The range of tea available in London is simply amazing. I'm not talking about the blended teas; we've got a good array at home too. I'm talking about full leaf Chinese, Japanese, Darjeelings and Assams from India. The teas are available at Waitrose and most supermarkets, higher grades also available at specialty tea shops, and the best part, cafes adopt good teas (Waterloo Tea, Canton Tea Co, Rare Tea Company, etc) to serve to customers, brewing them beautifully. WOAH. It's such a joy to be immersed in just reading the labels of the various teas.
Since I understand both English and Chinese, a kind friend wanted to introduce a tea master to me and said this tea master likes to speak in Mandarin at times while lecturing about tea. Apparently the tea master resides in London and does private tastings from time to time. However, he warned, "You must address him as '老师' (Teacher), and be silent when he rambles about fixed notions of certain issues." Errm...NO THANK YOU. I'm quite scarred by these '老师' types. Never again. Quite happy to go around on my own. I'm not 10 years old; I can research for the information myself. A more circuitous route, but I'll get there.
I enjoy the gatherings at the tea clubs. Some tea companies hold them, and that's great. I love it when sources and estates are also openly and merrily discussed within these gatherings, instead of answering my questions with vague and non-specific replies. As though it's such a secret as to which estate produces good tea. Seriously. Anyway, I prefer the more liberal yet structured environment of tea workshops in London. Pity I couldn't go to Berlin to visit the awesome Paper & Tea.
For some reason, the red tea (known as 'black' in Europe, so many companies label accordingly) from Yunnan- Dian Hong (滇红) has been quite the winner on this trip. Yah, I crazy tea lady, brought a (among others) stash of Dian Hong to London. Brought one of my favorite gaiwans too. Green tea is easily procured here. But my palate leans towards heavier flavors. While I love coffee and doesn't need tea daily, it's nice to sip a good cup of tea in between. So the Dian Hong provides that oomph, malt and sweetness that no earl grey or lapsang souchong could replicate.