About 350 years ago some unknown someone, or somebodies, introduced to the island nation I inhabit a drink made out of the brewed leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. It had quite an impact. The people liked it so much its importation created trade deficits with China. The ensuing attempts to counteract this by selling opium to the Chinese, sparked the first Opium war. And after failing to set up plantations with illegally smuggled seeds in Britain's murky climes, they set about sowing great swathes of India with this special plant. Across the atlantic it was involved in another little ruckus when the residents of Boston destroyed crates of the stuff in a lively protest...
I can understand the fuss. There have been so many occasions when this ancient drink has been just the elixir to ease aches and pains and worries and weariness. It leaps to the rescue, it comforts, it soothes, it revives. It brings together, it refreshens. Morning tea, afternoon tea, tea break, after dinner tea, lunchtime tea, black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong, earl grey, jasmine, gunpowder, caravan. I love it all.
One day a little while back I was feeling a little grey, a little weary and tired, a little lost and uninspired. I was trudging through the streets of London, quite aimlessly, as I often did in the days before nine-to-five. And I noticed I was outside a little shop I'd seen often before, with blue and white awnings and windows full of pastries. It must have been nearly Christmas because there were rows upon rows of endearingly imperfectly shaped mince pies alongside the normal enticing confections.
I had nothing better to do. I went in and sat upstairs and ordered a pot of tea and a pastry. And the joy at having proper tea in a teapot with a strainer, at having the best pain au raisin I'd ever eaten, and sitting in this small scruffy smoky room strewn with handmade paper Christmas decorations, erased all the lacklustreness I'd been feeling. And I loved it ever since.
So if you find yourself in Soho, on Greek Street, in front of a little french patisserie/cafe with a blue and white awning, go in and have a cup of tea. They've been up and running for over a hundred years apparently and they're pretty damn good at what they do.
28 Greek Street
020 7437 6007
And look at the cake I had! (on my last visit, with little sister saucepan, partner in crime and cakes).
I'm dreaming of it all - tea and cakes and escape from the bustle - now, as I ache with mild wintery illness and irksome work travel. Oh, for a cup of tea.
"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future." ~Thich Nat Hahn