Tea With Orange Pekoe, London’s Top Tearoom

TOAST grabs a cuppa with Orange Pekoe's Marianna Hadjigeorgiou

Pop the kettle on as TOAST grabs a cuppa with tea expert and owner of one of London’s top tearooms Marianna Hadjigeorgiou, to learn more about her great love affair with tea and just what it takes to be the top tea in town…

It’s often said that there’s nothing that a cup of tea can’t fix. There is something so comforting, so calming and so very British about tea; keep calm and cuppa on. Reassuringly nostalgic and an everyday essential all at once, not a day goes by when I don’t indulge in at least one cup, and someone who shares my tea loving sentiment is Marianna Hadjigeorgiou, owner of Orange Pekoe (pee-ko), one of London’s top tearooms.

We often get asked about our name and where it comes from - it has nothing to do with oranges nor is it a specific blend of tea!” laughs Marianna

Orange Pekoe is actually a grade of tea and a very good one too! The story goes that many years ago when Dutch traders first brought tea to Europe they presented the finest pickings to Dutch RoyaltyThe House of Orange, as they were known. Ever since, tea of such refined quality has been called Orange Pekoe, and we only sell the highest-grade loose leaf teas, which is why we chose the name!”

Established in 2006, Orange Pekoe is a stylish but cosy little café nestled in the leafy village of Barnes, South West London. At the centre lies a large, worn wooden bar covered in towers of beautiful cakes, fresh sandwiches and pretty flowers. Overhead hangs a chandelier adding just a touch of vintage sparkle and to the front there is a large window, often beautifully hand painted depending on the season, overlooking a pretty al fresco tea terrace. The tearoom itself, complete with a few snug nooks and crannies to snuggle up in, is filled with natural light, antique furniture and delightful vintage china. It’s quaint but not twee, modern but by no means cold; a welcoming and elegant mixture of old meets new.

But Orange Pekoe is more than a tearoom!” enthuses Marianna.

The ambience inside encompasses the very spirit of tea, and creates a sense of inclusion for every visitor who steps through our doors. It is a gathering place where everyone knows they will be welcomed and cared for. Our aim is to make a difference to our customer’s day, if only for a moment – and this is in keeping with the true spirit of tea.”

Orange Pekoe

Marianna’s journey began with a love and passion for tea alongside the awareness that good quality tearooms were few and far between in London. 13 years ago she was in fact running a coffee business and frequently visiting the coolest coffee shops in town, which is when she realised that although the coffee was good – the tea service was not up to scratch.

I would order a tea and it would still be a PG bag!” she laughs.

We would have family coming over to visit from Cyprus and they always wanted to experience a traditional afternoon tea in London, and really other than the 5 star hotels there were no “tearooms” in London, which was a joke given we are a nation of tea drinkers! This coupled with my frustration for not being able to easily find good quality loose leaf tea was the driving force behind Orange Pekoe really, so I spent 2 years learning all about tea grading and tea history before I launched the business.”

So as I think you can imagine - Orange Pekoe is definitely not a PG Tips kind of place. When you walk in, the first thing you see is quite literally wall-to-ceiling wooden shelves lined with dozens of beautiful shiny black tea caddies, each containing some exotic leaf or tasty blend. There’s even a sliding ladder to reach the highest shelves; reminiscent of some fantastic old library. At any given time there are a staggering 70-80 different teas on offer, categorized by type; black tea, oolong tea, green tea, yellow tea and white tea.

Just as wine is made from different grape varieties there are different varieties of camellia sinensis (the botanical name for the tea plant) that suit different climates and processing methods,” explains Marianna.

“Different tea masters will also vary their processing methods slightly. Furthermore there are particular elements that affect the tea that you taste from your teapot - such as where the tea is grown, the soil, the climate, how the leaf is picked and then the way the tea is finally brewed!”

Orange Pekoe Loose Leaf Tea

Orange Pekoe Tea Pot

It sounds like a complicated business, but thankfully Marianna and her well-trained and charming staff know their stuff. Marianna herself samples each and every tea before it goes on the menu and Orange Pekoe’s special blends are all made in house, but despite the vast selection it is the classics, such as Earl Grey and English Breakfast, that still prove the most popular.

“They are very high quality and we have loyal customers that have been coming back to us for years for these teas” explains Marianna.

“But with the knowledge of our tea staff it is also wonderful to watch customers experiment and discover new flavours in tea - you feel like you are really doing your job when you watch customers get enthusiastic about tea and gain knowledge. It’s lovely to share this!”

I don’t know about you, but all this talk of tea has left me feeling a) thirsty and b) craving cake and Orange Pekoe’s afternoon tea is somewhat legendary. In 2008 they gained international recognition as “London’s Best Tearoom” by Time Out London, and last year Tatler proclaimed that they served one of “The Best Afternoon Teas in London”.

“We have created something magical in London,” enthuses Marianna.

“It’s a real homely experience. I grew up in a Greek family where mum always had the house full of visitors and she always had a pot of tea on the go and a fresh cake from the oven! The memories of that cosy feeling have stayed with me.”

Dainty finger sandwiches, fresh cakes and hot scones loaded with Cornish clotted cream and homemade jam are all featured, plus perfect pots of tea (brewed with specific water temperatures and infusion times, of course) and a splash of fizz if you feel like, well, splashing out.

“Tea and cake is so predominately English - it is a luxury, a treat, and it’s accessible to all. We also always have a tea sommelier on hand to advise customers...”

A tea sommelier sounds frightfully posh…

No it’s an informal affair!” laughs Marianna. "There is no fuss and no dress code - anything goes. We want our customers to feel that they can come in and enjoy a pot of tea for an hour, or they can have the whole afternoon tea experience with bubbles and the works.”

As Marianna mentioned, afternoon tea is one of the most indulgent treats out there, making it a wonderful way to spoil mum this Mother’s Day. Orange Pekoe’s special Mother’s Day Tea is all singing and all dancing, as you can imagine, and includes a Limited Edition Mother’s Day blend – made from the finest China Black Rose Congou tea and their Earl Grey tea, resulting in a cup that is delightfully sweet and perfumed.

“Afternoon tea is very feminine,” explains Marianna, “it’s relaxing and just so traditional. Sweet cake washed down with warm perfect brewed tea is simply quiet perfect!”

Orange Pekoe Pumpkin Loaf

Orange Pekoe Scones

Orange Pekoe Sandwiches

And speaking of Mother’s Day – as well as being a tea expert Marianna is also a full time working mum too.

“I try and work around my 6-year-old son so I can get to spend some time with him when he comes out of school. I only have one child and I want to enjoy him and watch him grow up!” she explains.  

“I am passionate about my business but I am also grateful for the gift of motherhood and very aware how quickly they grow up, so a work life balance for me is very important these days. Although like most working mums I feel like I am constantly juggling the two!!

Orange Pekoe Macarons

So whether you take Mum out for afternoon tea, order a special spread to be delivered to your door, or fancy whipping up your very own high tea at home, it’s a wonderful way to spoil her and let’s face it, it’s mutually beneficial as you get to enjoy the tea and cake too! Tea expert Marianna has shared her top tea tips with TOAST, including some special pointers on how create an exceptional Mother’s Day tea at home – over on TheEdit now.

Me? I am off for a cuppa. And maybe a slice of cake.

For more information about Orange Pekoe then visit their page in TOAST’s Little Black Book. Orange Pekoe’s teas can be purchased over the phone and sent anywhere in the world; they sell all their teas by weight starting at 100g and they offer mini sample caddies or larger retail caddies. They also sell refill pouches for their tins, and vouchers for afternoon tea. 


Posted in Spotlight

by Sophie Farrah
on on 16 March 2017

  afternoon tea, loose leaf tea, tea, tea and cake

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