Readers of this blog will remember that I am a champion of small, often quirky, specialised shops struggling against a tide of bland, character redundant chains. I was devasted to learn that "Under Two Flags", a tiny never-never land sort of a shop in St Christopher's Place which sold traditional toy soldiers, had finally shut its doors after god knows how many years.
But something lost can often something gained, and on Saturday morning I found a new gem to get excited about. It's called Postcard Teas, the brainchild of Timothy d'Offay, son of the contemporary art dealer, Anthony d'Offay. Timothy d'Offay is a dealer in rare and fine teas, which he has sourced from all over the world, and I'm pretty sure that his shop in Dering Street (just off the top end of Bond Street, behind Fenwicks), retains it's original early 19th century shop front.
Inside, it's a tiny minimalist sort of space, with a shelf of beautifully packaged teas, and a long Japanese type bench, where you can sit and sample his teas for £1.50 a cup. If you buy a canister, you get this knocked off your bill. God knows how he makes any money at all out of this; it's very much a labour of love. We sampled a Ginger and Clove tea, which Mr d'Offay told us came from the Handunugoda Tea Estate in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankans drink it with milk. It was refreshing, with the subtle yet slightly medicinal taste of the cloves coming through strongly in the aftertaste. I reckon this is currently going to be my number one tea for a baking hot summer's afternoon.
And there's another fascinating twist to this noble enterprise. The d'Offays' are fanatical postcard collectors. This is something I've got a burgeoning interest in myself. Postcards took off in the early Edwardian period, and an early postcard collection, apart from being visually beautiful, depicts a lost world before the First World War; so near and yet so far. They're also an important social historical record. Many of the negatives and plates of these photographs will have been lost, and all we have left are the postcards themselves, and with the shipwreck of time, a dwindling supply.
I'm currently interested in early Japanese postcards, so I've stuck a recent purchase on the site for you to have a look at. Postcard Teas has a gallery space downstairs, where they have occasional postcard exhibitions. Their first exhibition was called The American Dream, which showed fascinating real-photo postcards from the American Depression.