Jameel Lalani | The trendiest tea in London

27 Jun 2015
2 min read
From Christies late nights to the new Thomas’s restaurant at Burberry, FOUR speaks to their artisan tea provider, Jameel Lalani from Lalani&Co. on the renaissance of tea culture and tips on how to start the best tea libraries…

Where were you born and where did you grown up?

London is home. I’m a born and bred Londoner.

How did you get into your line of work? Was there a particular moment where things just clicked into place or that you realized the direction you wanted to take?

Tea has been a passion from an early age. When I was 4 I fell in love with it as a drink and have never looked back. The decision to engage with tea as a business happened over 6 years ago. I could see the early signs of a rejuvenation in the tea market and realised it was a good time to turn this passion into a business. It took over a year of research and planning before we brought in our first tea. Now we’re 5 years old and fine tea is becoming a cultural necessity.

Tell us aboutthe tea list at Burberry.

Burberry’s tea list is exceptional, short and seasonal. There are three teas on the list. One is a very fine Kabusecha from Japan. Next is an exquisite Darjeeling from 2014. Finally there’s a vintage batch from a tiny garden called LaKyrsiew, picked in 2012 and aged here in the UK.

You also collaborated with Christies for its late night series celebrating its 40th anniversary, what did that entail tea wise?

Christies lates are great events. We teamed up with them for their Asian art evening, creating a tea bar serving fine single-batch teas to visitors. Each one is direct from the origin and a limited edition.

In terms of tea what is hot on your radar at the moment?

Darjeelings are always increasing in popularity. As people explore the world of tea, their first purchase is usually a Darjeeling. Also look out for Japanese matcha.

What’s incredibly exciting is that we’re about to release the 2015 crop from Big Island Tea Garden in Hawai. This is one of the rarest teas on earth, entirely hand made on a micro-garden that produces just 15kg per year. It’s phenomenal. Its sells at £163 per 25g. Buyers are able to contact us ahead of the release to secure part of it.

Could you suggest FOUR top tea recommendations?

If you’re creating your own tea library (think of a wine collection/cellar but for tea), here are my top four recommendations:

  • Start with a premium 1stFlush Darjeeling. 1stflush means the late March to early May picking season. Buy fresh when the new season teas arrive and drink within the year.
  • Pick up a kabusecha (sencha tea grown in the spring under a shading canopy). They are very sophisticated green teas with enormous umami.
  • Your library should include a white tea. It’s not commonly known that white teas age beautifully. Always double up on your purchases and keep one to age; but be aware that a significant amount of white tea on the market is made incorrectly.
  • Matcha; a premium one, shade grown, stone milled and spring season only. A lot of the matcha you’ll see in the West is in fact cooking grade. Premium matcha is on another level.

Do you cook at all? What kinds of things do you like cooking at home?

Yes, I love to cook; mostly seasonal salads and dishes with a Japanese edge. Their cuisine is marvellous; lean, clean and delicious.