Last year I discovered another great tea shop in London – Tea in the City. First, I was instantly attracted by the assortment, and the simplicity and elegance of the site. Next, I was impressed by the dedication and kindness of Thomas, the owner of Tea in the City. Some tea shops have it, some don’t, and so far I’ve noticed that there is a deep and strong connection between the quality of tea and the kindness of its owner. I wanted to know more. Thomas agreed for a short interview for Tea Chronicles.
Featured Image Source: Tea in the City
Tea Chronicles: Thomas, when and why did you start Tea in the City? It’s clear how much knowledge and dedication is put into your tea shop. Have you been a tea drinker for a long time?
Thomas: The seeds of Tea in the City were sown in 2013. I was in Shanghai and stumbled upon one of its numerous tea shops. The owner invited me to one to a tasting, I sat down and an hour later was blown away by the amazing flavours. I had been a life long tea drinker prior to that point, but had not appreciated that my expectations of tea were somewhat lowered. Having come back to the UK after the trip, I tried to recreate the experience of that tea shop, but after visiting numerous tea shops and cafes I couldn’t find anything of that appeal. So I decided to bring it over from source myself.
Tea Chronicles: You have some of the most unusual and exceptional teas in Europe – from Jeju to Colombian, Hawaiian and Georgian black teas. Even the „ordinary“ Chinese and Japanese teas are far from ordinary. How do you choose your teas?
Thomas: First, I choose the location. I love travelling (who doesn’t?), and these days my travel bucket list is comprised of countries that grow tea somewhere – which surprisingly still makes quite a long list! Then, I choose the tea. I look for teas with distinct tasting profiles, and ones that are different to the teas I already carry. There are times I come back empty handed, ie I just do not find good enough tea in a particular location – but this doesn’t mean the trip wasn’t worth making.
Tea Chronicles: I literally fell in love with your Russian teas. What made it possible for Tea in the City to offer extraordinary teas like Krasnodar Green and Krasnodar Gold?
Thomas: Over the past few years I ended up visiting all the tea growing regions of the Caucasus: Georgia, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, some more than once, but as I said previously, not every trip equals a new Tea in the City tea. While each tea trip is planned in terms of itinerary and a local guide, where I end up going is often due to sheer luck. Finding Krasnodar teas certainly wasn’t easy, what was even more difficult was taking them out of Russia. Russian authorities just didn’t understand why someone would want to send Russian grown tea to the UK. Thankfully, we convinced them in the end.
Tea Chronicles: You put a lot of effort into sharing tea knowledge as well. What is more important for becoming an avid tea drinker, having the right information or trying the right tea?
Thomas: Trying the right tea, definitely. While there is a lot of tea knowledge around, and this may help in terms of direction, your tastebuds are the ultimate judge of what’s good and what’s not.
Tea Chronicles: And, my favourite question: What is your favourite tea?
Thomas: I think the right answer is: it depends. It is true that seasons, weather and mood can drive individual tea perceptions. My problem is that I am not an objective judge, as I can relate each of the Tea in the City teas to a place and a person, so they are a bit like memories in a cup. Having said that, I have a bit of a soft spot for notes of tropical fruits in tea, so Hawaii’s Pacific Oolong and Wuyi’s Rare Orchid Oolong never fail to disappoint me.
Tea Chronicles: Thank you for your time, and I hope to see more amazing unique teas coming up in your shop.
Thomas: Thank you.