It’s nice that even in such a busy bustling city like London there are still places one can escape to get away from it all. Chaya Teahouse is one such hideaway. Whenever I set foot in its quiet courtyard, an air of tranquility descends upon me and all the stresses of the week immediately lift off my shoulders.
Tucked in a quiet residential corner of Notting Hill, on the ground level living room of tea master and owner Pei Wang, the weekend teahouse serves quality oriental teas made with traditional pots and implements. Each table (there are only five) is equipped with ceremonial tea sets and a self-boiling kettle of purified water; after an initial demonstration by expert Pei, patrons are left to drink and brew at their own pace.
Apart from the extensive range of teas on offer, there’s also a selection of snacks all lovingly made by Pei himself. On our last visit there were 2 savouries and 5 sweets to choose from and as we were there for lunch we chose the wabi tea set (a steal at £13 a head) which includes all the tea cuisine items, in addition to your choice of brew.
The savouries were both vegetarian but we didn’t miss the meat at all. The lotus leaf wrapped parcel of sticky glutinous rice (lo mai fan) was packed with delicious chunks of soy-marinated mushrooms, and the neatly wrapped dumplings in szechuan chilli oil had lovely soft hand-made skins and an incredibly tasty stuffing. Both paired rather nicely with B’s silky oolong.
My floral goji berry infusion (custom blended by Pei) was soothing and well-matched with the sweeter offerings. I’m not usually a fan of lotus seed paste as it can be quite sweet, but the filling to pastry ratio of the Lotus Seed and Almond Puff Pastry was just right. The nuts further balanced the sweetness, as well as adding texture to the flaky treat.
We were both blown away by the Bamboo Charcoal Macaroon with Yuzu Buttercream. Again, incredibly balanced with a slight chew in the biscuit that I so love. Striking in both taste and appearance – these would not be out of place nestled in a pretty Ladurée box.
Warm scones were given a twist and served with rose petal jam (and clotted cream). The food generally changes from week to week although popular snacks, like the lo mai fan, rarely disappears from the list. As Pei decides on the menu from week to week, he will happily adjust it to your liking when you book, he has also brought back past items upon special request – like the Berry Nutty Chocolate Fudge we tried which was a regular’s favourite.
Aside from the pastries there was also a dessert of Miso Ice Cream with candied Adzuki Bean and purple Yam Mochi on the sweet platter. It was an intriguing mix of flavours which grew on me with each spoonful.
The eats and of course the tea were both excellent but to focus on just those would be missing the point. Visiting Chaya Teahouse is a really unique restorative experience, one which transports you physically and mentally to a restful zen place. It’s a small space but never gets overcrowded and Pei is constantly on hand to help pour or answer questions about the tea. He also doesn’t double book so you can really wile away an entire afternoon.
14A St Luke’s Road
London W11 1DP
(only open Saturdays and Sundays)