This particular tour of the capital takes in three tea-related venues – including High Tea at The Savoy Hotel.
Start at one of London’s gems The London Silver Vaults. A basement property in the middle of the capital’s legal quarter is full of dozens of safes-cum-shops.
There are scores of dealers selling period and contemporary pieces made of precious metals, particularly silver. No wonder prop buyers rely on the Silver Vaults as their first port of call for major films – from Downton Abbey to Pirates of the Caribbean – silver used on these productions has all been loaned from businesses in The London Silver Vaults.
We visit Joel Langford who tells us the Vaults were opened originally as a safe deposit for the wealthy, and a secure storage place for London’s silver dealers during World War II. All of the vault owners are independent retailers and like Joel, are third-generation family businesses. His Grandmother sold Liberace, the famous American pianist, his silver candelabra and each year he sent her a Christmas card.
Joel showed us some tea caddies which had locks and other paraphernalia.
It’s hard to believe that in the 18th and early 19th centuries, tea was more expensive than gold. Only the wealthiest could afford a fresh cup of tea. Leaves stored in an ornate caddy, often made of silver to flash wealth, were locked. Inside would be compartments for black and green teas, often with a sugar compartment. Wealthy owners were only interested in quality, and the cost was secondary.
The Savoy Hotel
A short stroll away is The Savoy Hotel, a five-star luxury hotel on the Thames. In the Thames Foyer, a pianist plays in a giant metal birdcage. The bird theme is throughout. It’s explained to me by the lovely Lucy Allen.
The Savoy has a reputation for never saying no to guests, and some brought neglected, hungry birds into their room. They were allowed to fly around the Thames Room until taken elsewhere and the story has stuck. One of many here. Have you heard about Kaspar, the cat? Anyway safe to say there are plenty, much like the afternoon sandwiches, pastries and loose leaf tea on offer. It was one of the best afternoon teas I’ve sampled here in the capital. I’ll let the gallery do the talking ….. there’s an option of traditional afternoon tea or high tea. The latter includes a hot dish of green Asparagus and poached eggs with black Perigord truffles and Chives and hollandaise.
Dr Johnson’s House
Should you have time or room, tea devotee, Dr Johnson’s House is the third and final stop on the Tour. This 300-year-old townhouse was where Samuel Johnson the writer lived and worked during the middle of the eighteenth century. His name may be familiar, but if it’s not, you must watch the excellent Black Adder episode ‘Ink and Incapability’.
Dr Johnson was something of a tea fiend; he declared himself a hardened and shameless tea drinker, he even coined a famous quote dedicated to his loose-leafed passion.
‘Tea amuses the evening, solaces the midnight and welcomes the morning.’
Bookings are now being taken for their Festive Afternoon Tea.
I was a guest at The Savoy Hotel.