Here is a little selection of tea and tea-related items for those looking for a St. Valentine's Day gift. I’ve made few concessions to heart-shaped objects since this post is really just an extended hint for friends and family. (My birthday is coming up) I have not included abominations such as ‘love teas’, just teas to make people love you (or me love you) if you gift them on the 14th of February.
My most local tea shop to work is The Tea Palace on Westbourne Grove. I love going there on a weekday when its quiet and I can enjoy a perfectly brewed pot of the new season's Darjeeling (they usually carry two or three first flushes). Their gift selection is always secondary to the tea they sell, but includes some elegant, well-chosen items such as silver tea measures and Yixing teapots. They've also started selling candles. Sold individually or in a gift box with the relevant tea, Darjeeling Mist and Spirit of Sencha smell glorious and perfect for the bathroom of your tea loving friend. If you are not planning on adding to their tea stash that is.
If so, then you cannot go far wrong with their tea selection. (They carry a bunch of infusions as well, but that doesn't concern us here) I particularly like their range of single estate black teas. I recently bought a Ceylon Silver Tip which is clear and smooth and redolent of caramel. Nothing better to wake up to on St. Valentine's Day, especially if it's made for you by the one you love.
Ok, here is my concession to heart-shaped pink things. Take a stroll around the Mariage Frères
website. They are selling a Yin Zhen white tea whose buds have been shaped into hearts enclosing rose and jasmine flowers. Like with all flowering teas it will look spectacular in a glass teapot though there is a danger of a tasteless, though pretty, disappointment. However, Mariage Frères know their tea, so my hopes run high that the description on the website - flowery perfume, delightfully soft with a velvety texture - is realised.
Jing Tea is one of my favourite tea suppliers and they are particularly good at sourcing oolongs and, more importantly, describing them in a way that makes your mouth water. I was reading about their Iron Arhat Oolong (Wuyi Tie Luo Han Wu Long) and almost fainted with desire. They also sell a really delicious Oolong Ali Shan.
(By the way, Jing has a new blog which can be found here.)
Another London tea merchant is Postcard Teas. They carry a wonderful selection of teas sourced in China and India by the owner. Their tins are all decorated with vintage tea postcards. This makes the tea buying process tricky because often the tea you want doesn't correspond to the tin you have your eye on. The only solution is to buy both. I love their Island Breakfast - a blend of Sri Lankan black teas, and their Jade Oolong.
Their website also lists a selection of tea accessories such as hand-embroidered tea towels.