Michael Benjamin pays a visit to Marylebone tea shop, Amanzi
Try walking into Starbucks and just asking for a cup of coffee. It is now an old joke. The pun is that whereas you used to be able to go to a café and order a cup of coffee, you now have to have to specify whether you want a latte, a cappuccino, a filter coffee, or no doubt a host of other varieties. Moreover, you must specify the size of cup and the type of milk, if any, you desire.
This has not yet happened to tea. Ask for a cup of tea and the response will be: “Do you take milk or sugar?” Tea has not progressed very far. Sure, a café might have green tea or peppermint tea, but there is not much point in asking if they have any green dragon pearls, or white peony because they won’t. Speciality teas are largely the preserve of luxury hotels.
This could change if Amanzi, a new teashop in Marylebone, have their way. They have a bewildering selection of loose-leaf tea. From Assam, genmaicha, lavender chamomile, various types of rooibos, through to a selection of kids’ teas with names such as “Tutti Fruity” and “Coco Loco.” And then there are tea based non-alcoholic cocktails such as “lychee mar-tea-ni,” smoothies, tea based frappes and something they call “bubble tea”. Don’t ask – just go and try one!
A complaint I have with the way tea is served in some establishments is that the cups are thick china more suited to drinking coffee. My ideal choice for tea is a more dainty bone china cup. Amanzi have struck a reasonable balance and gone for a sturdy glass, but one with a handle, which makes a perfectly pleasant drinking experience. Another thing that they seem to get wrong virtually everywhere but luxury hotels is the temperature of the water. I am appalled at how often green tea is served with boiling water. Amanzi do not make that mistake: they serve it correctly at 82 degrees.
The company charge £1.85 for a regular cup and £2.00 for a large cup, but some teas, including my personal favourite of silver needle, have a 50 pence premium. This is not too dissimilar in price to Starbucks, but the tea choice is vastly superior.
If there was one disappointment, I thought their pastry and cake selection somewhat expensive and not the most appetising. However, I am informed that is set to change. I certainly hope so.
Amanzi is an American chain of teashops. The owners of the company have big plans. While they currently have just one shop in the UK, they envisage an initial ten and then even more. They also want a wholesale tea business and to develop a fully functioning UK website. Neil Sanyal, who works with the owner of the business, David Elghanayan as head of operations, mentioned that a different American teashop chain, Teavana, with 300 locations, recently sold out for $620 million. It is clear what he has in mind for Amanzi.
I have no idea whether they will be successful. What I do know is that I am now back at home drinking some of the company’s lychee pomegranate green tea and that it tastes rather good.
Amanzi, 24 New Cavendish Street, London, W1. Website: http://www.amanzitea.co.uk
Follow Amazi Tea on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/amanzitealondon