Atelier – “an artist’s studio or workshop, from Old French astelier workshop, from astele chip of wood, from Latin astula splinter, from assis board”.
Sounds like a very civilised concept to me, and all the more appealing when it is prefixed with the word “tea”. I paid a visit to the King’s Road’s first “tea atelier” – Bellocq – on Saturday afternoon and it certainly lived up to the sophistication and creativity implied in its descriptor. Bellocq is a New York based tea company that has recently brought its wonderful organic, full leaf teas across the Atlantic, in so doing teaching us Brits a thing or two about how to sell artisan products.
The shop itself is a simple yet striking feast for the eyes with the teas housed in bold, yellow tins that contrast perfectly with deep aubergine coloured walls. Dotted around the clutter-free space are occasional quirky touches such as fur tea cosies and other tea-related accessories. There’s enough to see, but not too much.
Given this dedication to perfect presentation, it came as no surprise to learn that the founders of Bellocq have a background working for one of Elle Tea’s favourite stores, Anthropologie (regular readers will remember I got a bit excited about their Spring catalogue here). It’s not all just stunning presentation and creative credentials though. The Bellocq team are committed to treating tea like an art-form, only working with responsible merchants who sell the finest and freshest tea.
I sampled some of this fresh tea in the store and ended up buying a beautifully packaged (of course) bag of Dragonwell tea that was weighed out on old-school scales and delivered with the kind of impeccable service you’d expect from a true craftsman. Just lovely.
Speaking of gorgeous presentation, on route to Bellocq I also snapped a pic of the very original window display at Penhaligons. They had stuck pretty little cardboard flowers onto the outside of their shop window, all of which were scented with various Penhaligon fragrances. I picked off a Bluebell-scented one – it’s seasonal and I seem to have a bit of a thing for bluebells at present – and it’s now stuck on my mirror at home, still smelling fresh as a, er, bluebell.