Few months ago I was looking for flowers, herbs and spices to experiment blending some teas at home and I wanted to find a shop/market where I could buy my ingredients. I wasn’t keen on ordering online as I just wanted small quantities to play with and because I wanted to choose, smell and try before buying. I was also looking for inspiration… I visited few markets in London but I didn’t find what I was looking for. Finally I found a place in internet in Brixton called Brixton Wholefoods and I decided to give it a try.
I went there and I found something similar to what I had in mind: a store full of things, a deep smell of spices and herbs and that atmosphere of small market where you can look around and explore.
The list of herbs and spices was vast. All the condiments were stored in plastic containers in a wall shelf, altogether. Each bottle was labeled with the appropriate name of the spice or herb and the price by kilo and by ounce. To buy, the procedure was as follows: choose a bottle, grab a scoop, put the quantity of the product you like in a plastic bag, weight it, calculate the final price and write it down in black sharpie on the front of the bag. At the beginning I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of options and didn’t know where to start. So I decided to ask the lady who was next to me choosing her spices looking very confidently how the procedure was, and she explained it to me step by step. When I then started filling my bags she would say to me: “don’t be shy, a bit more, a bit more”, she was hilarious!
But I immediately realised that my idea of getting herbs and flowers for my tea there wasn’t going to work. There were only two scoops for all the pots that included varieties of curries, onions, chilies, paprika along with chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, roses; so it was a big blend of spices, herbs, flowers, roots, all mixed together that was going to be transferred to my tea.
It was fun though and I did buy few things that in the end worked for my home experiment but I wouldn’t recommend anyone in the tea blending business to do it as we know these mixed aromas can easily “contaminate” and alter the taste of the tea.
That is why an appropriate storage of the tea is essential. Tea leaves absorb smells very quickly so we must avoid coffee, spices and condiments around our tea. They can also absorb the smell of other teas when put together in the same box or bag. In addition, tea must be kept away of humidity so it is better not to have it near the kitchen; that way it will last longer, will keep its freshness and original aroma.
I hope you don’t get discouraged about going to spice markets and shops and mix and match for your own tea blends. However, be careful of the mixed scents as you wouldn’t want to find unexpected aromas in your cup!