Among a nation of tea drinkers, it is curious that until now there have been few opportunities to create one’s own personalised high-end tea. Who better to change all that than “tea tailor” Angelo Tantillo – and where better than at Harrods, which originally opened in 1834 as a tea merchant. In the store’s new Roastery and Bake Hall, Tantillo will quiz customers as to their tastes and create a tea (£30, with tin and personalised label) to match their palate.
“Angelo is an expert in layering flavours and can guide you on a journey to blend a tea that you would never have imagined,” says Alex Dower, director of food and restaurants at Harrods. “He has mixed thousands of teas during his career.”
Given that my souvenirs from a trip to Kenya this year were hundreds of teabags and a dozen boxes of loose tea, I really don’t need to cater to my morning (and afternoon) black tea habit. I visit Tantillo in search of something for the evening, to help me sleep. The caveat is that I cannot bear the fruity teas or chamomile usually suggested for the evening.
This news does not faze Tantillo – a slight, dapper Italian with a moustache Poirot would covet – one bit. He soon has me sniffing dried rose petals – I am tempted to eat them, they smell so good – and to this base he adds cardamom, red pepper and star anise, mixing all together in a large metal bowl. He blends tea with real skill; I am encouraged to sniff my way through the process and he adds a flourish here and there until we are both happy. The final blend, a beautiful rose pink with green cardamom and red pepper, is deposited in an elegant Harrods Tea Tailor tin and Tantillo keeps a record of my personal blend in his little black book of tea recipes.
The moment of truth arrives at home; it turns out to be a woody, spicy tea with a slight sweetness coming from the star anise – the perfect winter warmer.