- Tea aficionados (duh)
- Ladies who lunch,
- Men who lunch,
- Tea aficionados who lunch,
- People who really get into the idea of a ‘beverage’,
- People who really want to get into the idea of a ‘beverage’,
- People interested in exploring other cultures with their mouths (no, not like that),
- The (probably) nonexistent stereotype of the Bowler hat wearing Englishman with a name like Jules who subsists mainly off of a diet of gin, tea and triangular sandwiches…
“Some people will tell you there is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
You might not think it, but the humble tea leaf (Camelia Sinesis) is one of the few consumables that you might be able to bond over with an old man from rural China, or a someone from a tiny village in the Himalayan steppes (though you’ll probably have quite different ideas on how best to prepare it). Here in the UK we traditionally ferment it ’til it’s black, then serve it with middle fat milk and an optional spoonful of sugar or two. The classic ‘Builder’s Brew‘ (I’m not a fan…).
The Japanese pick the highest quality tea leaves and grind them into a fine dusty powder that they call Mat-Cha (抹茶), or serve the rougher ones with roasted brown rice and sorghum in a mix that they call Genmai-Cha (玄米茶)
The Chinese pick the tips off of the buds to create the almost ethereally delicate Silver Needle Tea (白毫银针), or they roll the stronger, less delicate and less costly leaves into tiny little balls of tannic joy called Gunpowder Tea (珠茶). The Indians ferment the leaves (’til they’re black) and serve it with a bunch of aromatic herbs and spices, usually with a little sweetener, creating a wonderfully aromatic thing that they call Masala Chai. We all do it differently, but we all do it, all the same. You get my drift…
Tea is a beautiful and diverse thing, and in the UK I’ve found few better places to enjoy it in all of it’s many incarnations as the delightful Amanzi Tea Rooms, which I shall now tell you all about…
(Also I’d like to add that they have tea cocktails – which can only be a very good idea.)
Amanzi is situated in the picturesque and delightful Marylebone, where you’ll find redonkulously expensive houses, Madame Tussaud’s, and people like me, looking a little confused and out of place. It’s not too far from the prestigious of private clinics and high end retail outlets that make up Harley Street, and populated by a mix of relaxed looking women in burkhas going shopping (at least I think they were relaxed, and I think they were shopping…you can never really tell)
And yes, unsurprisingly, Amanzi ‘do’ tea, lots of tea. But maybe not in the way that you’ve had it. See, it’s not like they view the cup of Builder’s or Twining’s Green Tea as some sort of low brow affair, undeserving of the ‘true tea connoisseur’. It’s just that they’re on a mission to educate anyone who comes close enough on the wide, wide world of tea. Because on the whole what you and I enjoy is probably only a fraction of what we could be enjoying.
Evidence to this passion (and sheer diversity) comes once you step into through Amanzi’s welcoming doors to be greeted by what I can only describe as a beautiful shrine to tea. They call it The Tea Wall (*as you read this text, an angelic harp plays*), and every colourful blend that you see there is available to buy, take home for yourself, or to just admire.
I spent some time down there in the late evening, and so got to see it in the quiet twilight hours. It was all quite relaxing, not really the kind of frenetic, caffeine infused atmosphere that you get at your typical coffee shop (big chain or not). I think that tea is one of those things that was designed to be enjoyed in contemplation and relaxation – which was a feeling I got from there. It may get busier in the day, but in the evening it would make the perfect spot to take a particularly serene friend for a quiet discussion. About Buddhism or Kundalini or something.
Despite the tea cocktails, I can’t really see any shenanigans going down in quaint little Amanzi, so don’t be getting any ideas wilder than bubble tea…
I’d heard about people who cared about the green tea more than me – but until I met Amanzi’s Marina, I hadn’t met one in person. Marina is a friendly, Spanish sounding woman who seems to decide how things must run in the Marylebone tea room scene, and who is more than willing to take Amanzi’s diners through the finer points of the shop’s multitudinous beverages. She also knows everything. Like some kind of smiling Hispanic, tea centric encyclopaedia.
She’s a Master Of Tea. Which means that she’s actually got formal qualifications that prove how much she knows about tea and all the things you can do with it (and there was me wasting my study time trying to be a physicist). Anyway, she took us through an assortment of Amanzi’s offerings, (you can see in the shot above – they served them to us in smaller shot glasses to test).
The red ones are herbal teas (also known as tisanes) or some of Amanzi’s Rooiboss (red bush) blends – which are made from all sorts and boast fruity names like Roasted Almond (you can taste the almond) and Sweet Passion Fruit (again, you can taste the constituent ingredient). The middle ones are the more regular, East Asian green teas, such as Gyokuro, Sencha Wakame and Jasmine Pearl (a personal favourite). The creamier looking ones on the left were teas with added milk – of these I’d recommend the Green Matcha Latte (which is a bit like drinking some sort of subtle tea ice cream) and Spiced Chai (frapped), which is also another experience your mouth should have soon.
Hubble Bubble Boil And… Tea
I do want to give you a brief account of my (not at all hyperbolic) experience with Amanzi’s bubble tea.
I’d heard many (good) things about this substance, so greatly beloved by the hip young Asians you see hanging about in Soho. Unlike a lot of the other teas created for your delectation and delight, bubble tea AKA ‘Boba Tea’ was only invented quite recently, coming about in the 1980s in the tea houses of Taiwan.
And, as a man who’s had his fair share of purple sludgy substances (e.g what comes out of the blender when you combine red salmon and red cabbage and cinnamon) – I’m pretty sure that Amanzi’s is the best. Of course ‘purple sludge’ isn’t at all a good way to describe bubble tea, I just wanted to make a reference to my ‘Blendered Salmon Surprise‘™, which, now done, we can move on from.
Bubble tea (or at least how they serve it) consists mainly of a milk creamer base , a sweetener , some colorant (because as you probably know, aint no tea leaf that turns stuff purple on it’s own). It’s a bit like a cross between a milkshake and I suppose, iced tea. You get a variety of ‘bubbles’, I picked the traditional kind, which are ones made of tapioca starch. This results in a texture that is thick and creamy like a milkshake, but with a tea backtaste and with chewy little tapioca bits that stick to your teeth (in a good way). I think the the tea flavour I went with was Papaya – I just remember it being awesome.
Honestly, like all tastes the contrast is impossible to describe – all I can be is the finger pointing at the moon. And the moon is made of tea. And you should go visit it because otherwise you’ll always wonder why you never tried bubble tea and it might eat away at you and that would be sad 🙁 …
They give you a Bubble tea of course is just one of the ways to enjoy the Amanzi experience (and what with all the calories and sweetener it is one of the less healthy ways)
Very good for a uh…civilized and mellow drinking experience. As a guy with a penchant for East Asian teas I’ve gotta say that I was impressed by the quality and the selection of the things they have here. I’m still not all that sold on tisanes, but given some time and more to try I might be persuaded.
I took a tea loving friend friend, who enjoyed it very much. She described it in her very excellent way of characterising things as “a sweetshop of teas”. That’s kinda what Amanzi is.
And, barring some catastrophe of memory, trying bubble tea here will be one of those events lodged in my pachyderm memory until the day I expire. If you have any friends who see themselves as tea connoisseurs, take them here and push their knowledge to it’s ultimate limits. You’ll enjoy it and you might even find a new favourite.
A: 24 New Cavendish Street, W1G 8TX
P: 020 7935 5510