To Covent Garden for tea

I do like my tea. (I like my coffee too, but that’s another story – see The Little Man with the Moustache.) I drink my tea black and while I’ll take “English Breakfast” or “Yorkshire Tea”, if that’s what’s going, I prefer something a little more special. The sort of tea I like is not to be found in the supermarket – I have to go to one of the specialist tea importers.

Covent Garden tube station
Covent Garden tube station
stands on the corner of James Street with Long Acre

My current favourite tipple is a blend called “Russian Caravan”. A good blend of Russian Caravan is strong and has a smoky flavour. At least, that’s the sort that I like. The problem is that I don’t think there is a specific recipe for this blend and tea retailers make up their own, often without being very specific about what they put in it. I suspect that they sometimes palm off their leftovers and less satisfactory teas by mixing it up as “Russian Caravan”.

Not my bookshop
Not my bookshop
I used to work here but in those days it was a bookshop

I discovered Russian Caravan by accident. I had bought a lot of different teas to try and one day decided to mix the remnants all together to use them up. By a sheer stroke of luck, the result was wonderful. I decided to try to recreate it and by a process of trial and error came up with a blend of three teas: Keemun, Formosa Oolong and Lapsang Souchong. It’s the latter that confers the smoky taste to a good Russian Caravan blend.

James Street
James Street
Looking down James Street towards old Covent Garden Market

Buying several packets of tea, mixing the contents together and then spooning the mixture back into the packets and resealing them is not difficult but if it can be avoided, well, why not avoid it? I have been ordering and trying the different “Russian Caravan” blends sold by a number of importers without finding one that satisfies me. So I have gone back to buying the ingredients and mixing them myself.

The old market building
The old market building
No longer a fruit and vegetable market but a fancy goods market and shopping centre for tourists

You can buy tea online, of course, and I have a list of firms that I have bought from. When you buy online, you usually have to pay postage on top of the price of the tea so it’s an advantage if there is a shop you can visit. The nearest one I know is the Tea House in Neal Street in Covent Garden. And that is where I went this morning.

Neal Street
Neal Street
Neal street leads you to the heart of “alternative” Covent Garden

I started out quite early, hoping to get the shopping done and leave the rest of the day free for other things I had to do. I took the Piccadilly Line from King’s Cross to Covent Garden station (see above). Even though I was in a hurry, I couldn’t visit to Covent Garden without having a little look around.

Still closed
Still closed
I’m too early: the shop doesn’t open until 10 am

There is a slight sense of nostalgia because I worked in Covent Garden for a few years. I was a bookshop assistant for a chain called Books etc which occupied the premises on the corner of James Street and Floral Street which is now a branch of Dune. The chain was taken over by Borders, and this company collapsed a while ago so “my” bookshop no longer exists.

To fill in time until the Tea House opened, I went on an erratic tour of the area, often crossing back and forth over my own tracks. Here are some of the things I saw.

Seven Dials
Seven Dials
So called because seven roads radiate out from the centre marked by a clock tower which is currently in swaddling;
let’s hope it recovers its rightful place again soon.

Eterno coffee bar
Eterno coffee bar
I love the optimism of the name: they obviously expect to be here for quite a while…

Your skin reborn?
Your skin reborn?
Can your skin be reborn? Is someone awkwardly mixing metaphors?

The Astrology Shop
The Astrology Shop
Religion and magic (is there any difference between them?) find a natural centre in Covent Garden; it is all too easy
to delude those who already delude themselves

Mysteries
Mysteries
With some mysterious people looking in the window

The lights are on
The lights are on
Back at the Tea House, the lights are on; they’re open!

My walk filled the interval nicely and prevented me feeling that I was wasting my time while waiting. Inside the shop, they are still vacuum cleaning the carpet and tidying up. I step over the trailing cable of the cleaner and go to the corner where the packets of tea are kept. I make my choice, peer at the pretty tea sets and the exotic tea pots and then make once more for the tube station, safely provisioned with tea for the next few weeks.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to To Covent Garden for tea

  1. WOL says:

    I love a good Darjeeling tea. I used to be able to get a “Honey Darjeeling” but of course, because I liked it so much, they quit offering it. I’m also rather fond of Earl Grey, but some brands are better than others, I’ve found. I prefer those kinds that go easy on the bergamont. Which reminds me, I need to go make another pitcher of tea. . . .

    • SilverTiger says:

      I dislike tea contaminated with other things, except that I will on occasion have tea with a slice of lemon in it. Bergamot is something I particularly dislike. The other day in a restaurant I ordered a Darjeeling tea only to find it was laced with bergamot. Fortunately, they changed it for me.

  2. peter says:

    Might I ask what is the ratio between the various teas in your “Russian Caravan” blend?

    • SilverTiger says:

      The recipe I use at present is 1 part Keemun, 1 part Lapsang Souchong and 2 parts Formosa Oolong.

      Because teas vary greatly in character and quality, even a fixed recipe is likely to give variable results.

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