One day I came across a very nice deal for a Scandal Water afternoon tea at The London EDITION Hotel with an extra tea punch to take home, and I did not want to pass up the chance. I arrived at the hotel, followed directions to the designated room, peeked inside, and wondered if I had come to the right place. Upon entering, the room felt rather dark and oaky, with plump leather armchairs and a tucked-away bar with a rich display of colourful glass bottles of alcohol (the hard stuff). It felt mysterious and yes, almost scandalous.
The only thing missing were a change in attire (lots of top hats, beards and mustaches, corsets and floor-length skirts), a more old-fashioned English used in conversation, and a plume of smoke. Indeed, the Punch Room, a fumed-oak paneled den, was inspired in its design by nineteenth-century London’s private clubs and the comfort of manor house libraries. The mood was certainly set for what was to follow: carefully chosen pairings of tea, light bites (both savoury and sweet) and tea punches (five in total, of which you could choose three).
Punch, a loanword from Sanskrit पञ्च (pañc) meaning “five,” is a beverage consisting of wine or spirits traditionally mixed with water and flavoured with sugar, lemon, and spices or tea. It was introduced to the UK from India in the early seventeenth century by sailors and employees of the British East India Company, and then spread to other countries and regions which developed their own signature versions (Caribbean rum punch, Southern bourbon punch in the Southern United States, Feuerzangenbowle/”Burnt Punch” in Germany, etc.).
Nowadays fruit juices (real or artificial) are a common component of punches, with soda and milk being further possible ingredients. Alcohol need not necessarily be included. But at Scandal Water it certainly is. While “scandal water” was the nineteenth-century slang for tea and became a popular pastime for the upper echelons of London Society, allowing for the gossip of the day to unfold, the custom-created punches from each of the respective teas have that extra tongue-loosening effect for a truly scandalous afternoon.
The pairings, crafted by Henrietta Lovell (founder of Rare Tea Co.) and Phil Charmichael (executive head chef at the Edition) are indeed ingenious, as one element will enhance and complement the other. For example, the Japanese sencha tea, with its smooth but rich flavour, worked harmoniously with the light salmon wrapped in crispy pastry. Or the jasmine-infused chocolate ganache was very well paired up with the finest white silver tip jasmine tea and Scandal Water’s easy-going yet aromatic signature punch of Plymouth gin, lemon juice, oak moss syrup, orange blossom water, and jasmine tea. The fact that each pairing was served one after the other certainly ensured their freshness and allowed for full appreciation of the flavour combinations. Instead of scones, typical “English” muffins were served, nicely balancing the delicate teas.
The teas at Scandal Water are carefully chosen by a master of tea, and the food and punches to match are well thought through. This is not an all-at-once afternoon tea set, but a completely new and sense-heightening experience with a focus on the harmony of certain palates. Time and effort has gone into the menu and it has paid off. The ambience is there, the punch gives a nice twist, and the tea is exquisite. So roll with the punches and head on over to The London EDITION in Fitzrovia for some scandalous water, a.k.a. tea.
Area: Fitzrovia, Central London
Closest tube: Tottenham Court Road (Central and Northern line); Goodge Street (Northern line); Oxford Circus (Central, Bakerloo, and Victoria line)
Address: The London EDITION Hotel
10 Berners St.
Fitzrovia, London W1T 3NP