Driving through South London in a Toyota Yaris and listening to a homemade Disney compilation CD, I began to question the sanity of my friends. We were embarking upon our first road trip, a symbol of our independence, a fluttering of our 19 year-old wings: we were Brighton-bound.
To close one’s eyes and think of Brighton is to enter a sensory whirlwind. As you envisage the glorious sea, waves crash against your eardrums and as the wind whisks your hair into a furry flurry, you are swept along the queer, quaint and quirky maze infamously and affectionately termed The Lanes. Brighton is fish and chips, seagulls and deckchairs. Brighton is stony beaches, helter skelters and ice-cream. But Brighton is also organic food shops and markets, kitsch accessories and a cup of tea.
Upon arrival, I had no intention of seeking out a revolutionary tea. But somehow, one found me. Its location: Bill’s. Its rating: 5 star. Bill’s possesses a rare, quasi magical power over its customer. The walls are adorned with jars upon jars of crazy condiments, a library of fascinating taste explosions. Tassels, herbs and colourful shopping bags cascade from the mile-high ceiling. An organic utopia, a boho paradise: the queue of eager customers is practically a permanent feature. The food menu oozes organic innovation. The tea menu, however, does not. The Bill’s collection is a largely mediocre assortment of the usual suspects: darjeeling, earl grey, breakfast etc. Yet from this mundane medley screams a minute group of irresistibly groundbreaking blends that simply dare you to consider ordering them, the Václav Havels of the tea menu if you will. Assam, rooibos and my seaside sip of choice… cranberry and elderflower.
It’s unusual for a tea to command such adoration upon first glance. But as the waitress nervously approached, cup and saucer in hand, we were all mesmerised. Radiant, exciting and appetising (and adorably adorned with a strawberry), the tea possessed all the dangerous allure of a fiery redhead at peak time on the London Underground. It was as if this beverage alone symbolised the very crooks of Bill’s’ ethos and individuality.
The tea itself is a tale of two forms of bitterness: the sweet bitterness of the cranberry and the somewhat indescribable yet undeniably unique bitterness of the elderflower. This may sound like some sort of Cruella deVille of the tea world, but rest assured: the vibrancy of the cranberry’s sweetness assumes the role of Fairy Godmother, casting its spell upon the taste buds and transforming the blend into a refreshing little cup of summer. Perhaps I’ve been listening to too much Disney…
Fairy tale brainwashing aside, Bill’s represents a 21st century organic consumer wonderland. It is a palace in which colour, coolness and creativity reign, a hub of good food and good mood, a true find. Its cranberry and elderflower tea is reminiscent of the friends with which I discovered it: warm, colourful and a little off the wall…
When in Brighton, do as the Brighton folk do: http://www.bills-website.co.uk/