“Brewing tea is pressing a pause button in a stressful life”.
Nestled in the normally sleepy suburb of Nottinghill/Westbourne Park there is a small tea house, run by Buddhist tea artisan Pei Wang. Upon arrival, our group was greeted softly, ushered to our table and began to relax.
After a short while, the server came to take our orders. It’s funny because my brain didn’t really engage and I found myself becoming a touch impatient. Then that little voice (you know, the one that says another glass of wine isn’t such a good idea) engaged. “Don’t be a dork. Learn something from this – why are you in such a hurry anyway – you are with a group of friends, comfortably seated, and tea is coming.”
And therein lies the genius of the Chinese tea ceremony. It is meant to be taken slowly, with pleasure and understanding.
Once we placed our tea orders, such an array of pots, containers and teeny tasting cups came out like I’ve never seen. Each of us had a unique brewing pot suited to the flavour of tea that we had ordered. One was only as big as an apple.
I chose the “Honey Orchid Phoenix” Dragon tea, it’s peach-like tones appealing to my fruity sweet tooth. Described as a “‘single bush’ oolong picked from a rare tea tree on Phoenix mountain, legendary playground of demigods and fairies. It is one of only 3,000 trees directly descended from one of the famous 18 tea bushes that have existed for 900 years in a unique, beautiful tea grove.” Tea Master Pei Wan explained that t’s dragon tea because of the way the dried plant looks, like a Chinese dragon.
^ This, this is how to be enchanted by a cup of tea.
We were then guided through the art of making each of our individual teas. Pei Wan explained how long to steep the tea, how many rounds it would take for the flavour to reveal itself in the longer teas, and how often to refill the vessel from the kettle kept on the corner of the table.
It’s such a bonding way to drink – everyone takes turns to pour the self-boiling kettle for each of the rounds and lively discussions about technique ensue – and maybe a couple of sneaky pours straight into my cup when I left my phoenix tea for too long (shhh don’t tell anyone, especially Pei Wang. I’ll be barred.)
A few cups in our afternoon tea with a delicious Chinese twist began to follow.
Wakame seaweed brown bread open sandwiches
:- garlic miso-pickled cream cheese with cucumber & shichimi pepper -:
:- kumquat ginger preserve and mature cheddar -:
:- egg mayonnaise with chilli bamboo shoots -:
The ginger & cheese was surprising, and gorgeous.
:- vegetarian dumplings with sze chuan chilli oil -:
:- lo mai fan lotus leaf rice parcel -:
While both were delicious, it was the lotus leaf rice parcel that won my stomach. It was delicious, and hearty.
:- warm scone with clotted cream & rose petal jam -:
Sweets and pàtisserie
:- yuzu marshmallows -:
:- hua sheng su peanut sesame cookie -:
:- olive oil lemon cake & mango curd -:
:- nutty choccy soft-set fudge -:
Winner? The coconutty soft-set fudge was gorgeous.
I know my limits, and my clumsy writing skills can’t aptly convey the ethos of this calm oasis with any beauty. All I know is that we had a wonderful, relaxing time.
Don’t you love looking at other people’s cookery books? Such a great mix too.
Teanamu has to be one of London’s, certainly Notting Hill’s best kept secrets. Just be careful to follow the directions carefully, or go with a pro. It’s a short wander from Westbourne Park or a 10 minute trot from Notting Hill Gate.
It was most definitely a contrast to the last time I was in Notting Hill for the carnival.
I think I could peruse the listings on their website for hours, just for the beautiful descriptions of their new teas (and by the way they haven’t asked me to write a blog or promote them in any way, I paid with my own hard earned money, but found it such a fun experience I just had to share, just like the very different Willy Wonka one. I lurve afternoon tea, second best meal of the day after brunch!)
It goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to leave London to travel. Enjoy a slice of Chinese tea tradition in tube Zone One. Isn’t it amazing what London has hidden up her sleeves?