Thursday, July 14, 2011
There aren’t many hidden gems in London. News about new places spreads so quickly that it’s difficult to come up with something that most Londoners don’t know about. But then someone told me about Teanamu Teahouse in Notting Hill.
Run out of the proprietor’s home, Teanamu is a tiny haven of tranquility and tea. It is located in the ground-floor living room of a white house with a quiet cobbled front garden. The space is simple, but elegantly decorated with beautiful teapots and a smattering of mismatched tables. An air of peace pervades. It is a rare find in central London.
I arrive with a friend, and we are seated at one of the tables. Behind us is the open kitchen where Pei and his assistant prepare the tea and food. There is only one other person there when we arrive, and the room is so quiet that we whisper for fear of disturbing the delicate ambiance.
The Teanamu tea menus are brought to us on tiny trays. Each tea is listed on a separate card, which offers a thorough description. I settle on a jasmine tea called Phoenix Eye Jasmine, but I am open to suggestions. When Pei comes to help us order, he chooses the same tea for me. It feels like fate. My friend decides to let him blend a tea for her based on her mood.
Our teas arrive, each one with its own pot. Pei explains to us how we should brew them, with instructions on water temperature, steeping time, and pouring. As we fumble around with the kettle, the jasmine pearls in my pot and the abundance of fruit and flowers in my friend’s start to unfurl and release their flavors.
We order food to go with our tea, and soon the savory dishes arrive. They are sticky rice served in a large leaf, and a delicious dumpling with a hot chili pepper on top. Both are excellent, and I want more. Teanamu Teahouse in Notting Hill might just be my new favorite place for afternoon tea in London.
Then dessert comes. Five tiny pastries are arranged on a plate. Everything from chocolate truffles made from cream cheese to traditional Chinese pastries with puffy crusts is present. There is even a scone on the plate, but it is paired with rose jam instead of the traditional English flavors.
Teanamu’s pastries are as good as the savories. We sit sipping our tea as we enjoy the food, and Pei tells us about his cooking classes and tea appreciation courses. My friend is so excited that she makes a reservation for the following weekend. She wants to introduce more friends to this unique place.
Before we leave Pei sits down at a table by the wall and brews a special tea. His technique is impressive, and puts my awkwardness with the kettle to shame. Once the tea is brewed, he brings a cup for each person in the room, which by this time has filled up and become slightly more voluble than when we arrived.
We sip. We savor. We say good-bye. We know that we will be back to Teanamu Teahouse in Notting Hill, and we hope that in the meantime our hidden gem isn’t discovered by too many people. Don’t tell your friends.