But I digress: Johanna and Jatinder’s London-based events are always worth checking out. I could write an entire guide to design shops and bookstores in London just from the list of Journal du Thé stockists in the UK.
You can’t dive into the world of tea without considering the history of colonialism, and that is especially true in England. In the late 1600s, King Charles II married Portuguese princess and avowed tea lover Catherine of Braganza, popularizing the drink in England. The British East India company gained a monopoly in trade in China and India at that time, leading England to make fortunes trading tea and eventually integrating it into British culture across class. A History of Tea by Laura C. Martin recounts this, telling the story from Opium Wars to modern-day London, which now a hub of international tea traditions and South Asian culture and food. Accordingly, a trip to the city would be incomplete without tea from a traditional Indian or Pakistani kitchen.
I knew I wanted to eat Indian food and drink masala chai while in London, which is how I wound up at the vegetarian restaurant Rasa with Johanna and Jatinder. The dosas and idli brought me right back to my college study abroad trip in Bangalore. Somewhere that I hoped to go, but didn’t get a chance as a New Yorker who refuses to wait in lines, was Dishoom, which had come highly recommended by pretty much everyone that I spoke to. (It wasn’t until afterwards that I learned they serve masala chai while you’re waiting.)
Tea comes from the plant camellia sinensis, and its processing determines whether it is white, green, oolong, or black. White tea is virtually unoxidized whereas black tea is fully oxidized and there’s a spectrum in the middle. Tea cultivation began in China and spread from there. While in New York our tea shops mostly specialize in one region—we have entire shops dedicated to Japan, Taiwan, China—in London I found that most places have broader options.
I was awoken the next morning at the Corinthia with a knock and a breakfast tray bearing a pot of Earl Grey. I started the day looking out the window, leafing through the latest Eighty Degrees magazine, “a magazine for dreamers.. about tea,” before heading to my morning Japanese tea tasting at My Cup of Tea.