I haven't done anything tea-related since I started this blog. Bad Tea Queen! So I'll dedicate this post to my tea experiences in London.
First of all, I can't say the tea is better over there - it's tea, which is good anywhere. That being said, I do like the little things, like the fact that many eateries serve tea in pots, whether bagged or loose. This is a rare thing for New York, where you have to go to a tea-themed restaurant to even see a teapot. Still, every once in a while I ordered tea and got the bag with nowhere to put it but the saucer. Why would anyone do this to their customers? Don't they know what happens when you put a spent teabag on a saucer? The minute you raise the cup to your lips, little drops flicker off the bottom onto your lovely new white top, and you lose any teatime decorum you may have acquired in past years. But I digress.....
Second, though I know that London has been infected with chain store-itis, I have absolutely no problem with one particular shop scattered all over the high streets: Whittard. Sometimes they call it Whittard of Chelsea. Anyway, this is a shop that sells all kinds of loose teas in tins and bags, however you like it. There are flavored teas and estate teas, even first-flush Darjeeling. For those that like it fast and sweet, they sell instant teas in cans that last forever. You can usually sample a few of these in the shops. Then there are teapots, cups, strainers, tea towels, gift sets, tourist items...anythinga tea lover would go for, it's there at reasonable prices. My sister Pam bought a book there written by one of Whittard's tea blenders. I must read it sometime. A few of the Whittard shops, one in Covent Garden and one in Carnaby Street, also have a T-Zone. In this section you can blend your own flavored teas! I managed to do this on my last day there, though I spilled some of the dried fruits.
Of notable mention is the Haagen Dazs Cafe in Leicester Square. They have Ice Cream Tea on the menu. For a rather exhorbitant price, you get a scoop of ice cream, a mediocre scone with cream and jam, and a pot of tea. I secured my position as Clumsy Tourist of Astoria by knocking over our table when leaving the cafe. I watched in slow motion as the teapot careened to the floor. Thankfully it didn't shatter.
But my favorite tea experience in London is, and always will be, The Muffin Man. It's located near Kensington High Street tube station. Here, for a decent price, you get the best tasting scones in the world. Once in a while a few of them get slightly burned. Otherwise, they are perfect. The atomosphere is cozy and feminine, but I saw a number of men enjoying lunch here. Their sandwiches are also to die for. Their cakes are okay too. If you ever make it to London, make time to visit the Muffin Man, even if it's not on Drury Lane.