July 25 2010
Yesterday I drank the most delicious cup of tea I’ve ever tasted. Given that I’ve experimented over the years with many varieties to appease an eight-cup-a-day habit, you can understand that this was a particularly magical moment for me.
The tea in question was Master Xu’s Rou Gui, a light Wuyi rock oolong with a delicate, floral fragrance, and I sipped it at Timothy d’Offay’s charming shop, Postcard Teas, where hundreds of teas can be tried before buying. This is just as well since Rou Gui costs £11.95 (30g), although more familiar varieties start from £3.50 (50g) rising to £40 for a 100g cake of Master Liu’s Jin Damo, a Pu-Erh tea from trees dating from the time of Genghis Khan.
Teas cost £1.75 to taste except those in the Tea Master Collection (£2.50-£6 to try), which sounds pricy but, in fact, helps to avoid expensive mistakes.
Tea is in the bones of this 18th-century building – it was once a grocer’s shop – and today it’s simply furnished with a long trestle table and stools where you taste the teas. Meanwhile tea paraphernalia is displayed around the walls – specially-commissioned tea-cosies, hand-painted ceramic teapots and cups, glass teapots, collectors’ traditional Japanese cast iron tea-kettles and double-walled tea-caddies in tin or brass/copper from Kaikado of Kyoto, the world’s oldest producer of hand-made tin tea-caddies.
Teas are sold in tall, slim tins decorated with delightful, early 20th-century illustrations. Or you can buy them in special pouches, write a message on the back and send by post worldwide. Each pouch has a postmark provenance showing its origin and maker.
Postcard Teas holds two tea-related shows a year with beautiful Japanese ceramics on display downstairs when I visited. And every Saturday there’s a tutored tea tasting. What more could a compulsive tea-drinker possibly want?