Sunday 20 December 2009

The Purple Palace

Tea Palace Covent Garden basement I was wondering through Covent Garden, enjoying the Christmassy buzz, recently when I decided to pop into the Tea Palace shop. Before their Westbourne Grove cafe and shop closed down I had a very enjoyable afternoon tea there so was keen to see how the new place compared. I have to admit I was really shocked that the previous place had shut. It was very busy when I went there and whenever I passed it seemed to be fairly packed. The afternoon teas on offer were also pretty pricey so I assumed they were making a packet. But given their decision to close, and subsequently open a retail shop - without a cafe - in the centre of town, I suppose I was wrong.

The new shop is within the Covent Garden piazza and is fairly large being set across two floors. I've always thought that the nicest thing about Tea Palace is their gorgeous purple caddies and I'm pleased to see that hasn't changed. It's odd because the branding of the shop's goods feels very corporate as if they were part of a large chain - sort of like an upmarket Whittard - but, in fact, this Covent Garden branch is their only outlet - aside from their online operation.

Tea Palace Covent Garden tea tins They still stock their wide selection of single estate teas and blends as well as a nice selection of accessories. I decided to treat myself to one of their absolutely gorgeous hand tied jasmine flowering teas. They're not cheap at £8.50 for 6 (!) but they are beautiful and taste delicious.

I love the fact there is a proper tea shop in one of London's principal shopping areas. A place where people can treat themselves to something more exotic than a box of tea bags. But there's something about Tea Palace I don't love. I'm not sure what it is: it could be the fairly disinterested service; or maybe it's the corporate feel I mentioned. Whatever it is it's not the first place I think of when I need to buy some tea. I will continue to shop there as their caddies are some of my favourites. But for me the real joy of Tea Palace was their cafe and without that I can't help but feel that something is missing.

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