You don't have to tell your oolong apart from your pu-erh to know that any shop claiming to use authentic essence of Bergamot to replicate what Earl Grey himself would have sipped over a century ago, is well worth a visit. Bellocq, the newly opened 'tea atelier' on the King's Road, was recently only available in New York, until founders Heidi Johannsen Stewart, Michael Shannon and Scott Stewart decided that we devoted tea-drinkers of the UK deserved a pick of the leaves too.
Pledging to stay true to the spirit and customs of tea production, the brand has fixed its sights on working with responsible gardens and merchants to get its tea supply. The result is a carefully curated selection in the London shop, ranging from pure whole leaf varieties for the purist, to the brand's palette of blended teas for the more adventurous soul.
Teas have names such as No. 22 Noble Savage and No. 39 Hindu Holiday, but these aren't just pretty names - the tea atelier is a tasting and design studio and not just a shop space, so all their blends are concocted on site, with an emphasis on small-batch quality teas that evolve seasonally. Ask for the 'tea cupping' service, which as the name suggests, is a process in which clients can taste and evaluate the quality of blends.
In keeping with the pioneering spirit of the whole venture, the tea shop is named after the early 20th century photographer E.J. Bellocq, nortoriously known at the time (and now loved) for his rather daring portraits of prostitutes in New Orleans. A joint fondness for his photos, and a mutual respect for the fact that Bellocq saw beauty in places that other people shunned at the time, resulted in the commendable eschewing of a more conventional name.