Waterloo Tea are a company who offer a twist on the classic cup of tea and view it not just a refreshment but also as a science, a pastime, and a tailored personal experience.
Washington Tearoom, located on Stanwell Road, Penarth, is the second branch opened by Waterloo Tea after the success of its older brother the Waterloo Gardens Teahouse in Penylan.
Waterloo Gardens Teahouse has been open for over five years, while the Washington Tearoom has been running since last July.
Due to the popularity of the first two tearooms, owner Kasim Ali is now about to open a third in Wyndham Arcade in Cardiff city centre.
With the UK’s high streets now littered with coffee shop after coffee shop – and most of these are American chains – it is easy to get the impression tea has been neglected.
The good old brew, the foundation of the British Empire, has been shunned in favour of iced mochachinos and skinny chai soya lattes.
Waterloo Tea are making tea cool again, offering a modern twist on the nation’s favourite drink. The menu at Washington Tearoom boasts an impressive 58 different teas in eight different varieties, so making your choice can be quite overwhelming, especially when an exotic brew normally constitutes a cup of Yorkshire Gold instead of standard Yorkshire Tea.
However, the whole experience at the Washington Tearoom is tailored towards the customer getting the most out of their cuppa, and the visual guides which cover the walls help you to make sense of the vast choices on offer.
Waterloo Tea owner Mr Ali used to be a pharmacist before he ventured into tea, and there are certainly echoes of his former profession present at the Washington Tearoom.
There is a real science behind Waterloo Tearoom’s tea. They monitor everything from the temperature of the water used through to the quality – in fact they have even installed special filters after research found their tea tastes better with higher quantities of magnesium.
Different teas need to be brewed for different amounts of time, and every pot comes with an hourglass so customers know exactly when to take the tea leaves out of the pot.
Another interesting feature of Waterloo Teahouses is everything is procured from Fair Trade sources. Josh Clarke, 21, who has managed Washington Tearoom since it opened, explained how they have direct trade links around the world – but despite this the heart of the business remains rooted in Wales: “We get our tea from as far afield as Fujian Province in China.
The Darjeeling tea for example is directly sourced from Darjeeling. This not only allows us to get the best quality tea but also means both the farmer and ourselves get the best deal. “We also try to stay Welsh where we can though, we have a woman who bakes our scones for us in the kitchen, and we will always endeavour to source local produce.”
When the new city centre branch of Waterloo Tearooms opens it will provide a refreshing rival to the monotonous string of Starbucks and Costas which swamp Cardiff.
Waterloo Tearooms turn drinking tea into a novel experience. Even if you’re only used to dunking hob knobs into a stewed builder’s brew, you’ll find a tea to your taste.