Last time I went to London, I was intent on visiting the tea atelier Bellocq on King’s Road. Their website is evocative, no mystery once I learned the firm was started by several designers and tea fanciers who count Martha Stewart Omnimedia and Anthropologie among their influences and clients.
Never got there, distracted by other things, mostly museums. Back home, though, I read the firm had closed their London shop and set up shop across the pond in Brooklyn, specifically Greenpoint. That address promptly ended up on my to-do list for an upcoming trip to New York. I never got all the way to Brooklyn because it turned out to be one of those glorious fall days that don’t come around all that often. I ended up spending the day in Central Park and at the De Kooning exhibit at MOMA.
But I still had the itch to try some of Bellocq's fine teas. I considered mail order before I discovered that the teas are sold at Restoration Hardware's fancy (free valet parking!) West Hollywood venue.
I imagined a few tins on a shelf, but Bellocq actually has a small boutique inside the larger shop. They’ll pour you a sample of whatever they’ve got brewing that day and have samples set out for theoretically sniffing the teas’ aromas. I say theoretically, because most of the samples have been sitting out so long they no longer have a scent.
I was interested in two of Bellocq's signature blends: White Duke (organic white tea buds scented with Sicilian bergamot and organic blue cornflowers, lighter than an Earl Grey) and Bellocq Breakfast Tea (full-bodied blend of organic Indian, Chinese and Ceylon black tea.) The salesperson gushed about the Afghani Chai (blend of Assam black tea, red poppy flowers, green cardamon, star anise, ginger, clove and black pepper ) and Hindu Holiday (caffeine-free chai; rich and smooth South African rooibos, cardamom, fragrant cassia, and spicy ginger adorned with rose, jasmine and marigold petals), both of which I found too much.
I really wanted one of the gorgeous yellow tea canisters, but buying tea in one considerably ups the price, so I went for the 2- and 3-ounce paper packets of loose tea leaves instead. Oh, well, unless you’re a restaurant or an obsessed tea drinker who could get through 10 ounces of large leaf pu-erh in a month, it's probably better to go with a smaller quantity anyway.
Another option available only online is Twelve Months of Bellocq — each month a different traveler’s tea caddy (yellow or blue) filled with a different tea, $390.
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-- S. Irene Virbila
Photos: Bellocq tea shop at Restoration Hardware and Bellocq teas. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times