Tea makes a wonderful gift, and Kusmi Teas exotic and colourful packaging means you don’t even need wrapping paper.
With its fashionable Gallic style and visual flair, I had assumed that Kusmi was originally a Parisian company.
But as I discovered on their website, Kusmi was started 140 years ago by a P.M. Kousmichoff, the son of a Russian peasant. There is a London connection as his son came here in 1907 to hone his tea blending skills.
After a long history involving escaping from the Reds and surviving being run by arty-types, Kusmi now have a branch on Marylebone High Street. (more…)
Someone should make a film about HR Higgins Coffee Man esq.. The tale of how he started his coffee roasting enterprise in wartime London is heroic stuff.
Evading incendiary bombs, showing cunning in getting a licence to trade; featuring characters with one leg, and help along the way from Misses Fox and Jenkins of South Moulton Street – whose cake kitchen saved the day – makes for a fascinating and jaunty read.
I imagine Trevor Howard in the leading role…but I’m getting carried away. (more…)
Walking along Shaftesbury Avenue, pondering where to get some nice tea, it suddenly occurred to me that I was near Chinatown – surely a good place to hunt down supplies.
At number 124 is Beijing Tong Ren Tang. I have gazed at the orange and gold facade many times from the excellent watch-the-world-go-by-window of the cafe of Curzon cinema on the opposite side of the street.
It never really occurred to me to think what they sold, (more…)
Earl Grey was Prime Minister of the British Isles from 1830-34. Famous for having a type of tea named after him, he lived at number 13 Carlton House Terrace.
Next door, at number 12, the Institute of Contemporary Arts has a lovely café, that serves a good cup of tea all these years later.
The ICA was formed in the 1940’s by Surrealist Roland Penrose and anarchist Herbert Read as a meeting place for artists and intellectuals. It has been in the Mall since the sixties.
Today, there is an art house cinema, gallery space, and art bookshop. They stock an impressive range of art theory books with zippy titles (more…)
Prufrock coffee has a reputation bar none in the world of the coffee geek. I hope they don’t mind being referred to as geeks as they are charming and friendly folk, but the lengths they go to make a brew are impressive.
No flicking the kettle on here, this is a veritable laboratory of caffeine. Chrome contraptions to weigh, time, filter and take temperature. (more…)
‘Convent’ Garden was the 13th century kitchen garden of the Abbey of St Peter, Westminster.
In 1630 the Duke of Bedford commissioned Inigo Jones to build houses ‘fit for the habitations of gentleman’. Inspired by trips to Italy, he created Covent Garden Piazza – the first open square in England.
Market stalls have been trading in the area since the mid-17th century. When the fire of London destroyed smaller markets, it became the most important fruit, veg and flower market in the country.
In 1973 the market was relocated to Nine Elms and Covent Garden faced demolition. It was saved by campaigners, and is now a lively area of shops and (more…)
The extraordinary redevelopment of the area around Kings Cross Station continues apace. Since the Eurostar terminal arrived at St Pancras in 2007, the area has seen the opening of King’s Place – a canal side arts centre and home of the Guardian newspaper; the restoration and reopening of Sir Gilbert Scott’s much-loved Midland Hotel and an impressive new roof at Kings Cross Station.
Recently Granary Square, an expansive cobbled space north of Regents Canal, has opened, making apparent the scale of the final project (it even has a new postcode, NC1).
Formerly a canal basin where barges unloaded their goods, (more…)
One my recent visit to Samuel Johnson’s House, I bought a booklet of essays entitled ‘Tea and coffee in the age of Dr Johnson’; a fascinating insight into the coffee houses of 18th century London.
I learned that one of the early coffee shops was called Tom’s. Established by Thomas Twining in 1706 nearby the shop on Strand that sells tea to this day. Tom’s had a library and was ‘…a place renowned for its polite and scholarly interests’*. Further up Fleet Street was Nando’s coffee shop (perhaps shortened from Fernando’s).
I am reminded of this 300 odd years later, and (more…)
Postcards Teas travel extensively in Asia, working with small-scale producers to find the finest teas which you can buy from 9 Dering Street, a former 18th century grocers shop.
The lovely calm space has tea simply displayed and beautifully packaged in brushed metal canisters; each with a unique postcard and (more…)
Heddon Street loops off Regent Street towards the Piccadilly end. In 1973 Ziggy Stardust landed with his Spiders from Mars at no. 23 and changed the world. An old red telephone box, featured the back of the album cover, sits in the far corner, past a bar where everything, including the glasses is made of ice (useless for tea cup!).
Forty years on, Heddon Street has been branded, a bit clumsily, as ‘Food Quarter.’ There is a good choice of restaurants, many with tables outside. It is car-free so has a pleasant, courtyard feel.
Momo restaurant, with its impressive Moroccan inspired interior, has been (more…)