May 01, 2009

You can't swing an umbrella in London these days without hitting a Starbucks, but the tearoom—once a staple of British life— has become almost as hard to find as a man in a bowler hat. Reestablishing afternoon tea as a must for busy A-listers like Kate Moss and Stella McCartney, the Tea Palace (175 Westbourne Grove; 44-207/727-2600; www.teapalace.co.uk; tea for two $63) is a contemporary take on the traditional chintz-and-china parlor—damask-patterned carpets, walls papered with geometric prints, and wraparound windows that make for great people-watching. It offers some 160 steepable varieties along with freshly baked scones and clotted cream. The leaf novice can settle for that British favorite, the Builder's Brew, but servers are ready to steer the more adventurous toward White Snowbuds, a rare white tea from China's Fujian province. Converts take away blends wrapped in embroidered purple-satin bags (leaving those Harrods tins in the dust). And as smart Londoners know, asking for the Jasmine Snowdragon Spirals beats ordering a grande skinny latte any day. —SUSAN WELSH

Tea Palace

This tea emporium in Covent Garden Piazza carries more than 120 teas and herbal infusions from around the world. Teas come in an array of black, green, white, Oolong, Jasmine, and Rooibos types: blended, single-estate, and/or flavored. Top sellers include Palace Earl Grey, which has China black leaves with pressed-bergamot oil, and Earl Grey Blue Flowers (or Lady Grey), a sweeter version with blue mallow blossoms. Accessories include tableware, cosies, and purified sugars. The shop offers bespoke blending services: customers can work with one of their experts to create the perfect blend. 

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