Magazine article The Spectator

Is It Time for Tea?

Magazine article The Spectator

Is It Time for Tea?

Article excerpt

As so often with a tale of fads and fashions, we must begin our journey in pursuit of the rebirth of the tea shop in the west London enclave of Notting Hill. An interesting-looking place called the Tea Palace (www. teapalace. com) opened up on Westbourne Grove last year. Could this be it? I wondered as I went in the other day. Could this be the beginning of Britain's revenge on the omnipresent Starbucks? I don't know about you, but these days I avoid that purveyor of expensive, coffee-flavoured milkshakes. It is liable to bring out unworthy feelings of antiAmericanism in me. Starbucks is the Yankee grey squirrel of the high street, which has reduced our native tea and coffee shops to a few redoubts in the North.

Sadly, the Tea Palace disappoints. It is too formal and too like a restaurant.

Furthermore, it is in Notting Hill, which is populated by obvious Starbucks types like Stella McCartney, Kate Moss and ambitious Tory MPs. Something more interesting is going on five miles away in the prosperous suburb of Barnes. Seven months ago a delightful new tea shop called Orange Pekoe (named after a grade of large leaf tea;

tel: 020 8876 6070) opened. I like it so much that I keep going back and find myself singing its praises to all and sundry.

At this point, I should remind the many fans of the Spectator Wine Club that tea has a perfectly respectable tradition as far as this magazine is concerned. The first version of The Spectator, published by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele in the early part of the 18th century, was specifically produced for the new tea and coffee houses in which the beau monde was congregating. One of these was founded by Richard Twining at 215, The Strand. For some reason, tea was for ladies, whereas men tended towards coffee (perhaps they needed all that caffeine to trade shares in Garraway's coffee house, insure ships at Lloyd's or gamble at White's).

This year is the 300th anniversary of Twinings, and although the company still trades out of the same premises and a descendant of the founder, Stephen, has been heroically promoting its products around the world, it is safe to say that it is not as fashionable as it once was. Twinings is owned by the Weston family's AB Foods and the shop is drearily corporate.

Which brings us to back to Barnes, home to such cutting-edge characters as Lord Patten and Sir Tim Rice. …

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