Offering unusual blends from rooibos and chocolate to green tea with Oreo cookies Amanzi combines sober scientific method with a touch of the nutty professor
I tried to do a dry January last month, and managed about two weeks. Aside from the very small fact I got engaged (and who celebrates with orange juice?) was the very big problem that being abstemious is boring.
There are only so many cokes, fruit juices and glasses of water you can drink before you find yourself, as I did, fantasising about seizing your companion’s beautiful glass of red wine and knocking it back in one.
David Elghanayan is a wine dealer who jokes that he’s gone ‘tea total’ by launching a new tea bar in Marylebone, Amanzi Tea, which looks set to inject some joy into the drinking lives of teetotallers, and is pretty fun for the rest of us too.
Despite the mushrooming of coffee shops, the UK is a nation of tea-drinkers — in times of crisis, emotional turmoil or simply mid-afternoon, we self-medicate with watery mugs of builders’ tea. Diaspora communities have brought their tea habits with them: Japanese matcha tea, super-sweet, milky Indian chai, syrupy Arabic mint tea, mate. The problem is we’re all a bit stuck in our ways.
AMANZI TEA PRODUCES around 150 tea blends, 45 of which are displayed in colourful tall glass jars lined up along one wall of the tea shop. Regular tea tasting stations serve samples of some of their more exotic combinations and Elghanayan says by the time customers come to order they seem completely excited by the concept… and then order an Earl Grey.
Having had the joy of sampling some of their more unusual teas, I recommend you make a point of being adventurous. Amanzi Tea combines sober scientific tea blending methods — Elghanayan carefully explained the different temperatures and brewing times required for green, rooibos, white and black teas — with a touch of the nutty professor. The green tea and Oreo cookie frappe I thought was one mad-cap innovation too far, but some of my companions disagreed.
I started gently with a soothing white tea and pear infusion, before bracing myself for a Lychee Mar-Tea-Ni, a sweetened white tea with pomegranate with little bubbles containing lychee juice that burst in your mouth. It’s hard not to drink a Mar-Tea-Ni without regressing to childhood, angling your straw to capture a lychee bubble and then noisily slurping it up — but Elghanayan didn’t seem to mind in the slightest.
THE ‘DAYBREAKER’ IS one of their most popular drinks, a high-caffeine mate and caramel infusion that you can have without milk, or as a latte. Elghanayan explained the blend is perfect when you need an early morning caffeine hit but will give you a far ‘gentler ride’ than a coffee, which temporarily made it sound like he was pushing some kind of illegal party pills.
Pictured above: Amanzi Tea, Marylebone
I developed a passion for the tea so divisive that Elghanayan introduced it as the ‘Marmite’ of their teas — taro bubble tea. Were it not for fear of social exclusion, I would happily eat Marmite by the spoonful, so perhaps this was inevitable.
Taro root tea is very popular across Asia, it takes on an lilac colour when blended to make bubble tea, and has a lovely (or some might say horrible) malty taste. The ‘bubbles’ are made from tapioca, freshly cooked up at Amanzi in a rice cooker each morning, and are weirdly wonderful chewy things.
Elghanayan’s insight is that coffee’s strong taste tends to overpower other tastes, while tea is not only more varied in taste, but also subtler. Customers at Amanzi can buy their own loose leaf tea (and nifty little tea makers) to take home, and as well as the more usual blends there are quirky, off-beat combinations too: rooibos and chocolate, black tea with cinnamon, virtuous detox blends as well as special child-friendly, caffeine free teas too.
I’d like to say that if Amanzi had opened a few weeks earlier, I might have done a bit better at my January dryathlon, but that’s probably a lie. I might chase my Mar-Tea-Ni with something harder later on the afternoon, but I’ll certainly be returning to Amanzi again and again.
Read more by Sophie McBain