I went to Te House of Te for the first time on Labor Day 2012, around 2pm. Thought I would have a late lunch and sample their Formosa Silk.
The place was so crowded I decided to forget lunch. I asked for Formosa Silk and was told, “Oh, we don’t have that any more.” Then a moment later the young woman taking orders said, “oh, wait — we have this.” And she pointed on the printed tea menu to an oolong that seemed to have the same description, by another name. (By the way – Formosa Silk is still listed online as available, and the tea I bought is not. I have tweeted Te House of Tea to ask the name.)
I agreed, was offered a choice of pot sizes, and I said, “Small, but could I just get it to go?”
I waited at the counter and after a moment the second young woman behing the counter brought me a big plastic glass of what looked like green tea, filled with ice and a straw, and said brightly, “Here’s your tea!”
“Thanks,” said, “but that was supposed to be to go – and not iced.”
“Oh,” she said, turning in confusion to her colleague. After a moment’s consultation she said, “Black coffee?”
“Nope,” I said, thinking, Not Even Close as they consulted again in hushed voices.
Finally I got a Styrofoam cup with hot water and a cloth teabag. It’s tea, but God knows what kind of tea it is. I didn’t get to see the leaves dry, and it doesn’t taste or smell very milky/creamy. I have no confidence that it’s what I actually ordered. It isn’t bad, but it’s nothing special.
Based on one visit I would not say “Don’t both,” but I am giving the place a “meh” rating. I’ll give it another chance later, but no promises on how long it will be before I go back.
British Isles is primarily a gift shop but among their wares is an excellent selection of tea. I’ve been going there for years, but only recently got serious about tea. Serendipitously, when I visited yesterday their tea buyer was in the shop, and she is VERY knowlegeable. I would never have found Harney’s secret Keemun (English Breakfast) without her help.
To get an idea of brands they carry, at their website click on “Food – Tea.” My impression is that all their brands are not listed on the website yet but they have dozens of Harney & Sons varieties, ditto Taylors of Harrowgate. Since they carry traditional tea, chai, and herbals/tisanes, I categorized the shop as “Modern” rather than “British.”