June 29 2011
Many have touted the merits of Mayfair’s Postcard Teas, but the teashop not only boasts more than 60 different teas from more than 30 producers (not to mention scores of enticing tea paraphernalia), it also offers a bespoke blending service for those who want a brew that is all their own.
The process begins with a two-hour tea tasting, either at the shop or the client’s home, to, as founder Timothy d’Offay puts it, “understand the client’s relationship with tea, what they want to achieve with the blend and their likes and dislikes”. Clients may, for example, be more partial to Japanese green tea rather than Chinese green tea: “Chinese green tea is mainly pan-fired, giving it a fruity, floral flavour, whereas Japanese green tea tends to be steamed, producing a grassy, more vegetal taste,” explains d’Offay.
He then uses notes from the meeting to blend three different options – a cinnamon smoked tea might be given a lift with a dose of sweet Darjeeling, for example, or a rich Assam might be paired with a hint of White Tip oolong to create a sweeter variant of a typical breakfast tea – and these blends are then sent to the client for another tasting.
Additional alterations can then made before two more versions are given to the client to choose the final blend, which is delivered in a handmade, brass Kaikado tea caddy and accompanying personalised tins stating the name of the blend (chosen by the client) and a description of its contents.
And, in case a reorder is required, the formula for the bespoke blend is kept on file, nestled in the archives among some of d’Offay’s previous commissions. These include Lyn Harris, founder of Miller Harris, and restaurateurs Anthony Demetre and Will Smith (who asked d’Offay to create special blends for their trio of restaurants: Michelin-starred Arbutus, Wild Honey and Les Deux Salons). Also among them is designer Margaret Howell, whose bespoke High Tea contains a mix of leaves from three Darjeeling estates – Giddapahar, Jungpana and – fittingly – Margaret’s Hope.