Do people visit tea shops because they love tea, or because they want to be seen to be doing something cool and retro?
Judging by the clientele at Loopy Lorna’s (almost entirely thirtysomething middle-class Mums who lust after Agas and relocating to the country, and self-conscious “vintage” students), it’s definitely the former. Tea, like knitting and old clothes, has been fetishized into a lifestyle. So what? Well, if this place is anything to go by, the upshot is a terrible cup of tea. And that simply will not do.
It wasn’t the cloyingly pink and cute decor, or even the over-zealous yet somehow perfunctory service that so completely ruined the experience. Nor was it being charged nearly five pounds for a single pot. No, it was the tea. Literally – and I do mean literally – everything about the tea at Loopy Lorna’s was a travesty, wrapped in a disgrace, wrapped in an adorable knitted tea-cosy.
First, the range. There weren’t many, and distressingly most of them were fruit or herbal infusions. Plus, the black teas they did have were all blends. No single-type, let alone single-estate stuff here; the choice was between the loopily named “Bricks and Mortar” (some kind of Assam-a-like my boyfriend opted for), Earl Gray or Breakfast Blend.
So far, so forgiveable. Until the tea arrived. In pots, with strainers. No timers, no way of removing the leaves and worse, no advice on how long to leave it for until it was brewed. My first cup of the insipid, vaguely chalky Earl Gray managed to contain all the charm and bright citrus notes of boiled cat’s piss; my second, stewed past the point of no return. Somehow, it actually managed to taste like pretension.
Things got no better with the arrival of the food. We were promised “scones, fresh from the oven!!”, but what we got were two vol-au-vent sized biscuity things, obviously made some time ago and shoved in the oven before serving. They really couldn’t have tried to make scones this terrible – dry, tasteless and ridiculously minute. Once again, style over substance. Loopy Lorna’s is not a place where people care about tea, it’s a place where people go when they want to look like they care about tea. So it’s no wonder it’s as popular as it is, since it’s staffed and frequented by people who clearly – surely – know nothing and care even less.
If you’re ever in Morningside, I urge you, just leave. Leave immediately, and go somewhere else, somewhere where Waitrose doesn’t count as “slumming it” and people don’t flock to overpriced novelty tea houses just to be seen.