By Emma Witham, Food Digital Editor
The Croft Magazine// Tea, with its long history, spanning continents, is undoubtedly an art. To achieve the best possible results, it calls for a deep understanding of flavours, brewing lengths and serving styles. Bristol, with its relaxed artistry, is therefore well-suited to nurture the craft. I ventured to find the most special the city can offer, in search of tea lucidity.
Society Café | 12 Baldwin St, Bristol BS1 1SD
Following the opening of the second branch of Society Café in Bristol, the tea peddlers have proved nothing if not their popularity. So, rather expectedly, their tea range is wonderfully expansive. The café source their loose-leaf tea from Bath-based tea specialists Tea House Emporium which offer a range of teas, some of which the friendly barista was kind enough to let me smell. The aromas are warm but not overpowering, so you get a clear sense of flavour without the perfume. I picked a personal favourite just from the smell – a chai. It arrived over to the table swiftly, with the barista recommending I let it brew for some minutes until pouring. As I waited, I got a better sense of the general ambience in the room. My immediate thought was how youthful it felt, with students and professionals dotted around the room. The aesthetic is clean teals matched with warm colours of mustard and burnt orange tables, both fresh and autumnal yet clean and sleek. Finally, my tea was ready to which I added milk and sugar before sipping. A favourite touch was the small dish for the tea strainer bag to rest in once you’ve finished brewing, making sure you have near-optimal tea throughout, even if you remain for a while. The flavour exuded warmth immediately, with its hints of cinnamon and cardamom.
Bird & Blend Tea Co. | 73 Park St, Bristol BS1 5PB
A staple on Park Street, Bird & Blend have been supplying tea for years now. They offer what they term the ‘Tea Wall’, which essentially does what it says on the tin. The range is categorised by type, for example, green teas, accompanied with a short description of what notes and aftertastes can be expected from your blend of choice. After a careful selection process, with help from their Tea Mixologist, I opted for Duvet Day – a white tea with jasmine, marketed as relaxing. She very kindly let me smell the loose tea from the can, which sold me instantly. The vegan-friendly tea itself was a light, almost watery colour. The expertise behind this tea is evident in every sip, after being brewed for 3 minutes exactly by the Mixologist. I can only describe this tea to be the liquid equivalent of white goose-feather bedding. It was in no manner overwhelming, yet you could taste all the descriptors detailed. Hidden in notes underneath, I found relaxing florals. Plus, if you particularly enjoy the tea you selected, you can buy a pouch to take home, which I certainly will go back for. If hot tea isn’t your thing either, they provide methods for cold brewing on the back of the packaging as well.
Ahh Toots | 17 Christmas St, Bristol BS1 5BT
Famed Bristolian cakery, known for their artisanal flavour pairings and aesthetic designs, you may not immediately think of Ahh Toots as a place for tea. Yet, as with everything on offer, they do so wonderfully. Their cosy seating area is one of my favourite interior design artistries anywhere in Bristol, with eclectic tchotchkes littering the bookshelves, against pine green walls and wood detailing. It’s a strictly laptop-free zone too, making its feel all the more bookish. I wanted to opt for an iced tea on this occasion, and currently they only have one option on offer – Melon and Mint. Made in-house, as the vast majority of their products are, you could instantly taste that freshness. It arrived in a highball, showing off its blend of colour, from clear to coral. In its glass, there were densely compacted ice cubes, which, although a seemingly insignificant touch, meant the tea stayed at optimal temperature for longer, retaining the flavour balance. The mint was perfectly weighed, managing not to strangle the melon, instead merging perfectly into a summery freshness. In honesty, this would make the perfect alternative to an alcohol-free mojito.
Featured image by Emily Fromant
What's your go-to place for tea in Bristol?