I love tea. A lot. In fact, it’s more than love. My feelings for tea border on full-scale addiction (as any of you who have seen me consume upwards of five cups in a single day well know). Part of the reason I love tea so much is that there is a variety for every occasion. Tired in the morning and facing a long day? A cup of cardamom black tea or Earl Grey with a hint of Lapsang Souchong and you’ll be ready to go. Need a pick-me-up in the afternoon but want to avoid the caffeine jitters? Have some oolong, maybe with a little rose or lavender mixed in for good measure. Need to wind down in the evening? That’s the perfect time to pull out some Jasmine or Lemongrass Green. And of course, chamomile or a vanilla rooibos will always hit the spot right before bedtime.
Ever since I first discovered the wonder of tea back in middle school (the gateway was Barry’s Irish Breakfast–a delicious and inexpensive classic black), I’ve had an extensive collection on my shelf. Since moving to St. Louis a few years ago, I’ve found a few tea treasures in the city to keep me stocked and happy.
First and foremost is the London Tea Room on Washington Avenue. Their tea menu is extensive, and as full of wit and whimsy as it is of fine teas and tisanes. I can never resist a pot of the 5th of November (a black tea with smoky berry notes) when I’m there, but the Coconut Oolong also deserves special mention (it’s delicate, creamy, and cost effective since oolongs only improve on the second steep). The Tea Room has also recently transitioned to a sit down cafe menu with a full selection of soups, salads, and sandwiches (of which my favorite would probably have to be the Brie & Apple, set apart from all the others by the genius addition of a tangy lime marmalade). Finally, no review would be complete without acknowledging the Tea Room’s stunning bakery array, with everything from quiches to cupcakes to fabulous black currant scones that are simply out of this world when taken with jam and clotted cream.
So what are you waiting for? You can find the Tea Room for yourself here.
While London Tea satisfies my cravings to enjoy the occasional cup of tea in the company of friends (and scones), most of my tea drinking takes place while I answer phones and emails at work or while I read and write or snuggle up on the couch in the evenings. While it is possible to purchase bulk tea at the Tea Room, most of my home supply comes from another St. Louis gem, Jay International on South Grand. The international grocery store and market is a fascinating conglomeration of sights and smells, and the perfect place to find, say, fresh spring roll wrappers or instant dashi and miso paste. As convenient as this is when I am trying to expand my cooking horizons, the real reason I love Jay is for the tea aisle. Yes, there is an entire length of aisle devoted to tea of all sorts, and most of it is loose-leaf and beautifully packaged in colorful tins. Don’t just listen to me! See for yourself a few of the teas I’ve found at Jay:
If what you see here has inspired you to check out Jay’s tea selection, head down to 3172 South Grand Boulevard and be sure to take some time to explore the rest of the store too.
Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this writing has made me thirsty. Time to put the kettle on!
(Update: Rose Black tea steeped with a touch of Lapsang Souchong and finished with a splash of almond milk? Heavenly.)