Tea Palace – Tara Calcraft
Bespoke Blender and Tea Palace Founder
Tea Palace founder and bespoke blender Tara Calcraft is heading up the brand’s mission: to bring tea into the 21st Century and guide its drinkers through a unique tea discovery
Tea Palace was founded in 2005 and today sells in department stores throughout the UK, Europe and the Middle East. In London, Tea Palace currently has two flagship stores: Covent Garden and the recently opened shop on The Kings Road.
Bringing to the heart of Chelsea the finest quality teas and infusions in the UK, Tara Calcraft is on a mission to dispel assumptions around the nation’s favourite drink.
She commented: “It occurred to me how strange it was that we are famous as a nation of tea-drinkers and yet the range and quality of teas in other countries far surpasses ours. Even worse, the idea of a tearoom today conjures up out-dated and old fashioned images of blue-rinse ladies, chintz fabric and doilies – or an expensive five-star hotel afternoon tea only enjoyed on special occasions or by tourists.”
Tara Calcraft’s concept for Tea Palace emerged from noticing a gap in the market. Having a history in the marketing industry, Calcraft’s skill in analysing consumer trends was key. Witnessing the coffee bar explosion, her curiosity into the decline of tea-drinking soon became a fascination.
“The more I delved into the tea industry the more passionate I became,” she said. “There was a whole world of tea, most of which the British consumer has never had a chance to taste. Like wine, teas vary by harvest, by estate, by country and what time of year the tea is grown, yet it is all largely undiscovered over here. Over 90% of teas drunk in the UK are black blends made with the lowest grade leaves, yet there are single estate black teas, green teas from China and Japan, oolongs and white tea just waiting to be enjoyed.”
Over a period of two years Calcraft set about sourcing the very finest teas and herbs from around the world. Tea Palace is the result of this meticulous research and it now houses a range of over 150 different teas and infusions –many available in the UK for the very first time. She takes an active and serious role in handpicking the teas herself, selecting personally the very best harvests from the finest tea gardens around the world.
In her stores Calcraft takes a role as a guide to her customers, taking them on journeys of discovery and broadening their understanding of tea drinking. As a bespoke blender, she is able to create unique, one-off blends for you, based on your taste preferences and lifestyle as well as offer advice on blends with specific health benefits.
Given the provenance of tea, Calcraft has always seen it as important that Tea Palace proclaims tea a global drink, rather than one simply of British nostalgia and dusty tradition. All major tea-drinking countries have their customs, she is keen to stress, and most are anchored around some sort of social interaction or ceremony – from the colloquial ‘I’ll put the kettle on’ to the most refined and exquisite tea ceremonies of the Japanese.
Calcraft’s approach is one of a modern specialist retailer: “I want to encourage people to re-address their perceptions of tea. For anyone that goes to a patisserie for a really great croissant or the butcher for a great steak, it makes sense that a tea emporium should be available for those who want to enjoy the finest cup of tea.”
Tea Palace - Covent Garden
12 Covent Garden Market,
Tel: 0207 836 6997
Tea Palace - Chelsea
340 Kings Road
Tel: 0207 352 5834
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Tel: 0207 749 6850