Yumchaa in Soho is leading the charge against teabags. The owners of this cosy little cafe created Yumchaa because they were sick of being served insipid brews and seeing crimes being inflicted against tea drinkers (for example, milk first). Yumchaa was created to lavish just as much attention on the British national drink as is usually lavished on coffee.
The Soho cafe has a bit of a shabby chic look to it and sprawls over two levels in a prime corner location. As soon as you head to the counter you know that you are in a place where they really care about their tea. Dozens of tiny cups are spread over the counter holding the different blends so that you can sniff and view in order to make a decision. The waiting staff are incredibly helpful and are happy to give you a few suggestions if you are suffering from indecision in the face of so much fabulous tea. Having tried a few I have to say that my favourite is Chelsea Chai which is a very subtle green tea without any of the bitterness that you often find in green tea.
Given that tea is very much about the ceremony as well as the taste, Yumchaa pays appropriate attention to the whole experience serving tea in two tier pots that double as cups. Everything is placed on a tray decorated with elephants so that you can make your own way to your preferred perch in the cafe.
Tea is the main focus but there are also light lunches and snacks on display. The raspberry muffin is springy and moist however the ultimate accompaniment to a cup of Yumchaa tea is one of the dense, rich chocolate brownies that are made on the premises. Serving sizes are so generous that you will struggle to finish the brownie over several pots of tea. I should also mention that Yumchaa offers a free wireless network which is perfect if you are a bit of an internet geek like me.
Details: 45 Berwick Street, Soho W1F8HS. Tube: Oxford Street
Damage: Reasonable. Look out for Sundays where students can get tea and cake for £3.
If you are not a tea addict and are on the search for great coffee check out Dose in Clerkenwell. Otherwise, nearby in Soho is Lantana.