TWG Tea has arrived in Knightsbridge, perhaps the classiest neighbourhood in London. I could not be happier, as I am a tea drinker and I love Singapore. Yes, those two topics are indeed very much associated.
This luxury tea brand was established in 2008 in Singapore, in celebration of the island’s great history as a trading post for teas, spices and fine epicurean products. The tea trade was made official in Singapore with the creation of the Chamber of Commerce in 1837, a date which TWG Tea honours as the commencement of Singapore’s domination as the Far East’s most illustrious trading post, a haven for celebrated tea clippers loaded with the most precious of elixirs.
I first came across these teas and their tearooms in Singapore, so it was not only a thrill but also a sense of déjà vu, and a rather delicious one too, when I discovered that they would now be coming to London! The story has not been confined to Singapore and London; TWG Tea tasters travel around the world every year, sampling hundreds of teas to add to the collection. There are in fact over 800 single-estate, fine-harvest teas and exclusive blends. These are the equivalent of chateau-named wines, and are prized by connoisseurs.
Tempting arrays of ceramic teapots
All the TWG shops seem to display their teas in the most magnificent fashion. Huge tea tins holding hundreds of different teas are now here in Knightsbridge. I asked and, yes, they are all full! There are tempting arrays of ceramic teapots, those exquisite insulated teapots in silver and gold metal, cast-iron Japanese teapots, and Chinese clay pots. Those who enjoy the Russian tradition of serving tea are not forgotten, as I noticed a shiny samovar; using this gives a different tea-tasting experience.
The TWG Tea company now has over 70 tea salons and boutiques in the capitals of 19 countries around the world: Japan to the UK, Dubai to China, Thailand to South Korea. They are found in the best locations, such as Harrods which is just a short walk from this tea salon – but it’s worth that little trot.
We were taking tea at TWG in Knightsbridge and it was an oasis of polished calm and charm. The main tea salon is elevated at the back of the tea boutique, and away from the traffic of the thronging city. There are some tables outside on the pavement for alfresco dining. I think those tables will be coveted by those tourists for whom black taxis are a novelty.
A copious afternoon tea
The tearoom was bright and airy, illuminated by an impressive skylight. Tables were covered with waves of snowy white linen embossed with the TWG Tea logo. We ordered a very original afternoon tea spread; there is a fuller menu offering hot dishes, and even breakfast for early risers. If a copious afternoon tea is too much, and it is a considerable meal, then one could always drop by for just a cup of tea and something from the patisserie display. I can highly recommend the Singapore Surprise, which is a delightfully exotic strawberry tart.
We mused upon the extensive tea menu, although I would advise ordering food and asking the knowledgeable tea sommelier for a tea pairing. Our Parisian Tea was one of a selection of afternoon tea options. It arrived on a traditional 3-tier stand, with a display of Croque Salmon sandwiches on the lower level. I guess it’s that which makes this afternoon tea Parisian. There were other fillings, too. This was an inspired departure from the more predictable classic sandwiches. The buttery bread had an agreeable crunch and the filling was generous.
The chef is evidently skilled in presenting treats
The next tier held the delicate savouries that were miniature gastronomic works of art in the best of taste, and they gave a nod to the teas decorating the walls: Duck rillette infused with Miraculous Mandarin Tea and onion pickle on toasted bread; toasted milk bun garnished with chilled lobster chunks, spicy sriracha mayonnaise, pickled vegetables and Genmaicha furikake. Genmaicha is a roasted brown rice tea, and one of my favourites. Furikake is a Japanese seasoning for rice. Norwegian salmon and smoked salmon rillette infused with Pai Mu Tan, served with guacamole and pepper coulis followed; and then malt bread and smoked salmon with creamy Moroccan Mint Tea-infused cucumber. The chef is evidently skilled in presenting treats which are elegant with well-balanced flavours.
Scones are very English, and no teatime would be complete without a brace of these. But, once again, TWG marked a point of difference as these were served with TWG tea jelly, along with thick and rich clotted cream. Every plate took advantage of excellent teas and culinary craft.
One is spoilt for choice when it comes to afternoon tea in London, but TWG in Knightsbridge offers something more interesting than many, and at a very reasonable price. We will return for a leisurely breakfast in the near future, but perhaps I will try something other than English Breakfast tea. There are hundreds of other possibilities, after all.
TWG Tea Knightsbridge
138 Brompton Road
London SW3 1HY
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3972 0201
Monday – Sunday, 10am to 10pm