Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tea in London Day 2 Teapod London, A Modern Tea Cafe and Tower Bridge

I settled in after a great first day in London and to my surprise the movie Notting Hill was on TV.  It was filmed on location in the Notting Hill area of London that was very close to where I was staying.  It was the perfect movie to watch and little did I know that I would be headed that way in the morning to get on the tube for my appointment.

Here are some pictures of my walk along High Kensington Street to the Notting Hill tube station.  It was early and the quaint antique shops and enticing cafes weren't open just yet, but it was fun to window shop along the way to the tube! 

It was just me along with all the morning commuters on their way to work on the streets so early.  The sky was overcast and there was a briskness in the winter air as I strolled along.  I found it peaceful to walk to the tube before all the shops had opened as I was able to appreciate the architecture of the buildings and my surroundings. 

After taking the tube and making my connection properly, I got off at the London Bridge exit.  The tea shop where I had my appointment was down just past the Tower Bridge.  I found the walk from London Bridge to Tower Bridge along the Thames River invigorating and scenic.  It was still rather early and most of the tourist weren't out yet so the walk was quiet and uncrowded-a welcomed moment! 

I found my way to my destination which was Teapod.  This is one of two of their locations in London. I just loved the green door and couldn't wait to find out more about the shop and of course have some TEA!

This tea cafe is welcoming as soon as you walk in! It is a tea place that if you are wearing jeans, you will not feel under-dressed which is very reason I wanted to visit and chat with the owner.  For research for my new book, I thought it was important to visit many different types of tea establishments to get a real feel and vibe of tea in London and the tea trendsetters.

Here is a the tea display just by the door so that you may take home your favorite tea and enjoy it.

As I sat down to talk with the owner of Teapod, Huw Marks , we enjoyed many cups of their tea together.  Huw's background was in television working for the BBC.  On holiday to Australia, he noticed some modern tea cafes in the area and thought it looked like a interesting idea for the second wave of his career.  He took his time researching and even made a trip to the USA to visit contemporary tea cafes in New York City and Chicago. 

Teapod is a modern tea place that sells and serves loose leaf tea along with breakfast, lunch, and pastries throughout the day.  Our appointment was just after the breakfast crowd left, but after meeting, the place was quickly filling up with the lunch crowd as you can see. Do you notice what appears to be a picture on the wall and above it says teapod timer?

Here it is closer up.  The purpose is to help those customers that aren't familiar with the idea that different types of teas require different steeping times.  

The loose leaf tea is served with the tea still in an infuser inside the teapot.  Along with the teapot, you are given a teacup and a timer. On the saucer of the cup, the customer is given a small card explaining the type of tea they have along with how long it should steep.  I thought it was a great way to not only educate their customers, but also is great marketing.  Many British folks aren't too familiar with loose leaf tea, so when you walk into Teapod, you know it is a little bit different.

I was so grateful to Huw for taking the time  to help me better understand tea in London and the UK.   If you are going to the London Olympic Summer Games, this is one of only four locations for the large screens to see what is going on.  How perfect to have a cup of tea and watch your teams! 

As I headed out, I had to cross Tower Bridge not only for pure enjoyment and marvel, but also to get on the tube for my next tea stop.  What an amazing bridge.  I have crossed over many a bridge in my day, but none like this.  The bridge crosses the Thames River and was the second bridge to open with the London Bridge being the first.

Please join me next time for my rest of my second day in London.  Of course there will be plenty of tea involved along with fulfilling another dream of mine!  

Happy Sipping with Lovely Thoughts of London, Lisa 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tea in London Day 1 The Orangery at Kensington Gardens and Harrods

It has been a dream of mine ever since I saw Princess Diana walk down the isle on TV that I wanted to go to London.  It seemed like a magical place filled with royal happenings and majestic architecture.  My dream grew even stronger once I fell in love with tea. 

It finally came true just after Christmas and I want to share with all of you where I went and what I did.  Of course, as with all of my blogs, it will have a slight (OK well strong) tea slant to it! 

I took off on my journey to Sri Lanka and scheduled a four day layover in London.  I made a list of things I wanted to see and appointments with those I needed to talk to for research for my new book. 

After some searching, it was suggested I stay in the Kensington area of London which  was lovely.  My inn was just a couple short blocks away from Kensington palace.  This is the palace where Princess Dianna lived after her separation from Prince Charles. Unfortunately, the palace was under renovation at the time, but the tearoom next to the palace was open. 

File:Kensingtonhighstreet.jpgAfter flying all night, I figured out how to get from the airport to my inn using the tube (subway) and it was fairly easy to navigate.  After checking in, I quickly showered and was ready to go have my first cup of tea and some lunch in London.  I chose the Orangery because of how close it was to my inn and the history of the building.  It is just adjacent to Kensington Palace and Gardens.

It is a charming tearoom built originally by the request of Queen Anne as a greenhouse for the Kensington Gardens in 1704-1705.  It was fashionable for the wealthy to import tropicals to their garden for their beauty and also their fruit.  However, due to the climate in London, it was important to find a home for "the oranges" during the cold winter months.  An "orangery" greenhouse was the solution.

It was a beautiful sunny day in London and it was the perfect location to enjoy the afternoon.  It is apparent when I walked into the tearoom and saw the beautiful large elaborate windows that fill the interior with light of its purpose in its prior life.

Here is a closer look at the detailed woodwork.

I had to pinch myself to know I was really in London at a place royals had visited for centuries!

The tearoom is beautiful from its expansive windows and high ceilings that it doesn't require much embellishment as you can see.  To keep with the "orangery" theme, each table has a real small orange plant on the table as a centerpiece. 

I was quite hungry after just having airplane food for breakfast very much earlier in the day.  I am often a skeptic of tourist places for the quality of food, so I was cautiously optimistic. 

 I chose the warm salad of roasted chicken and butternut squash with tarragon dressing.  I was delighted when I tasted my salad as it was so good.  The chicken was moist and well roasted and the squash was just the right amount of softness without being mushy.  

To make my experience even better, I ordered a pot of Afternoon at the Palace which is a blend Darjeeling and China black tea.  It was served in a white teapot.  To my surprise, they even had it in a tea sac so I could decant the leaves when I thought they had steeped enough. 

Ahhh, my first cup of tea in London did not disappoint.

I just sat for some time enjoying my surroundings and my tea.  It was the perfect place to welcome myself to London on a beautiful unusually sunny winter afternoon.

When I finished my lunch, I enjoyed walking through the large gardens that connect to Hyde Park.  Then, I was off to Harrods along with everyone else in London! The after Christmas sales were in full swing, but I did manage to check out the tea happenings at Harrods. There are many floors and opportunities for tea on most of them.  Here is just one of them below.

I hopped on a double-decker red bus back to my inn-another thing I always wanted to do! I even managed to take the correct one too which was a quite a relief. There is something liberating and fun to discover new places on your own. 

I couldn't believe it. I was in London!  It was a perfect first day!  My next blog will be full of new tea places and stops.

Happy Sipping with Memories of London, Lisa