Over the years, I’ve been known to look down upon tea, and to regard it as a feeble and wimpish concoction. Perhaps it’s the egotistical alpha male in me, but I’ve always relished the stronger aromas, flavours and rugged kicks to the palate offered by coffee. Recently however, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for the delicate nuances of tea – presumably as a result of some subtle brainwashing by Steak – a firm member of the tea camp, who could probably drink the Queen under the table if given the opportunity. Whilst Steak won’t be pinning Her Majesty to the floor in a “WW-Tea” match anytime soon, she can take satisfaction in the fact that I no longer need to be dragged to a tea room against my will.
Of the many tea rooms, tea houses, and tea bars dotted around London, Amanzi Tea is one that has procured my interest for quite some time. Self-ascribed as London’s first “modern tea bar”, Amanzi seeks to capture the affections of tea-enthusiasts and tea-skeptics alike, and serves over 100 varieties of loose leaf tea. With such large stocks of leaf-based organic produce, it’s a miracle that they haven’t raised the suspicions of the Metropolitan Police.
As we settled into the Soho branch and admired the sweetshop-style display of teas from every corner of the world, Steak and I helped ourselves to a round of sniffing and sampling from the “play before you pay” area in the corner of the shop. We sampled a couple of sips of “cardamom blossom” tea, which, naturally, possessed a subtle essence of cardamom, and a light and aromatic character, before moving on to the “lullaby” tea, which carried a stronger, richer flavour, and a deep essence of vanilla.
Sniff, but don’t snort – unless you want a criminal record.
Satisfied with my daily dose of substance abuse, I ordered a “roasted almond” tea, which, unbeknown to me, possessed a vibrant shade of pink. Thinking it hilarious, Steak proceeded to laugh at me as I tensed my arm and sipped my masculine brew with the deepest frown I could muster. The tea was incredibly deep and aromatic, with a strong, roasted essence, and a smooth, layered flavour that could be likened to a liquid form of cinnabon. It was, without a doubt, one of the most delicious teas I had ever encountered, and one can imagine that it would be an absolute delight to drink in the winter. Steak meanwhile, had opted for the “orange blossom”, which was subtler and less exciting, with more of a spicy touch than the fruity burst we were expecting. As pink as my tea may have been, it was I who had the last laugh.
“His and Hers”. Real Men Drink Pink. Orange blossom (left), and Roasted almond (right).
My penchant for strong flavours carried through to our next round, where I ordered a cup of “gingerbread” tea. With a deep, powerful, and hot flavour, it embodied the spirit of Bruce Lee, and delivered a ferociously spicy afterkick to the throat. Steak’s “acai berry”, by contrast, was light, refreshing, and sweet, with a stronger fruity burst than the feeble orange blossom that preceeded it.
Gingerbread (left), and Acai berry (right).
On the verge of turning into human waterballoons, Steak and I decided to call it a day with one final brew to share – a matcha latte. Surprisingly, this final cup was quite the disappointment. Expecting a strong and earthy matcha flavour, we were instead greeted by a weak and diluted beverage, which was woefully unbalanced by an excessive amount of milk. It was certainly a disappointing end to an otherwise wonderful tea-binging session.
Amanzi serves a range of cakes, bakes and pastries at both their branches. Unfortunately however, having devoured some Yolkin macarons and enjoyed a quick lunch at Bill’s, Steak and I were in no state to eat any more food, and so, this section of the review will have to stay empty for now. (Sorry!).
Value For Money: 4/5
Pure and simple cups of tea generally cost £2.20 or £2.40 for a regular or large cup respectively, whilst tea lattes, bubble teas, and other specialty drinks range between £3-£4. Whilst these prices are a little high, (given that a pot of tea costs the same at many other cafes and tea-rooms), we feel that they remain reasonable, given the location, and the quality and calibre of the teas served at Amanzi.
Service at the Soho branch is quick and efficient, but surprisingly, the staff-members we encountered were remarkably cold and indifferent to our presence. Perhaps it was a case of the weekend blues, but for a company that aims to redefine the standards of a modern tea-room and provide a welcoming social environment, we were certainly expecting a little more hospitality and warmth.
When it came to deciding between the Marylebone branch and Soho branch, I, rather foolishly, opted for the latter, simply because it was located on “Brewer Street”, and I just couldn’t help myself. Whilst the Marylebone branch appears to have a more graceful interior, (and a more alluring wall-display of teas), the Soho branch is a little cold and clinical. Still, the leather benches are probably far more comfortable than the wooden chairs employed at Marylebone. The Soho branch can be found a quick ten-minute walk away from Picadilly Circus.
Despite the fairly aloof staff-members and the modern but boring decor, the ambience within the Soho branch is remarkably calm and peaceful. Whether you’re after a spot in which to study, or a place in which to relax and catch up with friends, Amanzi can cater to your needs and provide a wonderfully serene environment.
With an endless array of teas, available in a multitide of formulations, Amanzi Tea may just be the embodiment of the tea-enthusiast’s wildest dreams. In a city dominated by coffeeshops and costly afternoon-tea experiences, Amanzi offers a casual and affordable alternative, with all the variety, and none of the frills. Whether you’re after a quick cup on the go, or a pleasant, laid-back, sit-in experience, Amanzi is one tea vendor worth popping into.
Address: 52 Brewer Street, London W1F 9TQ
Telephone: 0207 434 0225