stocks 300 varieties of teas and tisanes in both loose leaf and crystal tea-bag form. The range is broad with, for example, several Darjeelings to pick from, including Turzum Mountain Mystic DJ3 and Goomtea Pride. Imperial’s line of own-blended flavoured and scented teas – such as orange blossom oolong or liquorice tea – is popular. Situated in a 12th-century Norman house, the shop also sells tea ware, and has a café in the undercroft.
47 Steep Hill, Lincoln LN2 1LU; 01522 560008; imperialteas.co.uk
TeaSmith’s Spitalfields Market shop and tea bar, founded by husband-and-wife John Kennedy and Tomoko Kawase, specialises in east Asian teas. TeaSmith’s Tasting Menu is its take on traditional afternoon tea, featuring four different teas, each paired with dainty morsels such as walnut and miso biscuits from acclaimed patissier William Curley.
6 Lamb Street, London E1 6EA; 020 7247 1333; teasmith.co.uk
Pekoe Tea of Edinburgh
Reflecting founder Jon Cooper’s fascination with tea, Pekoe specialises in loose-leaf teas, from white to pu-erh, with more than 100 teas and tisanes, many imported directly from source. The shop also includes a teabar, with staff brewing the tea in the appropriate tea ware from glass pots to gaiwan (Chinese lidded cups) in order to maximise its flavour. A drop-in tea club takes place each week.
20 Leven Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9LJ; 0131 4771838; pekoetea.co.uk
Comins Tea House
Inspired by a visit to Darjeeling while on honeymoon, Rob and Michelle Comins set up this small tea business in Dorset. Selling only loose-leaf tea, they offer 21 varieties, such as Taiwanese Dong Ding oolong and a first-flush Darjeeling from Makabari, as well as own-designed, British-crafted tea ware. The tea room, modelled on Japanese tea houses, is a popular meeting spot.
The Quarterjack, Bridge Street, Sturminster Newton, DT10 1 BZ; 01258 475389
Robert Wilson’s “Ceylon” Tea
This online business is run by Robert Wilson, a former tea planter in Sri Lanka – and the fifth generation of his family to work on the island (hence the reference to Ceylon). He imports teas from the country’s seven tea districts, each of which has its own agro climate. Working closely with more than a dozen producers, Wilson sources single estate teas such as classic Ceylons from Nuwara Eliya or Uva.
Stonehaven, Nuttree, North Perrott, Crewkerne, Somerset TA18 7SX; 01460 77508; wilstea.com
Jenny Linford is author of ‘Food Lovers London’ (Metropolitan Publications)
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