Whittards is a chain of British tea ware and tea shops. They have a fair selection of loose leaf and bagged tea, iced “tea”, fruit and herbal infusions, coffee, hot chocolate, tea ware, and paraphernalia.
The good: tea ware – their teapots, infusers, cups, mugs, etc are superb, and fairly priced. You can’t really go wrong here. Their selection only includes Western (aka British) tea paraphernalia (so no Gaiwans etc), but what they have is beautiful, and well made.
Their herbal and fruit infusions are interesting and generally good. Stay away from the powdered instant iced “tea”. The really good tea is not to be had in the bags and tins that they sell, but rather by weight. They have become annoying in recent years (you can only buy tea by weight in 100g increments, or 125g – if I remember correctly), and the prices have taken a hike up in recent years, but they are everywhere, and it is worth popping in if you have a moment and few pounds. Their Assam Hazelbank is really good – if they have it in stock, I highly recommend it.
The not so good: prices have gone up, which means that from an average priced shop, it is now closer to the expensive realm. If you are a tea bag person – this shop caters for Brits, which means tea bags for pots (aka without strings). The regular selection tends to be just average – decent tea, but not blow your socks off tea. Their better tea is had only by weight, and their weight limit, which doesn’t allow for 50g purchases, or heaven forbid, samples, is problematic. Tastings tend to be of the instant iced tea variety, and you can’t really taste their speciality tea. The staff is not clueless, but is far from being an expert. It’s best to go in knowing what you want. On the other hand, they never push anything – a plus.
P.S. they have pretty good hot chocolate. Worth trying.
This tiny shop is built like a tea art gallery, and may daunt you at first – but don’t let it. The owner is kind and very knowledgeable. He loves talking about his tea, and is very proud of his shop – as he should be. The tins are delightful – each one has a “postcard” on it. You can smell all the teas, ask for recommendations, or stay for a tasting. The shop has an interesting selection of teas from all over the world, many single-estate and artisan teas, and most of them unavailable elsewhere. They also have a small selection of exquisite teapots, gaiwans and tea cups. A haven for tea lovers in central London. Fantastic!
This shop is a little hard to find, tucked away in the Portobello Green arcade, at the unpopular end of Portobello market, but it is worth the visit. The place is tiny, but packed full of wonderful teas from China, from white to Pu’erh. There is a good selection of high quality Chinese teaware and accessories, and you can buy small samples of a good number of their teas. The lovely lady that owns the shop is very kind and knowledgable, and I believe that there are tastings available (I didn’t have time to stop for a tasting, I’m afraid). The tea and teaware that I bought there were all fantastic – I highly recommend it!
This is the place to go for your staple teas – Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Ceylon, Nilgiri, Kenya, Keemun – as they sell fairly decent teas and very good prices. The tea won’t be in nice boxes (as in Whittards), or caddies (as in Fortnum), but it will be well priced.
Their teaware section, on the second floor, is vast and very poorly organized. Take the time to browse – they are also well priced, and the selection is one of the largest that you’ll find.
If you are in London, do take the time to visit this store. It is much, much more than a tea store, but I will focus only on the tea section in the ground floor.
The tea section greats you as you enter from Piccadilly street, with a slew of beautiful caddies that hold Fortnum’s more popular blends or single estate teas. Sale items are located in baskets near the entrance door, and you might miss them if you don’t know where to look for them. There’s a central display for their more special blends and teas, and it is always worth looking at them and sniffing. The prices are high, but I haven’t bought something there that I’ve been disappointed with. I recommend focusing on their unique blends (Piccadilly Blend is my favourite, but Fountain Blend is also very nice), and on the special teas that aren’t prepackaged, but are sold by weight. I bought two very unique teas there over the years – a “Golden Monkey Tail” Ceylon (yes, it was a Ceylon and not a Chinese tea – I double checked), and a “Silver Dragon Beard” white tea that I haven’t seen anywhere else since, and where well worth their high price. It’s most definitely not a place to go for a bargain, but for a special tea, or a beautiful gift for a tea lover – it fits the bill.
A good selection of tea accessories, teaware, brewing paraphernalia – mostly geared towards British brewing (no Gaiwans or Yixing teapots). A fairly good selection of tea – particularly of flavoured tea and blends. They have less kinds of tea and less “interesting” teas than Le Palais de The, but they are better priced. Be sure to look and smell before you buy (99% of tea sold there is loose leaf tea, sold by weight), particularly if you are buying less popular teas. I opted not to buy pu’erh there after they tried to sell me a bad batch (smelled like fish).
If you need a new teapot or a caddy – go there. The prices are better and the selection is better than Le Palais de The. If you want a good tea – you’re better off buying from Le Palais or buying online.
Nice place, small selection of pricey tea ware, good selection of teas (somewhat pricey). They showcase their blends and flavoured teas mostly, so be sure to ask if you can’t see the tea you want on display. They have an OK website and a pretty knowledgable staff. There’s a loyalty system that awards frequent buyers with discounts and gifts.
The shop attendants are somewhat snooty and the prices are on the high side, so that’s why I gave them 4 out of 5 stars