Replacing anxiety: Coffee substitutes and caffeine-free alternatives

Either for health reasons, sustainable performance for athletes, during pregnancy and breast feeding for women, coffee substitutes intrigue these mindful of their consumption. The side effect of caffeine brings about nervousness, anxiety, and even panic attacks, for women it can also upset estrogen levels.

In spring, a healthy detox is always a wise choice to reset the body and mind into a relaxed pattern at first and then gain more energy for the year’s festivities. During detoxification the body has plenty to do and you better rest to aid the intense process affecting most organs. From liver, kidneys, the digestive system, pancreas, gall bladder to heart. Therefore, all serious health retreats I have been to cross of caffeine out their cleansing menus. 

Cichorium Intybus

The new vice for the global world on speed

Not only the health conscious skip caffeine or at least try to reduce it, but Europe did not have caffeine in any form – coffee or tea until 17th century. On Vice I read that up until 1616, London had no caffeine because of the global trade had not improved it yet. I love the post’s author (Jamie Steidle) lips lifting confession:

“I don’t like the feeling when you have one too many espresso shots and you’re moving so fast that you might phase through the space-time continuum like a quantum particle.” And I cannot be more in sync with him grasping that “Caffeine, it turns out, is not the soul of coffee; trust me. It’s more about the ritual and the mood, not just a jolt of energy and heart palpitations.”  

They especially entertain our mind as if you once were a genuine coffee lover, not just the caffeine kick seeker, but a connoisseur of the deep expression of the Earth’s divers terroirs. For with coffee like the real tea (Camelia Sinensis) and wine, in different soils, elevations, exposures to the sun and other elements, the beans’ expression changes. The human intervention also counts as with tea and wine. Selecting the beans and then gently roasting it can support or break the quality.

Healthy coffee replacements

My coffee appreciation yielded a casual poem once. While I was sipping a frothy cappuccino brewed by a Japanese barista in Le Marais, Paris, I was elated that finally, Paris has a good quality, perfectly brewed coffee.

No lid to screen my eager lips

Dipping like silky petals of tulips

Wet with a dew diving down

Into the soiled brew I now own 

Touching the frothy pleasure 

My nose elates beyond measure

Warmth under the milky cloud

Caresses my mouth, teases joy out


coffee alternatives

Health reasons to quit coffee and switch to an alternative

About six months ago I had to stop drinking normal coffee for health reasons. The bad headaches and dizziness were enough to warn me that something isn’t alright. Later, blood tests showing serious anaemia confirmed my body’s blinking orange light. Listen to your body as it has that red flag capacity to prevent further damage. Tannins in coffee, black tea, chocolate and wine are the major interferences with the absorption of iron from the food we consume into the blood. One needs to consume these at least an hour apart from iron-rich foods and supplements.

As there always is a bright side to any misfortune, I embarked on a research journey seeking what else with a similar taste profile is out there on the market. Still, I would enjoy one cup of decaf coffee without the headaches, but the tannins were still in. The aroma of an excellently roasted coffee bean is simply irreplaceable.

Like the 15th century spice traders I voyaged to America where most hotels serve terrible decaf coffee. I try a sip, but mostly the experience is so bad that I advise to rather skip it altogether. As my desperation and curiosity grew, I asked around and rejoice, I got plenty of tips on artisan coffee roasters from LA to Brooklyn making delightful, by natural methods decaffeinated beans. Most used more mild method of water washing to rid the praised coffee berries off the for some unwelcome caffeine.

From spring mountain water soaring with bright flavours to sugar sweetened water, it works very well but takes more work than the harsh chemical treatments used commonly. The majority of chemical decaffeination washes away not just the unwanted but also some desired flavour. More often than not, lesser quality of beans were being used for this purpose. Not any more. The hardness of the water used is also a key to success. Even the world’s best barista at Mame, residing like currently myself in Zurich, also adopted his decaffeinating method to using local Swiss water. Still, even more gentle and flavour friendly is using CO2 method to remove the caffeine from the green beans prior to roasting. This is so far the best method I found that shows in the taste.

Healthy coffee alternatives

My recommended decaf coffees: Alana’s sugar H2O decaf Colombian beans in Los Angeles; Mexican brew by Devocion in Brooklyn; the trophies winning Mame in Zurich has with Swiss water washed blend; Deep in Marseille has sublime CO2 decaf roast from Ethiopia called Chill Pills.

Sometimes, my body is cheated into believing that I am drinking the real thing, I get a slight buzz from it for a couple of minutes, but then as if the brain found out the fraud, suddenly I am at ease and no headache comes. How intriguing is observing closely the reaction of your own body, especially when you are impartial, knowing that what you bought came from the decaf bag. 

Perhaps it is not caffeine, the illusion of comfort and pick me up before setting out to work, but the warm brew, the fragrance of which you can inhale joyfully. Indeed, any beverage with a pleasant deep aroma, unique to you, can step in the place of coffee. 

coffee alternatives

The best coffee substitutes for your health

Don’t just sip any herbal infusion. For a chamomile, fennel, ginger or any other plant tisane won’t satisfy these who seek the specific chocolaty, nutty, perhaps even bitter, sometimes tobacco leaves reminding aromas. Some herbal and grain substitutes supply important minerals, vitamins and other potentially beneficial nutrients, often alkaline and better than the body acidifying coffee. Further, some are more suitable for mixing with coffee in order to lower the caffeine content in your daily consumption.

Barley is perhaps the most common. In Italy any gas station offers orzo. The roasted barley can unfortunately tasted as if burned so I am usually dissatisfied either with the espresso or cappuccino form of it. Plus if gluten bothers you, barley is not your friend. Yet, there are some cafes and restaurants that source more elegantly roasted barley so you might prefer it to my further suggestions. In Japan, I tasted Mugi-cha or Barley tea which is essentially the same but not ground into fine grains as the coffee substitute would be. 

Taste-wise and health-wise, I find a better option in chicory. This roasted previously dehydrated root from chicory plant (Cichorium Intybus) has a deep flavour like coffee, nutty, woody, not bitter, and is an ideal morning partner to your breakfast. Not irritating your bowels as coffee does, plus it does not acidify the gut more than it already is. In my native Czechia, chicory is still very popular as it was commercially made for two centuries. From health stand for hypertension, therefore older people tend to sip on it instead of coffee that rises your blood pressure rather fast. It is a wonderful paring with milk and milk alternatives such as almond, oat or soy to whip up a frothy cappuccino or macchiato.

coffee alternativesHealthy coffee alternatives

Less common alternatives to your daily coffee

Creatively and historically, the resourceful Czechs have also used oak (Quercus Alba) acorns blended with other substances such as rosehip. The acorns contain tannic acid, which for some sensitive individuals may not work. For example if you suffer from anemia, the tannins interfere with the absorption of iron into the blood, so you better have your iron and this brew separately.

Spelt is a less common ancient grain brew, but roasted and blended with chicory it tastes close to black coffee.

Rye can be also roasted and then ground into more breakfast porridge kind of meal rather than delightful coffee alternative.

Lupins (Lupinus Lutens) can also be ground to a powdery consistence for warm cuppa, yet many people have allergy to these leguminous beans and the taste is nothing close to coffee, rather a beverage on its own merit.

In Japan, particularly around Kyoto I was impressed by the deep roast of KuromamechaBlack Soybean brew served often by monasteries and temples.

Healthy coffee alternativesRoasted tea

Economising choices of tasty beverages

I remember that particularly wide spread was a blend of chicory, sugar beet, barley and rye still available in Czechia today. Sold under the brand name Melta it was fortified with additional vitamins (iron, B6, potassium) and minerals (magnesium), yet cheaper than coffee and vastly popular during economically harsh times like wars and the occupation by Soviet Union. With inflation striking high, banks collapsing once again, we are well into the economically sober cycle, therefore cheaper and healthier alternatives to coffee become handy. In hard times, some rather puzzling ingredients were used to balance the cost of coffee, by adding dried and pounded figs, carrots, grape seeds, even potatoes into the imported coffees.

Dandelion plantcoffee alternativestasting of coffee alternatives in Czechia

Herbal remedies as coffee replacements

The root of dandelion is beyond its European staple status now frequently on the shelves of health food stores in the US. It is more like a herbal infusion with the bitter taste wanted for its bile production inducing effect. The inulin in it supports immunity.

Burdock is popular in the West Arctium lappa as well as in Asia. In TCM this berberine and inuline containing herb is known as blood purifier and tonic, overall it supports liver by promoting the flow of bile, increases circulation to the skin, and is a mild diuretic. The Japanese adore the health benefits and the slightly sweet flavour of the burdock root that is also used in cooking.

Healthy coffee alternatives

The superfood adaptogenic coffee is a blend of medicinal mushrooms (Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s mane and Reishi are most common), and herbs like Ashwagandha that help the body to fend off stress. Basically the opposite effects of caffeine, you get an energy boost without the jittery crust. In the eastern traditional medicine these ingredients were used for millennia and I also like the taste of some of the blends broadly available in the US and UK organic shops such as Moon Juice, Chagaccino (made with there chaga mushroom), reishi mushroom blends as well as Maccacino based on the libido and stamina-increasing South American powdered maca root. With chaga you need to be alert before any surgery or if you take blood thinners since it increases bleeding.

I like to buy it pure, organic and then experiment with blending other ingredients in for the best taste and effect on the specific day. For example I splash in a pinch of maca, houjicha powder (very low caffeine roasted green tea twigs now available at Blue Bottle coffee across the US and Kettl tea in New York) and even some cacao, plus oat milk for creamy texture. Get creative with your healthier cup of morning delight and also in touch with what your body and mind need, mindfully, not just robotically brewing a pick me up, but reflect first how do you feel and why?

roasted teabest tea in Paris

If you like something spicy without the caffeine then the alternative to chai is turmeric latte. The blend of sunshine-hued turmeric root with its inflammation effect enhancing black pepper and other spices like cardamom, cloves and sweet touch of honey, maple, brown or coconut sugar is brewed in hot milk for a cosy warm cold day remedy.

Ready to chill? My caffeine-free tips will keep you levelled, not up and down. Most importantly, find what you enjoy, savour, sip, love.

British cheese revolution that would leave the French gasp beyond fromage

British cheese had millennia of tradition on the islands’ soil and in the milkmen’s craft, but all that diversity and skill got almost wiped out post WWII. Rejuvenated over the past three decades, today the breadth of transformed dairy products is at least as fascinating as that of the French regional savoir-faire. Ned Palmer, the expert author of A Cheese Monger’s Compendium of British & Irish Cheese, alerts that while it is impossible to count precisely “there are probably more than 1,500 individual cheeses in Britain and Ireland” (about 700 are named in the UK) made today. Open your nose and the palate to a marvellous assortment of geographical, microbial, artisanal servings that will certainly impress even the most demanding foodie.

British cheese board

I invite you to argue with me that next to the French, the cheese made on the British islands (count in Scotland and North Ireland because of the cheese style making connections are much tighter than their political union) is the most sophisticated expression of human creativity in food making without superfluous tech gadgets today. Some very distinct cheeses are only made by one person or a dairy farmhouse in such tiny batches that only a few fine restaurants around the country get a slice. The wide variety is due to specific microorganisms on each farm, the breed of the animal, its diet and seasonal diversity and of course the choice of added cultures. The distinct microflora is expressed most loudly in raw, unpasteurised cheeses. The refined skills, local specificity and climate, all contributed to a vast compendium of fermented fresh or aged dairy products. 

cheese serving

The refined skills, local specificity and climate, all contributed to a vast compendium of fermented fresh or aged dairy products in Britain as in France, Italy and Spain. 

Most cheeses allegedly came to existence by accident. Countless tales of how the bread mould transferred to leftover cheese marbled it bluish are the folk witnesses of that lucky mistake. In the second millennium AD, chemistry and food science as well as better temperature control and more precise inoculation by chosen cultures allow for more consistency. A bit like “natural” wine versus more consistent rest of the wines.

British cheese

Like most foreigners’ encounter, I had a first gasp, literally, at the breadth of British cheese in Britain. Beyond the average cheddar sold in supermarkets I got to sniff some intense Stilton and it’s raw, unpasteurised brother Stichelton. Both marbled blue by their common family roots (cultures in cheese are a bit like genes in humans) as I discovered at that great mother and affinneur of British artisan cheese diversity in London – Neal’s Yard Dairy in Covent Garden. Except for good cheddar and perhaps Stilton you might struggle to find any other examples of the British mastery of cheese abroad, so it is well worth stopping by any of these during your next trip to London.

British cheese British cheese

There are quite a few British cheese experts nowadays, some publishing enlightening compendiums on the subject. I was most enlightened on the subject by Ned Palmer, author of two learned books: 

A Cheese Monger’s Compendium of British & Irish Cheese 

History of British Cheese

If you seek more detailed knowledge about British cheese, then these two volumes will sate your curiosity. I won’t enter the inexhaustible territory of some hard to get cheese even in Britain, but I can start to whet your appetite and expand your palate to new flavours with my favourite cheese shops in London. I chose the best mongers offering a wide choice from British cheese as well as advise you individually according to your preferences and occasion. Do not bring the Stinking Bishop to any party, please!

British cheese plate

While I hope to spare you of some social embarrassment, I also would like to lift up your scores in terms of impression as a host or a gift bearer.

Bellow, I mention some award-winning cheeses available at these specific stores, some only seasonally available rarities, but also those familiar names made with greatest skill by some cheese makers in Britain and Ireland.

These London cheese mongers know best:

Neal’s Yard Dairy originally in London’s Covent Garden and now also in three other locations (Borough market, Islington, Bermondsey) is a must go for Stichelton, an unpasteurised blue cheese specialty unique to the UK that strayed quite recently (in 2006 when two leading British cheese makers joined forces) from the pasteurised Stilton recipe. There are only five Stilton producers, another British niche.

Personally, I prefer the goat’s blue Harbourne Blue and Beenleigh Blue (sheep’s) to either of the more famous British blues. Here you will be offered to taste almost any cheese, but a few creamy moulds that are impossible to slice without reeking the “pâte” as the French call the interior of semi-soft and soft fromage. Finding rare specimens is a joy at this four decades old cheese monger, artisan producers’ pioneer that selects, matures and sells (except for young, fresh cheese, the ‘Dairy’ as it is often referred to between the locals, ages all of the cheeses available there for sale) British cheese including England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

The ewe’s milk (young sheep) round soft sweet Welsh Brefu Bach was just magic with oatcakes (another superb British invention, as I prefer to serve cheese with crackers, crisp breads and oat biscuits) and an opulent Battârd-Montrachet (still, the French make much better wine) to sip on. Made in Bethesda with an old school thistle stamen coagulant from unpasteurised ewe’s milk of animals grazed at old lays, as Ned palmer writes “fields with richly multicultural population of grasses. Herbs and legumes” which shows in the complex floral, nutty even a hint of caramel and vanilla on the palate.

The well-aged golden dry sheep’s Corra Linn has very hay summer deep taste of Scottish meadows. For Camembert and Vacherin Mont d’Or lovers, the ultra creamy Tunworth and Little Rollright for baking will surpass the bar of wow. The raw cheese selection here is splendid. Try the raw cow’s milk Baron Bigod if you like the French Brie de Meaux. Sinodun Hill will please unpasteurised Loire goat’s cheese lovers. If you are curious about more of these local meets its continental match, the Neal’s Yard Dairy blog published an insightful post on this.

Depending on the season and stage of ageing, you may come across the best summer milk or more fresh spring young cheese.

Scottish cheese British cheeseBritish cheese

Hamish Johnston Fine Cheeses is another friendly store that offers a taste of almost anything before you buy (again except for the ultra-runny, messy pieces that only hold together before cut). South of the river Thames, just near to Hamish Johnston caters to regular residents in the neighbourhood. Not purely British, but also French, Greek, Italian and Spanish cheeses mingle with the local greats. From reserve goat (Gat in Old English) Rachel, the ashy pyramids of Tor next to Loire Valley’s Valencay, Golden Cross and Ragstone, snowy white coats of Penicillium candidum logs to ashy Geotrichum yeasty Spaniard Monte Enebro, Sharpham’s golden pate dressed as a perfectly round Camembert de Normandie. Also made form raw cow’s milk Binham Blue’s friendly mildness may persuade Roquefort enemies to enjoy blue cheese for once.

British cheese

Paxton & Whitfield in St. James’s is the longest established cheese monger in the British capital and one of the oldest in England. The veteran of London cheese shops does not just offer local selections but also other mostly European cheeses. A great Cheddar selection, with the king of them the Montgomery Cheddar sunshine wheels proudly on display. Shropshire Blue is one of these confusing misnamed mysteries. The blue-veined rich russet cow’s cheese originated in Scotland, and made now in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire. Here, I also discover lesser known stunners such as Ashcombe, a centre cut by veined wood ash, semi-hard texture with pink crust made form pasteurised cow’s milk inspired by the French Alpine Morbier.

A surprise took us by heart recently, as our dearly missed British Cheese Shop founder moved back from Zurich to London post Brexit and with him along with the political complexities, the diversity of imports dropped in our Swiss home. Some of his favourites he introduced our palates to, a rarity is the award-winning creamy cow’s blue, with a rich deep yellow pate and rustic rind, the Barkham Blue by Sandy and Andy Rose in Berkshire is also sold at Paxton & Whitfield.

British cheese British blue cheese British cheese

The Fine Cheese Company, originally from Bath, has an expanding store with a few tables for eating in or out on the inner terrace in the posh Belgravia. Their branded oatcakes and crackers are my personal favourite and now also being exported to the EU, Switzerland, the US and probably to more savvy markets open to cheese revelry. The late founder of the Fine Cheese Co. Ann-Marie Dyas was one of the pioneers supporting the British cheese quality since the 80s. My quarantine days during the pandemic lockdown in London were made more pleasant after ordering a fine box with my cheese selection, crackers and accompaniments like slow-baked Dottato figs. It was so beautifully packaged that I felt like a birthday girl. Tomme d’Adrienne from Wiltshire, a cake of a goat cheese ruffled with ash rind and a spire of summer truffle running through its midriff. Our beloved Wigmore, the Loire goat’s log-like Ragstone, and two wax-coated unusual cheddars; one made of goat milk and the other oak-smoked. The cafe is inspired by cheese but not all plates contain it, so one can have a proper lunch or aperitif hour with a glass of wine there.London cheese deliveryBritish cheesebest cheese shops in the UK

La Fromagerie is not pure British cheese purveyor but includes fine picks from most of Europe, but also incredible selections from Oregon across the Pond. Still, the pricing is most competitive and their cave of perfectly stored cheeses is a sensory pleasure to experience. The Michelin-star restaurant Hide Above and their more casual ground-level Hide get their cheese trolley from La Fromagerie.

Akin to a coffee shop, over a decade ago when coffee in London literally sucked, meetings with my friends while studying in London took place at its Marylebone base for decadent dairy indulgences. For lunch or supper with some wine at hand, perfect pairings were matched with an ease for us, tipsy bon vivants. La Fromagerie offers much of the established British cheeses you find at the above stores. I recommend Baron Bigot, the Brie style with its wrinkled golden brown specked furry white coat to higher fat level with the creamiest part in the soft pâte (the French call l’âme de fromage – the soul of the cheese, divine!). Winslade is just much more complex tasting than Camembert, the spruce bark that envelops it certainly adds earthy pine notes. Ticklemore, the semi-soft fresh tasting goat’s from Devon, shaped like a fluffy flying saucer landing in the midst of snowy winter, is nowadays made at the same estate as the Sharpham winery. Its zesty bright taste is perfect for summer with salads and white wine.

The creamy Tunworth that easily knocks down the French Jura’s Vacherin Mont d’Or even before it is baked to a liquified perfection in the oven is a must try. Packed in round wooden boxes, this is also the favourite of one of the best British chefs Simon Rogan, who shares a recipe in his cookbook Roganic.

British cheeseBritish cheeseBritish cheese

There are also the newish London Cheesemongers on Chelsea’s happening Pavilion Road. While they have the smallest selection when compared with all of the above, they pick the cream from the British islands’ fields plus some from Neil’s Yard Dairy, so if that is more convenient for you, stop by.

British cheese

Whether traditional or more open to experimentation, most serious foodies adore the diversity of milky transformations made by savvy humans in search of steady supply of food for millennia. In the UK now you can find exactly that, no need to take the train to Paris to indulge in cheese plates. Contrary to your belief perhaps, the contemporary reductionist approach to cheese trolleys at even the greatest gastronomic institutions in the French capital has rather disappointed us recently when dining there. Most great restaurants in and outside London now offer a broad selection of purely British cheese boards. Cheers to that.

The best pastry shops in London now
It used to be extremely challenging to find an excellent croissant in London when I lived there about a decade ago. Yet my most recent returning trips whetted not only my appetite, but awed me with superb quality pastries. Spanning from English scones, exotic Japanese thousand layer crepes, popular nordic buns to creative takes on desserts by the most talked-about pâtissier landing from Paris, London has it all now. Whether it was the pandemic home-baking I have no clue, but some of my selections were getting hot already before all the lockdowns.
French pastry

How one finds the pastry shops in London?

I randomly popped into some rather good looking pastry boutiques on my daily breakfast hunt, but mostly the winners were trusted recommendations by my savvy local friends. My gratitude goes to their happy life in London, their gourmand curiosity and their knowledge of my own palate, globally rather spoiled with the best there exists (not always an advantage as I am too discerning).
For diversity, the best pastry shops in London now that are streamlined here reflect a sliver of the distinct cultures living in the expansive British capital. Please, do not be offended if your ethnic background is not featured as this would require a book-long guide (who ever goes to all featured in such compendia?), not a shortlist for practical use as I intended this one. I focused on Central London, not just because this is where many travellers head but also because the fiercest competition often dwells in the epicentre. Of course, I had to find a perfect scone to go as well!
Arôme in Covent Gardencustard egg tarts

Arôme bakery 

Arôme in Covent Garden was the hot gossip of the town during the pandemic and it turned out to be marvellous! The Franco-Asian bakery and pastry shop reflects the training of its co-founder, the French-born pâtissier Alix André whose business partner in the bakery as well as his wife are both Singaporean. While this cultural duet is rather common and stirs long queues in Tokyo and Singapore, in the West we got into the beautiful marriage of matcha, miso, shiso, yuzu, adzuki, and other traditional Japanese dessert additions only during the past decade. Perfectionism of execution, organic flour and sensible originality is what sets Arôme apart from the crowd. Their spiky horned croissant 1930 (the classic version) can be baked (ask for warm) with ham and cheese like croque monsieur, plus a japonisme filling of dried bonito (tuna) flakes (known as katsuoboshi) béchamel or wilder even is the hotdog croissant topped with Japanese BBQ Sauce and sesame seeds. Their nordic bun has a Malay whiff of coconut with palm sugar (Gula Melaka Coconut Bun) while the bestseller Honey Butter Toast was inspired by a Singaporean favourite and is baked throughout the day for fresh crispness. Japanese touch in a miso with bacon, cheddar cheese, coriander and spring onion escargot (snail), apple joins miso caramel glaze or pear with shiso leaf in the danish. Next to the classic pain au chocolate Arôme offers a giant chocolate croissant flaked with white almonds. The signature bread➰Shokupan is a Japanese toast bread ideal for sando sandwiches.
Arôme in Covent GardenArôme in Covent Gardenbest London pastry shops

Speciality pastries in London

Wa Patisserie is the best pastry shop in London for the mille crêpe cakes in my opinion (from matcha, strawberry, to more western earl grey, oreo, to cheesecake flavour). Kova Patisserie also bakes decent macha rolls, shortcakes and mille crêpes next to their indulgent bubble teas.
Nearby in the theatre district is the singleminded spectacularly decadent Santa Nata bakery. The only thing they bake is the sublime Portuguese custardy tart pasteis de nata. And they do it well. If you tried in Lisbon, the nostalgia pours from your tongue with an indulgent satisfaction.
Craving some choux but do not want to overindulge? Maitre Choux makes mini versions (chouquettes) in a wide range of flavours next to their top notch eclairs masterminded by a three Michelin Star-experienced pastry chef. There are four locations, so pick the most convenient for you.
Japanese pastryL'Eto pastryFrench pastry in London

Buns from Home

Buns from Home have just expanded from Holland Park and Notting Hill to the City and Covent Garden. They really got me. Walking along Long Acre, my nose literally teased me in. I had to find that stuff smelling so oomph amazing! The irresistible aroma of freshly baked spiced pastry is the best any city can tease you with. Their double baked nordic buns with a creative twist aren’t as sugary as most. Must haves are the pistachio with apple cinnamon bun and the equally sublime banana bread walnut with cardamom. The secret dwells in the laminated buttery croissant style dough from French flour and butter (different from the yeast raised traditional style in Scandinavia) and the milled nut and pureed fruit additions into the filling. These cardamon and cinnamon bulle are incomparably superior to the popular sprawling chain Ole & Steen in London. Plus, the weekend specials rock the boat with something new (check their Instagram for some creative, naughtiness craving pop!) each time.
best pastry in London Pistachio buncinnamon bun
best pastry in LondonEnglish scone

Connaught patisserie

Connaught patisserie is located in the namesake hotel in Mayfair. Here the five star pastry chef bake what we think is the best croissant in London, I also enjoy the smooth scone. The concept feels like the copy of the Parisian Le Meurice, Le Bristol and the Ritz, all of which opened high- end pastry boutiques on the side of their lavish lodgings. At the Connaught there are actually a few tables to sit around with your sweet French treats and a cup of coffee. Trying the signature CONNAUGHTY HOUND, a dog-shaped a chocolate hazelnut cake shaped as the mascot of the hotel is more for fun than the best they offer, but I love their openness to offering pastries from the best London restaurants such as the River Café. Its Chocolate Nemesis’s the best chocolate cake in the city. Let me know after you try how did that indulgent bite feel?
Mount Street is buzzing, yet the nearby Milanese export, the Pasticceria Marchesi in London is by far not as good as in its Italian homeland.
French pastryTop French patisserie

Cédric Grolet at the Berkeley

Cédric Grolet at the Berkeley is the first beyond Paris opening of the namesake contemporary star of French pastry. From Le Meurice to Knightsbridge, where the spacious café is unlike the tiny, take-away boutique on the side of the ultra luxe Parisian hotel, this is certainly an upgrade. The lemon is his most famous creation, although Grolet was not the first to create desserts that look like a piece of fruit. Long before, the legendary pastry chef at Le Chèvre d’Or in the South of France had created such wonders. For London, the Parisian celebrity pattissier created the exclusive scone, which has not flour in it. Grolet’s signature creations are based mostly on cream, delicate white chocolate (cocoa butter) and intense flavours of the food item they are meant to represent. Kind of edible sculptures. From the wheat and butter pastries, the small hive of a croissant peels beautifully in its laminated layers and the custard rose filled with generous dense vanilla pudding are both worthy of your cravings.
best cakes in Londonbest pastry shops in London

Saffron inspired best pastry shops in London:

Why am I elevating cakes with saffron? Simply, I think that the most expensive and valuable spice in the world deserves a special attention, plus it is in pastry where it shines best for me.
El & M may be silly to claim being the most Instagrammable cafe in the world and not everything there tasting perfect, but their saffron cake with an extra impact of dulce de leche sweetness is ravishing! One of the best saffron cakes I have ever tasted. The sponge is soaked in the saffron egg sauce, plus the cream topping, either adding on the fluffy contrast of lightness with intensity. No wonder they have just opened branches in the Arabic hotspots like Dubai, Doha, Kuwait, Riadth and even Paris. I am not sure if they replicate the success, so only go to their tiny first branch in Mayfair on Park Lane.
L’Eto pastry make similarly ravishing saffron and rose cream cake. L’Eto further experiments with more wild ingredients such as vegetal juices and colouring in the sponge cakes. Still, they also make superb tiramisu!
Ottolenghi pastry

Why did you left out?

I can hear influencer photo-hungries scream, but what about Ottolenghi? Yes, the cakes by the team hired by the famous Israeli cookbook author and chef look great and you want to spoon them off with your nose’s tip. Yet, I could taste over the years as the empire expands, the quality flounders. Just to make sure it was not a dip a couple years ago, I got my once favourite granola and a carrot cake, but they just lost it. The best pastry shops in London now have far surpassed this staple of indulgence.
The widely praised Flor bakery moved from Borough Market to online orders only at for pick up or nationwide delivery (a growing trend) recently. So I cannot include it into the best pastry shops in London now since it is less accessible and flexible.
I guarantee, unless you are a celiac or must adhere to the gluten-free diet (this post is not for you, I am sorry), your next sugar craving will be sorted satisfactorily at the above pastry stars shining bright in London.

Top quality tea shops in London: skip Eater’s advice

Still the global capital of luxurious tea hedonism, London is an interesting place to buy tea of any kind, provenance and quality. Therefore, it is shocking that Eater’s selections in London are about any cafe that came to the authors mind, it seems that tea is a side business. Including coffee shops (Prufrock, Store Street Espresso) and pastry parlors (Wa Café) in their best tea shops in London map. All that while omitting a growing family of great tea rooms and shops dedicated preferentially to camelia. I went to all just to double-check. The guide’s amateur contributors take you to ‘tea shops’ where proper packaged tea is not even sold or served over-brewed (as I witnessed at Claridge’s)! Eater’s edited Where to drink tea in London choices are overwhelmingly an insult to a serious tea lovers’ taste. A seasoned cosmopolitan tea connoisseur does not buy trendy matcha lattes, steamed on most of the good stuff killing boiling point, powdered tea bags diluted with milk, artificially flavoured ‘candy’ brews, but above all seeks purity, quality and expert advice.

London tea Sketch tea

As a tea jetsetter with a cupboard stuffed with quality tea and rarities I summoned on my exotic journeys,  I was disturbed. Taking up the challenge, I revisited some of the best tea purveyors that I wrote about years ago, keeping some, while including more exciting newcomers on the London’s tea stage.

Tea in London involves some brick stores, yet for example Jing Tea, Rare Tea Company and the family-run Lalani & Co only retail online or at highly selected gourmet shops and are chosen by some of the best London restaurants (Core, The Clove Club, Gauthier and Sketch) and hotels (Four Seasons). Here, I selected top tea shops in London selling directly extraordinary small-batch teas. I visited them countless times, so I am including only serious quality tea shops. These specialist boutiques are best for their international tea selection sourced directly.

Rare tea CompanyLondon experience

Postcard Teas

Postcard Teas provides only the best quality leafs from precisely focused small tea plantations (less than 15 acres). The Mayfair tea boutique has attracted the most savvy camellia connoisseurs seeking to buy tea in London. Teas from China, India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam are in store, always the newest release of the particular year, but also aged pu-erh that tends to be better older. Limited quantities of organic herbal infusions, handmade English teapot covers that keep warmth inside the pot for longer, rare handmade Japanese ceramics and tea accessories made by contemporary artists in Japan round up the shopping spree. 
best tea shop in London
True to its name, the artistic labels for the airtight tea tins at Postcard Teas can be used as greeting cards to be send on your behalf to anyone, anywhere in the world.
 9 Dering St, London W1S 1AG, United Kingdom
 +44 20 7629 3654
Mon-Sat: 10:30am – 6:30pm

My Cup of Tea

Like in a classic pharmacy, this is how once tea used to be sold in Asia and Europe. Bringing back this nostalgia in a contemporary design, My Cup of Tea allures your eyes, nose, and palate through natural beauty. Inside this little dispensary, you can sniff the fragrances from the perfectly lined up army of large jars. The annual crop of gyokuro from Uji reeks umami, while their best-selling sencha was selected by a tea master in Japan. My Cup of Tea has broadened its Japanese tea focus to China and Taiwan recently, and its assured provenance of the tea leaves keeps the healthy purity in check. They also offer superb, fragrant herbal infusions packed in compostable muslin bags. My favourites include the Aromatic Herbal Chai, Cleansing Fennel & Green Rooibos Infusion and the Flowery Blend. The Japanese roasted hojicha and Taiwanese oolongs such as the peachy and hazelnut evoking organic High Mountain Oolong are must try.
tea counter at Cup of Tea in London
My Cup of Tea teaches ikebana flower arrangement and tea connoisseurship, but other mindful classes are regularly scheduled, so subscribe to their monthly newsletter if you are interested to be informed in advance and get their freshest imports of tea in London.
 5 Denman Place, London W1D 7AH
🕗 Mon-Fri: 10am-7pm; Sat: 11am-7pm; Sun: 12noon – 5pm; Lunch break: 1pm – 1:30pm
 +44 20 7287 2255

The Chinese Tea Company

The Chinese Tea Company is a genuine, traditional Chinese tea shop in London. Nowhere else in the British capital will you taste gong cha in an intimate merchant to customer seated ceremony. I always buy my tea after tasting a recommended range in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. One should set aside plenty of time, slow down on a weekend or after-work afternoon and reset the city clock to tea time. Founded by a woman, her Chinese roots draw her east on her annual tea buying trip into her homeland. Each spring, new harvest is shipped into the dimmed tea shop. Green tea like Dragon Well, pristine white tea like Silver Needles, oolongs in their rainbow of oxidation – from light Tie Guan Yin to dark, deep Rock tea (Wu Yi), red tea (known as black in the West), plus raw as well as cooked, aged pu-erh. The round discs of pu-erh wrapped in sturdy paper tissue decorate next to Chinese calligraphy scrolls the shop’s interior. Here, you can buy ceramic tea pets, gong-fu cha tea sets, clay tea pots and lidded porcelain cups for your home brewing.
tea tastingChinese tea
Tucked at the back of the Portobello Road, you must walk under the bridge and enter the unassuming shopping arcade to find The Chinese Tea Company on your left. Avoid the market days when the shop is more quiet, allowing plenty of time to try their teas.
281 Portobello Rd, London W10 5TZ, UK
+44 20 8960 0096
Mon-Sat: 11am-6pm


The first Korean tea bar and shop in the UK, Be-Oom was founded by a South Korean native who missed a contemporary yet authentic Asian tea experience in London. Her smallholding family farmers tea selection is not wide and South Korea by far does not produce as much tea as Japan or Taiwan, but includes unique site-specific herbal infusions sold in glass tubes ideal for a gift set. Themed by their health benefits from the mind to the body. Mindfulness includes First Sparrow green tea from Boseong, Wild Magnolia Flowers and Persimmon Leaf from Hadong, all ideal for meditation. From the camelia breed I enjoyed the high mountain semi-oxidised Hadong Black first flush tea. They also have malcha, powdered green tea like macha in Japan. During the day a light snack like sublime seasonal chestnuts (with mascarpone, homemade persimmon jam and poppy seed crackers) or more sweets can be ordered alongside your pot of perfectly brewed tea. Filtered water is used for all servings here. In the after work hours, cocktails with Korean shochu pop onto the menu and the tea counter turns into an intimate bar.

tea time

I liked her well priced Korean ware so much that I did half of my Christmas shopping at Be-Oom (modern tea set and ikebana vase next to an incense stand). The tea canisters and boxes are beautiful so highly givable. The narrow place is very interactive if you want as the counter service connects everyone closer as does the day food market outdoors.

27 Exmouth Market, London, EC1 4QL, UK
Tue & Wed: 11:30am–6pm (Thurs & Fri 11pm); Sat: 10:30 am-11pm: Sun 12noon-5pm


Yauatcha is Michelin-starred stylish dim-sum restaurant retailing a well-rounded range of Chinese, Taiwanese and Indian teas. With all the healthful brews bag in some of their handmade macaroons (rose and jasmine are exquisite), desserts or chocolates (green tea and sea-salted caramel truffles are my favourites) on the ground level store. As a contemporary interpretation of a traditional Chinese tea house designed by Christian Liaigre, Yauatcha is a swish Soho hotspot. Have a Chinese meal paired with tea, creative tea-based cocktails, alcohol-free smoothies or original Jasmine Iced Teas (Kumquat; Cucumber and lime; Strawberry and vanilla; Lime and passion; Kiwi and lime; Raspberry and black pepper). Bottles of fermented kombucha are toasted with flamboyantly as with a refreshing brew of beer.
From pure Chinese green tea, jasmine or osmanthus scented green tea, Taiwanese complex oolong, vintage pu-er, First Flush Darjeeling, India to Organic Sencha from Japan, the tea menu at Yauatcha in Soho is constantly in flux, but always crafted to pair with the signature dim sums and other Chinese food here.
 15-17 Broadwick St, London W1F 0DL
 +44 20 7494 8888
 Mo – Sat: 12pm – 11:45pm; Sun: 12pm – 10:30pm

Camellia’s Tea House

There are many lofty tea rooms in London, but Camellia’s Tea House is more accessible, albeit you find their teas at fancy UK hotels such as The Lanesborough, the Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La at The Shard. The healthy tea blends and infusions were created by one of the founders Lubna Madan, a qualified Homeopath. If you have any health concern such as a cold, allergy, diabetes, high blood pressure, insomnia, high cholesterol, bad digestion, skin problems or just need to detox or relieve stress, you will find the right blend.
Camellia's Tea HouseLubna, one of the owners, blending tea
The name originates from Camellia Sinensis, the botanical name for the true tea plant. Organic lifestyle followers will be in their natural sixth sense as they import only from specialist tea gardens known for their quality and pesticide free growing. Camellia’s Tea House is a retail shop, where Traditional Afternoon Tea, Tea Sommelier Tea and light bites can be enjoyed on site, but also tea education centre directed by Ajit Madan, co-Founder of Camellia’s Tea House and the first International Tea Education Institute (ITEI) Master Tea Sommelier in the UK. For each tea there is a brewing guide and their health properties highlighted both on the label. Their online Tea guide” helps with selecting the right tea according to your ailment, country of tea origin, time of the day, type of tea and strength.
 64 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3BL
 +44 207 242 2308
Mo – Sun: 10am – 5pm

NOTE: I’m not including certain good tea shops for specific reasons. Depending on your purpose, you may even prefer those that blend English tradition with contemporary flavours more like Twinings Tea bar, the East India Company I included in other posts.
AFTERNOON TEA is another theme. As a hint Claridge’s did not pass in my quality and service focused test, plus I prefer my scones warm. Tradition meets authenticity, creativity meets taste in my best afternoon tea in London experiences, so check La Muse Blue out to learn where touristy or trendy cannot persuade a hard critic.

Yeotown Kitchen: a yogi retreat brings mindful eating and meditation to London’s first wellness hotel


Yeotown is about connecting oneself with the mind and the universal nature. The river Yeo snakes along the namesake yogi retreat in Devon reminding you of the constant change in the world and that if we are to enjoy life we need to embrace it, as all we have is now. The founders brought the mindful eating and meditation practiced at the weekly Yeotown ‘ashrams’ to central London. Even their entrance suggests to “eat in”, meaning no hurry, sit down and savour the meal mindfully.
golden latteThe compact Yeotown Kitchen brings colour into the grey London life. Most plates shout at you with a bright palette. Golden turmeric, beet pink, orange carrots, bright green leaves, the rainbow sparks happiness.

The healthily grounded star of Marylebone moved recently to Paddington. There, Yeotown dwells now inside the first mindful hotel in London (photos here are from the old location). What is wonderful about this boutique hotel  is next to serving organic beverages in your room, you are guaranteed to enjoy a healthy breakfast, light lunch and daily yoga, meditation or guided mindful walks (with an extra cost).

While Yeotown is a yogi retreat on a converted farm in Devon where alcohol, caffeine, dairy and meat-free regime next to saunas, meditations and beach runs “cleanse” the body and the mind, the London Kitchen is less-strict. City life thrives on organic coffee and dairy-free matcha lattes, while some fish and organic eggs healthily complement a balanced diet with easily absorbable protein.

The delightfully mindful spirit inside this small café manifests itself in the design. Egg-shaped meditation booths with a choice from five focused short programs (they run for 5 minutes only, you have time for this) and a monthly changing guided guest series to snooze in the calm recordings. 

Yeotown KitchenYeotown Kitchen

Your happy hormones will flow upstream spooning out with “perseverance” from the Yeotown Green smoothie bowl or with an “integrity” bite into the Raw rice paper wraps. Organic Farm Eggs turn into “Humour”, “Tenacity” or “Benevolence Bowl”. The namely inspiration stems like at Farmacy in Notting Hill from LA’s Café Gratitude. Not everything is organic, salmon and tuna are welcomed by the no-beans and lentils fans, but no meat and very little dairy like the optional feta cheese are included. The ready, mostly raw vegan desserts (brownies, cbd chocolate truffles, cheesecake, cupcakes), paleo cookies and in a splurge spirit the Yeotown Kitchen baked donut can be relished back in the office with a cup of tea or at home after work.

Yeotown LondonYeotown

MUST HAVE: Golden latte with raw sweetener on side and more black pepper to boost the anti-inflammatory effect on your table. Whatever your mood suggests named bowl. Mezze to share. Go down to zen out inside the meditation pod before or after your meal.

Yeotown London: Inhabit Hotel 25 – 27 Southwick St, Paddington, London W2 1JQ

Mon-Fri: 7:30am-8pm; Sat: 9am-pm; Sun: 10am-6pm

The alternative cheese story in this millennium: why we should embrace transformation of plants, that is dairy-free, without lactose and low in carbon footprint

Not only vegans should read this. All of us will find exciting inspiration in my years-long investigation into alternative cheese. In the age of anything healthy, trendy and/or sustainable, ideally all in one, and shortly “-free”, plant alternatives crop up on the menus of eco-minded and to restricted diners welcoming restaurants. The shelves of gourmet grocers, neighborhood mini marts and increasingly regular supermarkets of most “advanced” countries regularly introduce plant-based, non-dairy products that improve with the rising demand. Many “creameries” currently transform vegan cheese into a wide variety of curiosity-rising forms. Humanity needs to innovate to meet the pressing climate disaster in a more sustainable living. Global population keeps growing and its demands for food with it, hence we cannot keep eating dairy and other animal products daily. Ideally, we balance it off. Reduce meat and dairy, include less carbon-intensive plants. Let’s broaden our diets with these wondrous choices. Only a few years ago I would staunchly say: there’s no way this nut thing can ever taste like the real thing! Well, let’s keep up with the innovators, because by being open I had to revise my no “fake” cheese opinion based on the delectable evidence in my mouth.

vegan cheese

sustainable dietraw nuts

Traditionalist mindset versus embracing the new in “cheese”

I confess, I love cheese, the real stuff, well more precisely the traditional buffalo, cow’s, goat’s, sheep, ewe’s and other dairy cheese (no camel or donkey milk, thank you). Available today are cheeses from Europe, the Americas and made as far as in Japan (mainly from Hokkaido), and so it is now with the plant alternatives, and I am open to try. Not only those dairy- or lactose-intolerant as well as staunch vegans seek milk-like products made from nuts, grains, soy protein or other plant-based ingredients (even coconut oil, oats, peas or quinoa) — eco-minded generation is the market power now. During my decade-long, taste-centric global study (I’m guilty of not researching enough in Africa that I rarely visit and have never been to Antarctica, where one has probably different concerns than looking for vegan cheese alternatives) I found that the best of all vegan cheeses were made with a blend of savvily inoculated ingredients. Now there is even a non-dairy cultured butter that really feels like the traditional lusciously melting churned cow’s treat. I wish we had it in Europe!

vegan cheese

The premium league of vegan cheese makers *

Naturally, the French figured it out parfaitement, yet as America has been flagging the growth of creativity over the past century, there the vegan “creameries” are unafraid to experiment and unapologetically copy from established traditions in the European cheese making. Like in Provence or with Italian robiola, cultured fresh cashew soft ‘casheeze’ is wrapped in dried fig leaves to preserve its moisture and look alike. 

Fresh or ripened even cultured with mold, the best specimens now taste and look like a camembert. While Swiss New Roots have yet no match to an excellent creamy brie, Rebel Cheese in Texas, and more so Conscious Cultures with their Maverick do literally magic with their vegan bries sold at my favourite plant “cheese” store Riverdel in New York).

Roquefort style by French Jay & Joy as well as the awesomely tangy Billy Blue by Riverdel, yet the best of all the blue styles was Conscious Cultures Creamery Barncat made in New York state. 

Nevertheless, the connotation of these products as “cheese” is misleading as much as the nut “milk” that one Czech producer transparently calls “not milk”. We need to broaden our vocabulary with these new foods introduced in our diets. Many producers realized this confusing linguistic overhang and so they now invent new words that more precisely denote what is inside these cheese alternatives. A step further, organic ingredients sate the integrity of the eco-minded and staunch ‘healthovores’.

plant-based alternative to cheesebest plant-cheese

There are a few plant product makers doing it quite well when compared to the average supermarket cheese, but when you get a top quality artisanal cheese, there has not been so far the level of natural complexity in some fine aged cheeses I could compare the vegan concoctions with. Take a matured Comté, creamy Délice de Bourgogne, or savoury feta in Greece and then we can talk of comparisons. The best aoc/aop cheese from Europe still take the laurels.

nut cheesevegan cheese

What is in alternative cheese

It used to be mainly soy that replaced the dairy in the “fake cheese” era, but as the bean’s quasi-estrogenic effect (and cut the rainforest to grow soy) on our body fell out of fashion, other grains, seeds and nuts came to its aid. Italians now make local rice-based Risella comparable with an average cow’s milk mozzarella, but forget buffala, burrata or the oozing straciatella. Mamma Mia! I was also impressed by the Vegotta made by Ferretti in Perugia that very closely feels like ricotta in terms of texture and somewhat in taste. The fennel seeds fragrance though tells a blind taster that this attempts to taste like a dairy product.

best vegan cheese in Americavegan cheese

It seems that macadamias, oats, coconut oil and cashews work best for these dairy replacements. An almond ricotta by Kite Hill in the US used to awe me (a shame they stopped adding truffled salt, which is a game lost to another US artisan Cheezehound who perfected their Truffle Ash Casheeze). The pricier macadamia ricotta by celebrity plant chef Matthew Kenney tops the curd styles. Creamy cheesy spreads and dips are also getting incredibly delicious. Some are still a waste of calories, but others taste as the best buttery garlic dips, dilled lox-like spreads, herbed Boursin-like or Greek style. Whipped by California’s Miyokos Creamery under the brain of its Japanese founder miso and rice koji add umami savory fermented touch (even their salted butter is ooomh the best in the vegan league!). I prefer them to Kite Hill’s and other US cream cheese alternatives like Forager. So far these are only available in Canada and the US (yet, they are working on it though as confirmed via an email).

plant foods in Brooklyncheese alternatives can look like dairy cheese

best vegan cheese store in Americaplant-based alternative to cheese

Like the “normal” dairy, cheese alternatives can be sold pure or with flavourings – from being washed with cognac or other alcohol, smoked, with added dried fruits and nuts, herbs, spices (pepper is popular), laced with truffles, even naturally coloured in the cheddar or Amsterdam styles.

On a road trip through California recently, the highest rated “lunch in Paso Robles” on Google was the just about a year-old Vreamery. To our surprise, this was a plant cheese bar inside a new hip food hall. Their signature Cashew Cream with artichoke and garlic crackered our taste buds out! As if I had forked into my granny’s buttery garlic dip, but this was sans animal involvement. They make some themselves, but buy most from selected vegan creameries in America. A very refined selections as our cheese box revealed. Truffled Chévre from Riverdel (a great vegan boutique with two locations – Essex Market on Manhattan and in Brooklyn) and a selection of blue styles like the blue rind can fool you as in the Bleu Cameblu by Rind also based in New York. They also make a more funky Blue with a pink tint under the blue-gray crust. Miyoko’s Creamery in Sonoma makes spot on aged Smoked English Farmhouse with liquid smoke.

plant-based alternative to cheese

Blue cheese is a masterpiece of its own. Jay & Joy in Paris, France created Jeanne Le Bleuté végétal, soy-free, lactose-free and so-called artisanal (made in small batches). Based on organic almonds, coconut milk and cashews, with fermentation bacteria and the fancy salt from Guérande adding a sophisticated tang. It’s blue veins are not based on spirulina or other plant colorings as I had seen with blue vegan products previously. Hence the taste is not affected by seaweed. Quite nice is also Petit Bleu, a French cashew cheese, yet there is not much blueness going in it.

Greek Violife figured out how to make smooth, creamy, coconut-oil-based Greek White that looks like feta, but the briny tang of the real dairy is missing. Their rawmesan and sliced toast-style “cheese” are mediocre. Violife makes also a great spreadable cheddar-flavoured and moist Greek-style plant cheese I can recommend.

Vegan cream cheese alternatives

Making your own plant-based cheese

Cheese is addictive too (what on can do against its innate chemistry?!) and I am fully guilty of that naging craving. Yet, as I try to be progressive, climate-sensitive and balanced, I am reducing my dairy consumption by including plant alternatives. While trying many brands and complaining about the ok taste of these dairy replacements, to be fair I made a couple of plant fromages myself at home. I find two sources of inspiration – cookbooks and the packaging itself. The later is more daring and risky, but it challenges me to make it as great as they do in even a smaller batch.

food sustainabilityMaturing vegan cheese

A cashew aged cheese that I matured for one week turned out nicely and almond and macadamia ricotta inspired by Matthew Kenney was also satisfying. Vreemery sells a cheese alternative making kit, I got the Truffle Melt. Many contemporary cookbooks focused on fermenting include some recipes. The aesthetics are another story though. It’s tricky to mould the nut creations into a smooth log or wheel like a pretty chévre, or try to hole out a Swiss-eyed hard cheese or a layered truffled brie. For taste, crafting a small batch is more often key to success as it is with most artisan cheese. So try to make your own! Just keep it clean as anything can turn your product into a spoiled mess. Vegan rennet can be found in most health stores.

The French art of the cheese trolley has transpired beyond the Gallic borders. I have not yet seen a vegan restaurant rolling around a proper selection (Perhaps Daniel Humm’s revamped Eleven Madison Park on Manhattan will offer that in its $335 per person vegan tasting?), yet the plant creations turned out to be messier and more delicate than dairy products. Nevertheless, alternative cheese plates are increasingly common. In Venice Beach, California Matthew Kenney’s Plant, Food and Wine offers a nice vegan “cheese” board and so does his new cafe Sutra on Manhattan. In Paso Robles, California Vreamery pairs up your picnic box with local wine tasting at the town’s newest food hall.

plant-based dessertplant-based alternative to cheese

Beyond savory treats, most desserts can easily do with almond, coconut or rice cream. The Key Lime Cheesecake at Moby’s Little Pine in Silverlake, California is sublime! And so is their refreshingly summer-like plant mozzarella skewer (photos above). In New York again, Rawsome Treats create the tastiest plant-based desserts sliced carefully as they were all frozen prior to consumption. Their nut “cream” fillings” will send you high.

Manhattan vegan food best vegan macha cake in New York

While vegetarians embrace the real cheese’s guiltless pleasure in small quantities regularly, made in artisan, considerate, small-scale farm setting, there is still a room for plant alternatives. As my suggestions approve, now time is ripe for vegan cheese hedonism. Honestly, I would not post this article before, indeed, so enjoy the ascend of the alternative cheese as I do!

*I received no sponsorship, no PR, and have no financial interest in any of the above mentioned companies. These are purely my personal reflections on taste.

Contemporary, lively and diverse tea rooms in London

In my recent Top tea shops in London list I included my trusted, re-tasted best tea boutiques in the British capital. Still, there are some other good, diverse tea shops and lively tea rooms in London worth visiting. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and it was the later that discriminated each of them for my top five choices.
Tiosk HackneyMeileaf Camden
Mei Leaf, Tombo, Twinings, Tiosk, T2, Yumchaa and XU’s Tea House did not make it into my Top tea shops in London list for these reasons:
Mei Leaf in Camden is a great learning place for tea, herbs and how they benefit your health. Their vast, mainly Chinese and Taiwanese tea selection is laudable. Yet, mixing in cream teas, “functional” beverages, lattes and Chinese herbal medicine distracts from pure tea experience (Yauatcha incorporates tea more smoothly into its dining concept). The ‘tea’ house is touched by Eastern Beauty in one corner, but watching the Chinese Clinic customers lining up at the dispensary or sipping tea in a Chinese cosmetics store next door where a couple of contemporary cafe-style tables were added, hardly comforts calm seeking tea lover. If health is your primary concern when buying tea though, Mei Leaf is your perfect tea cum herbs dispensary in London. As the poster at the Chinese Clinic says (bellow image).
Chinese Medicine Londonhealthy tea
Twinings has beautifully upgraded its tasting bar, including masterclasses, thematic tastings in its iconic 3oo years flagship store on the Strand. Further, they now include more high quality loose leaf selections (the tasting bar acquired the step up in quality “Loose” in its name) than their signature mass-market powdered tea bags. Yet, after buying a range of teas and compared them at home with the same teas I purchased from my above top tea shops in London, theirs paled (my personal opinion). The Flagship 216 Strand store is worth visiting, tasting some tea and check out the parapheanalia exhibited in the narrow, buzzing tea shop. The Tea Antlers from Malawi is an interesting brew to try.
Twinings Strandunusual tea
Tiosk in Hackney has an intimate, hipster aura. The English style teas and a small of tisanes are not broad enough to include in top tea shops in London. Their tea ware collaborations with a local and Japanese potter impress minimalism admiring aesthetes.
Tombo is a Japanese cafè with wholesale Japanese tea offer on three locations across London. Their partnership with top family-run Japanese tea purveyor Maruyama-Seicha from Shizuoka is commendable (along with Ippodo the grandest tea brand in Kyoto), but the poke bowls meet matcha ice cream, sundaes, cheese and vegan cakes, lattes, ice mango matcha smoothie anyone tainted their tea experience. Their ceremonial grade, classic and pastry matcha powders are not certified organic. For me this is a problem. In Japan tea farms use pesticides without reservations in the lower altitude where humidity challenges each harvest, yet you are eating the whole leaves in matcha, therefore this is the only time I insist on organic farming practices. Too commercial for my globetrotting tea palate.
tea in London tea rooms in London
Yumchaa is a nice place for cakes and loose leaf tea blends. Mixing flowers, herbs and spices with tea has been popular in France for centuries, Yumchaa is the parisian “maison du thè” of London. Well, there are more teas to choose from than at such Parisian tea houses, and some of the blends are unique to the house. Beyond its SoHo corner, Yumchaa has grown to five other branches in London. The newer, Fitzrovia naturally-lit spot feels most hip.
From the most hip meets tradition tea rooms in London, XU’s Tea House in China Town ticks all the millennial whims of Asians, almost. In Chinese tea houses one goes also to eat, and the food at XU’s is hit and miss. I went with a group of Asian friends who know better their food than myself, and with each morsel they initial excitement faded. The tea was great at least. Downstairs you can have tea and sweets, play mah jong, while sipping on premium quality teas or tea cocktails.
XU's tea house
T2, the colourful stores have been popping across Western cities over recent years. In New York’s Soho, any corner on Prince Street is a gem. T2 markets and packages a commodity that people started to pay more attention to after coffee. Full stop. There are plenty of better tea rooms in London.
The bubble tea kiosks are about yummy pleasure ‘strawed’ out from a plastic cup. I love the salty cream topped oolong with tapioca pearls or grass jelly, but since my awareness of plastic waste increased, I drastically reduced my purchases. Some brands start using higher quality tea in their iced or hot, often flavoured (Starbucks-style) beverages, even organic dairy and plant-based milks. Still, tea is not coffee and traditionally, well like coffee used to be, should be a sit down, contemplative activity, not a take-away fast treat. It becomes a totally different experience defying its original purpose. I am entering the arena with this claim, ready to combat anyone who challenges my conservative view on tea.
Sadly, some quality-driven great tea rooms in London closed. One of the potential great was Tea Smith in East London. Great design, superb teas, fun tea bar, even chocolates from the best local patisserie (William Curley). It is not enough to be great to succeed.
Most authentic, rare tea rooms in London shield themselves away from publicity. Particularly in a metropolis famous for its afternoon tea parades and dusty workers’ tea, keeping these gems under the trendy radar is wise. Serious tea connoisseurs follow the world of mouth or look at noncommercial, to tea seriously devoted websites like La Muse Blue. Thanks to my updated Top tea shops in London list, you too now can experience the highest quality teas available in the British capital.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is an elegant, but not uptight gastronomic restaurant in London adopting a more simple style of the millennial casual culinary entertainment. Here, at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental hotel, his contemporary British food is a remake of centuries old traditions that the science-bound chef helped to resuscitate to an international acclaim. On my three visits, Asian diners assumed substantial table allotments in the vast dining room.
Dinner menu at Dinner Knightsbridge
Wonder sparks from some plates, while others were simply updated for contemporary tastes.
Heston Blumenthal is celebrated almost as much as the Queen and David Beckham in the United Kingdom, representing the country abroad as an attractive gastronomic destination. Blumenthal’s restaurant Fat Duck in Bray, about an hour drive from London won multiple awards including The Best Restaurant in the UK and crawled high up on The Best Restaurant in the World ladder. The British chef received three Michelin stars at the Fat Duck for his innovative – science and culinary history combining – approach to cooking. Now you can taste some of his most famous inventions at the London’s Dinner.
Mandarin Oriental London dining
Set in Knightsbridge, the Dinner by Heston Blumenthal buzzes with business talk during the week. Dressing appropriately is highly advised. The dining space feels open and the tables are distant enough allowing for private talk. Still, unless you dine at the chef’s table or at the 10-people-seating private room, you will be exposed to the sights of others. The concept of an open kitchen entertains as much as connects you with your meal.
English cuisine
Some of the plates that were co-designed by the master of British molecular cuisine, Heston Blumenthal himself, are quirky, rich and interesting. Some of his dishes like the Meat Fruit Mandarin, chicken liver parfait & grilled bread will surprise you (always on the menu), others like the Lobster & Cucumber Soup will enchant with a complex roller coaster of fast changing flavours. The House smoked salmon starter was abundant with rich sauce, the fatty fish was sliced like a thick sahimi, a dollop of caviar for luxurious touch and seasonal leaves to freshen the load a bit.
Michelin London
On the special travel-back-in-time menu, the history behind each recipe feeds your curiosity. An approximate year of the dishe’s birth transforms you into the distant gastronomic past.
The Cod in Cider with Chard & fired mussels looked like a marriage of tradition and modernity. The fish was perfectly prepared – delicate, its flakes softly fell apart into the rich cider sauce. Mixed with the mussels this drunken sea of flavours, the plate was quite simple and satisfying. Was it the most interesting fish dish I had recently? I am spoiled, living by the Mediterranean sea and travel constantly, so I got to eat better fish. Despite the harsh competition in the London restaurant world though, Blumenthal succeeded in making innovative and interesting meals. The food at Roganic by Simon Rogan (formerly at Claridges’ Fera ) is better, but not an ideal setup for a business meal.
Michelin London
I was disappointed by the dessert once. Dipping my spoon into the Chocolate Bar with Passion fruit jam & ginger ice cream the mash up was overwhelming, far from balanced. In the tiny layers of chocolate millefeuille a filling of a passionfruit hard jelly and ice cream dollops with ginger ice cream served on the side just did not woe our taste buds. The chef’s addition of a small cup of chocolate mousse with a crispy biscuit served afterwards made up for it, sublime! In summer, the Rhubarb dessert was in another league. The quality of the very English sweet and tart stem was extraordinary. The British cheese plate served with house crackers did not offer much of a choice but was good enough to please.
The rare tea selection at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is very special and hard to find at any Western restaurant. I ordered a cup of loose lemongrass and ginger infusion to soothe my sore throat, but I was tempted to get the £25 per pot 1970s Raw Pu-er from China. The price may seem high for tea, yet one pays almost as much for a glass of great wine in London, so why not to splurge on vintage tea!
Greek winewine list
The wines served by the glass are interesting, although all the reds were in the heavier realm, quite a challenge to choose a glass of red to match our light fish main course. We settled on a Pinot Noir from Nuits St. Georges, delicious, but one of the heavier Burgundies. The wine list is otherwise worldly, with the award winning English sparkling wine, the Nyetimber, featured as a great and cheaper alternative to the big name Champagnes.
Cuisine: Gastronomic British based on traditional recipes and the so called “molecular cuisine”
Visits: September 2012 , summer 2018, April 2019
Price: High (a three course dinner with drinks including a glass of wine about £80 or €100 – mains a la carte around £30)
 +44 02072013833
Mon-Sun: Lunch 12noon – 2:30pm; Dinner 6:30 – 10:30pm
 Mandarin Oriental Hydepark, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1 X 7 LA

Gauthier: inspired by vegetables for a fine vegan tasting menu in London

Alexis Gauthier was the first Michelin chef serving fine vegan tasting menu in London. At his restaurant Gauthier the French chef has offered by far the most sophisticated vegetarian plates in Soho for years, and caused an outrage when he put the calorie counts to his two tasting menus. Like the three Michelin stared Alain Passard, recently joined by Alain Ducasse in Paris, so far Alexis Gauthier has served the vegetable menu along with his omnivore gourmet dishes, so people with mixed diets can dine together while eating what they want.
Being diagnosed with fatty liver, a lifestyle change abound, his focus shifted from butter, cheese, foie gras and meat to using more plants in his cooking. A vegan himself, the former apprentice of Ducasse should not be confused with his namesake Alexandre Gauthier of the experimental La Grenouillere near Calais. Now in gastronomic terms, Gauthier is shaking the cosmopolitan London as much as the Brexit vote. The forward looking chef intends to embrace a totally plant-based menu soon.
Michelin London London townhouse
The animal rights fighting stars flock into his Georgian townhouse for a treat – Stella McCartney, Benedict Cumberbatch and the co-warrior Al Gore dined at Gauthier supportively. Approachable to all foodies, a vegetable-centric cookbook for non-vegetarians followed. The book, Vegetronic uses meat broths to infuse plants with rich flavours, but the restaurant has evolved from removing foie gras in 2015 to offering also Les Plantes vegan tasting daily. Sadly, his Michelin star was taken by the red guide. Probably a bad day when the inspector came, since our most recent meal was as intriguing as three years ago.
A rich vegan faux-foie gras and well-oiled toasts were served with both tasting menus at Gauthier recently. A disclosure, I’m an eco-conscious flexitarian, balancing off my animal-sourced consumption (mainly in dairy and seafood) with about half of my meals being plant-based. Gauthier in Soho caters to such flexible, but responsible indulgence. The chef rises our awareness.
plant-based cuisine plant-based dining

In an interview with Medium Gauthier said: “We have to start from the beginning — create new flavour combinations rather than recreate what we have been doing but with vegetables. For the next generation, I don’t want to sell them fake burgers — that’s is rubbish. Instead we must entice them with new combinations of flavours and ingredients.” Indeed, his food is more mature than at trendy vegan cafés, even at the best plant-based restaurants like Crossroads in Hollywood.

In June for lunch à la carte I chose three vegetarian courses. I was curious about how the vegetable king of London fares with the prince of late spring – the asparagus. A green garden of asparagus with peas, pea puree and a thick, flavourful chicken emulsion landed first. It could have less salt and the asparagus should had been a tiny bit less cooked, so I can see what Michelin had noted. I followed with Green and white asparagus in balsamic vinegar, sweet and a slightly acidic reduction, poached quail egg, hazelnuts and a black quinoa crisp, poured over with a smoked tea. An intriguing, complex plate at the level the Michelin stared vegetarian Tian in Vienna was then.
best risotto in London
The main, truffled risotto was impeccable. A signature staple of the chef served already at his former London venue Le Rousillon that in fall includes the precious white truffle. The Italian Acquerello rice absorbed the stock into al-dente, a just amount of parmesan and generous flakes of the aromatic tuber aestivum were shaved over like a forest hat. A London-based critic, Andy Hayler reviewed the non-vegetarian cooking at Gauthier ever since its opening in 2009, so check his website for details. He agrees with me on the supremacy of the risotto over anything rice-bound served in London.
Returning this fall with a friend, she had the regular Goût du Jour without gluten – lobster tortellini, white truffle risotto, black halibut, deer, but no 70% chocolate mousse from the chef’s Louis XV. days. Instead, she had the naturally gluten-free chocolatey blackberry tartlet from the Les Plantes vegan tasting menu that I had. She pronounced the risotto her favourite plate.
vegetarian Londonasparagus season
Replacing egg whites with  whipped chickpea water, using carrots in a tartare prepared at your table, the Plants menu sounded like a healthful millennial choice to me. A Deutz champagne was poured as an aperitif, instead I asked for a glass of red. The Franco – Italian wine list is generous, yet the sommelier offered a tight Loire Saumur Champigny. I longed for Burgundy so he pulled out a juicy Mercurey by Domaine Charton from his cellar. A cheaper alternative to other premium crus in the north-eastern French region.
Beware, the oversupply of superb house bread, butter and extra snacks and desserts can spoil your healthy resolve. The gluten-free option was reportedly excellent. You get the calories printed on the menu, but who counts the extras? Temptations. Gauthier, the former pastry chef at the three star Louis XV in Monaco, bakes a perfect plain baguette, sourdough, black olive, cumin and walnut roll, rosemary & olive focaccia, atop the superb parmesan crisps (not vegan). An artisan butter and canapés with creamy toppings come with the à la carte.

My vegan tasting starter with elegant, fall bounty heralding, Wild mushroom tortellini hidden under leafy greens. Just as our empty plates were cleared a waiter placed Miso caramelised Turnip and Quince in front of me, pouring a warm dashi broth over the Japan-inspired, locally sourced dish. A wholesome, fall, and soupy creation, my favourite plate. Celeriac and apple velouté followed. Quite subtle for a vegetable the Noma chef René Redzepi chose for his legendary plant shawarma in his summer, vegetables themed menu. The service was faster than our forks, which on a workday lunchtime is appreciated, but not on a weekend friendly encounter, so we rushed our last forkfuls to give space to the Heritage beetroot terrine for me. This was the most contemporary plating with powders and cured vegetables as the centre stage, good.
A dessert time landed on a red saucer with an inner applause. Ladies love their sweets. The Blackberry tartlet, chocolate ganache, and blackberry sorbet stroke the right balance between rich sweetness and refreshing berry sourness.
Unfortunately, they do not serve any more the small batch organic teas by Lalani & Co. Previously I enjoyed, an excellent vintage Indian white tips, but this time my dessert went dry.
tea with petits foursSoho dining
The house is charming and the three dining rooms exalt very different qualities. After ringing the doorbell, climbing up the narrow staircase your grasp that Gauthier is not a barrier-free restaurant. I prefer the cosy English living room feel of the first floor, while a quirky vintage game and contemporary art halo the dining room above. The top floor is for private meals. The Soho townhouse feels somewhat clumsy, but the white-clad tables, seasonal vegetables replacing flowers and an oil lamp capture the Arpège country style.Dining at Gauthier feels like visiting a friend who cooks well. A heritage fire place on each floor was left over from the previous tenants feels homey. Escaping the chaos of Central London, the previous owners smartly left the house over to a more sociable venue. Gather with friends and savour the seasons through the fine, vegetable-centric food.
+44 20 7494 3111

21 Romilly Street, W1D 5AF London, UK

CLOSED Ethos: slow-food served fast in central London

Ethos trots the middle road, a potentially fast meal can turn into lingering over the wholesome vegetarian food in a freshly designed and transparent eatery. Birch trees scattered throughout transmit you into the Nordic forests, while ensuring more privacy.

Ethos self-service restaurant

Ethos: Slow-food self-served fast


With plenty of seating, why would you rush out into the office to eat your lunch or dining in the loneliness of your apartment? Sit down, and savour the vibe together with the dairy-, gluten- and meat-free meal. Refined sugar is scratched off the dessert offerings, so you may enjoy the pay-by-weight dishes inspired by the world cuisines. As a guardian of your own health, you choose what you want to eat. Ethos is the opposite of the current wave of chef’s blind tasting menus, where the cooks decide what to put in your food, an adventure, but usually not the best feeling after the meal. Still, with the flexibility at Ethos, you might over combine, so keep it simple, down to two – three offerings from the buffet. The tags on each dish are informative, allergens and dietary-restrictions are catered to, while the staff was trained to advice where in doubt.

Usually, when you pay by weight of your food, quality stumbles. Catching the cooked dishes at the right temperature can be a marathon between your seat and the buffet. Ethos attempts to break this stereotype, and it does so better than any other vegetarian buffet in London. Clearly marked dietary restrictions, clean, contemporary design is spacious enough for browsing through the daily buffet. Middle-Eastern, Mediterranean and by hip superfoods inspired offerings are refreshed from breakfast through lunch to dinner daily.

All the sauces are made in-house, no additives, and most of the ingredients are sourced locally for the utmost freshness, high nutritional value and food waste reduction. The only drawback is like with most “healthy” eateries in London is that the produce is not biodynamic or organic from small farms, both best options for our and our planet’s health. Still, eating at Ethos is healthier than at 99% restaurants in the British capital. Macrobiotic eaters can join in the dining out revelry.
vegetarian salad

Ethos dwells in a convenient location on a calm side street near the Oxford Circus. Shoppers and office crews stream in from breakfast through lunch or for the popular early supper. Sitting between the silver bark-clad birch trees, sipping tea or fresh juice while forking into your colourful, loaded plate filled with nature’s bounty, feels like picnicking in the park. Mostly locally sourced salads, legumes, whole grains, meat-free dips like hummus, baba ghanoush, guacamole and warm vegetarian and vegan dishes were all delicious. You can still have your free-range eggs omelette or greek yogurt, but plant-based options are always available and so is the GF toast with the avocado.

The desserts would not score a high grade from me though, but try yourself. There can always be an outlier. Maple sirup et al are used to naturally sweeten them. ‘Healthyfied’ Afternoon tea is being served in this contemporary, reverse of the posh luxury hotel glitz and generally low quality and touristy tea time. Served between 3 and 5pm, it must be reserved two days ahead. Savoury tarts, vegetable crudités, gluten-free blueberry scones can be served with clotted cream or a cashew cream for a dairy-free lushness. Next to Earl Grey, chacras-inspired POSITIVI-TEA (check my Ayurveda post) and/or herbal blends, tisanes, treats like Rhubarb and Vanilla Tart reminiscing or Marzipan rooibos brews are served. Now, this is the opposite of the digestion clogging “Traditional Afternoon Tea” in London! Tea time has never been healthier in England. Now also the Hemsleys, Tanya’s Raw, Farmacy et al. serve it for the more health-conscious millennium where sedentary lifestyle next to processed, sugary foods causes so much damage to our well-being.

MUST HAVE: Seitan (high-gluten, low-starch wheat log) ribs marinated in a BBQ sauce. Aubergine “meatballs”. String bean salad in season. The hummus is lusciously rich.
 48 Eastcastle St, London W1W 8DX
Open daily.
Weekdays: Breakfast 8am – 11am
Lunch 12noon – 3pm
Afternoon Tea 3pm – 5pm
Dinner 5:30pm – 10pm
Lunch 11:30am – 5pm
Afternoon Tea 3pm – 5pm
Dinner 5:30pm – 10pm
SUNDAY BRUNCH 11am – 5pm
+44 20 3581 1538
* Photos by Ethos. Mine were badly-lit.

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