Best Part: The Wall of Tea!
Readers, I love tea. I mean I really love it. I love the taste, the caffeine kick, the ceremony and the associated snobbery. I do not like coffee and the associated big businesses. How exciting therefore that St Albans is now home to a tea house. It is time tea was allowed to be cool and sexy. I have never had a problem with it being warm and homely mind you and love Abigail’s tearoom in the village Arcade for this reason. However I am happy to welcome this newcomer for its daring attitude and sole trader status. Boo to the chain coffee shops, hello Kanuka.
Kanuka focuses on tea, not food. Having said that, going at lunchtime we found the small repertoire to be very good in quality. The goats cheese and roasted vegetable Panini was one of the best I had tasted in a long time. I like the unconventional shape of the Panini roll too; it was almost square.
Their pudding options consisted mainly of nut related energy balls. I have a nut allergy so I could only look at them (they looked delicious) but was pleased to sample their scone with jam and cream which I found to be most satisfactory. Not as good as the Ritz but a good 7/10. I would have awarded it a higher score if the cream had been clotted and the scone fruited.
Given the limited options Mr Midweek Lunch also had a panini, but his had cheese and ham in instead. He was similarly surprised by the quality, expecting something along the lines of what you receive when forced by circumstances to lunch in a Starbucks but instead getting an unusual but intriguing sandwich. The cheese was almost reminiscent of a welsh rarebit in its white sauce consistency, dripping out of the sandwich in great dollops.
From the pudding options he went for a raw ginger square, probably because the presence of nuts meant he would not have to share it with me. Which was all the worse for me as it was apparently delightful, with an invigorating hit of ginger reminiscent of that first sip of ginger beer after a night on the tiles.
Kanuka was quiet when we entered but soon filled up. It has only been open three weeks and once word has got around I hope to see it get the custom it deserves. The decor is slick and neutral with accent mustard chairs and dark wood accessories. A feature wall of tea greets you as you enter, in fact you can see it from outside. There are about 50 loose leaf tea blends to choose from and to avoid disappointment you can test a small quantity in advance. The waitress showed us how you can also pull out the associated sniffing jar to check that the bouquet isn’t too floral or indeed not floral enough. There are three types of tea, wellbeing, classic and naughty. I am a classic girl and although I was tempted by their Assam went for the black afternoon blend. Mr Midweek lunch being in the awkward position of not liking tea choose a caramel nut choc, because he is a child. Neither of us were remotely tempted by the wellbeing section. This is not just because green tea generally has undertones of urine (perhaps it doesn’t at this classy establishment) but because we already have a great sense of wellbeing in our lives. Now possibly at Kanuka they have found a way of making green tea taste nice. I am sure they have but life is too short. I shall be sure to pay a visit with mother in law midweek lunch some time. She is a connoisseur of Green tea and wellbeing in general.
Most importantly you will want to know about the tea itself. Ladies and gentlemen, it was very fine indeed. Much better than a blend I recently had at the Lainsborough in London. Full points Kanuka. It had been properly brewed and served at the correct temperature. However, I do have a big issue to get off my chest. It was served directly to our table in a heavy duty transparent plastic mug! I am not against mugs but I am very against transparent tea serving vessels. I think Kanuka wanted to make it look cool. I suppose it is pretty in a green tea but those people choosing a classic tea are probably keen on drinking it in a classic way and should be offered a china vessel because tea honestly does taste better from bone china. I am sure you could source trendy bone china mugs or cups. I also think it is more polite to serve it in a pot with a jug of milk so that people can choose when to pour it. Proper Tea in Manchester did this with a timer so we knew when to pour it . I had to ask for milk twice and I shouldn’t have to for a classic afternoon tea blend.
My husband’s decision to go for a chocolate bar in tea form fell afoul of the usual flavoured/fruit tea/subway curse of smelling far nicer than it tasted. However, this did lead to a comedic misunderstanding that I will relate to you now.
Hearing him complain that the taste was virtually non-existent compared to the smell I decided to put this to the test myself. I picked up his (transparent plastic) mug and started moving it towards my mouth whereupon he became agitated and said loudly ‘You can’t taste it’. This was because of my aforementioned nut allergy but I misunderstood and thought he was merely reiterating his earlier point vis a vis the smell/taste imbalance. This was repeated several times until at the point where I was actually ingesting the nutty tea he was able to express himself in less ambiguous terms.
We all laughed about it when it became apparent I wasn’t going to die, and he eventually confessed that whilst subtle the tea did have a very distinctive and pleasant taste, especially when paired with the ginger square.
To summarise, I am thrilled that Kanuka is here and would certainly go again and recommend it to friends and family. I seriously advise them to offer china cups for classic blends or at the very least a narrower lipped glass cup if they still want to look cool. The current arrangement does not do justice to the superfine taste of their superior tea. Their lunch is super too.
Welcome to town Kanuka!