Although I’m still slightly grief-stricken from the loss of Tea Tree Tea, my tasting partner and I made our way to Pekoe Tea in Tollcross on a Saturday afternoon. The experience was one of singular juxtaposition and I was left feeling more like I’d just come off my break in a warehouse than like I’d spent a pleasant hour in a tea bar.
Straightaway it’s obvious that Pekoe’s main focus is its wholesale business. They offer a huge selection of teas online, as well as some interesting and odd tea ware, and it’s clear that all their stock comes through the same small premises. The upshot is a cramped, somewhat untidy seating area crammed in front of the bar and under constant siege by cardboard boxes, strips of packing tape and shelf upon shelf of shiny packaged tea. What made it worse still was the back room isn’t separate from the main part of the cafe, so we were treated to an overweight man puffing his way through unboxing and pricing up the latest delivery. Think a white-haired Sal from Futurama and you’d be just about there (these gourmets teas ain’t gonna unboxes themselfs!).
All that aside, the decor itself (apart from a ghastly enormous golden light fitting in the centre of the ceiling) was all cool urban loft-style living; dark stone and light wood. Magazines like “The Foodie” and “Homes And Interiors” ruined the 90s Manhatten vibe just a little, but all in all it worked and definitely makes a change from the ubiquitous “vintage chic”.
So after finding a seat and looking confused for a few minutes, we finally got around to placing our order. I’m not sure how the man who served us managed to maintain such an unflappable air of smugness amongst the chaos, but maintain it he did, right down to the impeccably-styled hair and well-practiced lack of anything approaching customer service. Although he did recommend a tea, it was done so perfunctorily and with at least five exhortions to “like us on Facebook” that I rather felt we’d have been better sticking a pin in the menu.
The Assam we chose (single estate broken orange pekoe) came in a beautiful Japan Zero teapot, with matching cups and milk jugs. No timer, no advice on brewing time, just a suggestion to “take the leaves out if it gets too strong”. Duh. Obviously this meant the first cup was too weak, the second almost stewed. I’m not sure why it’s so difficult to just brew the tea for the customer so they get the best possible experience; perhaps I’m missing something. Excellent tea nonetheless; so good we took a bag of the tippy golden flowery orange pekoe 1 from the same estate home. It was overshadowed, however, by the best brownie I have ever eaten, ever. Ever! Crispy on the outside with a just-set, gooey dark chocolate interior full of walnuts – not too sweet, insanely rich and aggressively decadent. Better still, Pekoe’s cakes all come from a new local bakery; the selection is very small and there’s no savoury options, but Pekoe is not really set up to linger over a lunch.
In conclusion, a mixed review all round. Pekoe is easily the best place to buy tea in Edinburgh, and it’s surprisingly reasonably priced for what it is. I’ll be returning to top up my supplies (and I’ll be getting a brownie to go!), but I’m not sure I’ll want to tarry there again.
Pekoe Tea’s online shop can be found at http://www.pekoetea.co.uk/
Cakes by Love Crumbs bakery: http://www.lovecrumbs.co.uk/#