October 23, 2015

Tea Time in London Town - A Warm Memory

It's no secret that there's something wonderfully comforting about tea for those who enjoy its taste and charms. I've been a tea-drinker since childhood - probably a function of my maternal grandmother's influence (as a native of Northern Ireland).

Tea was, and is, always there when I was chilled or wanted something warm and flavorful. I enjoy a wide variety of blends, but Earl Grey is my strong preference. Something about the scent of the bergamot orange is like a warm embrace to me. I prefer my tea with cream (or milk) and sugar.

Often lately, this chilly autumn weather has brought to mind a memory of one of my most enjoyable tea experiences.

I was traveling for business to London, and was booked into a charming townhouse hotel in Notting Hill.

Typical for those flying "across the pond" from the west (I departed from Boston), I arrived at Heathrow airport at about 6:00 a.m. local time, so it was very early to arrive at the hotel. The lovely young woman who greeted me when I arrived, explained that my room wasn't available yet - no surprise, since the current occupants probably weren't even awake themselves at that hour, let alone checked out. As an alternative, she invited me to relax in the "lounge" - a cozy, den-like living room overlooking the garden behind the hotel (essentially a townhouse).

(The rendering at top and photo above are from the now-former hotel's brochure.)

Thoughtfully, she asked if I'd like some tea -- that was just the thing. I was weary from traveling and it was a chilly, early November day. Nothing could have been more welcoming and soothing after a nearly 6-hour trans-Atlantic flight.

I recall vividly the blue and white china on which my "arrival" tea was served. It was a familiar traditional pattern offered by several different makers - Johnson Brothers "Blue Denmark" is one version. You can see it in the photo above as the tea service to the left on the coffee table.

For whatever reason, that lovely china pattern always makes me think of that wonderful cup of tea and of time spent in London, nearly 20 years ago. I returned to that hotel twice more thereafter, in part, because it had two resident cats who were a delightful reminder of my own kitties at home.

The hotel was renovated a few years after my stays there, and it was operated for a few more years before being sold and converted back into a residential property. It probably was the best possible outcome for such a charming old building, but certainly a loss for travelers who appreciated its warm and welcoming environs.


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