Let Battle Commence – Coffee vs Tea With Google Local London

From time to time, The Google Local London team organise unusual cultural events in the capital, and last night they brought together a group of people to decide ‘which is the better drink – coffee or tea?

We were hosted by Andrew, one of the Ozzie co-owners of Taylor St Baristas, at their Bank location on Old Broad St. To call him a coffee aficionado is to do him a disservice – this guy lives and breathes coffee, in fact I doubt his diet consists of anything else at all. What he doesn’t know about the roasted beans of the coffee plant simply isn’t worth knowing. Representing the tea side of the equation was the lovely flat-cap wearing Tim from Postcard Teas, who are located on Dering St in Mayfair.

Andrew started us off with three samples of coffee in a bid to emphasise exactly how sophisticated the aroma and taste of the arabica coffee bean can be (Taylor St don’t use the other common coffee bean, robusta, because apparently it lacks the sophistication of its near neighbour). The first that we sipped and spat was a coffee that we had been given as we arrived – a very aromatic, full-bodied coffee with a sweet finish that, amazingly, was decaffeinated. It just goes to show the way that most coffee is adulterated when the caffeine is removed (many cheap coffees use a chemical method to decaffeinate, which takes away a lot of the flavour – Taylor St favour the ‘carbon dioxide’ or ‘water-washing’ methods).

The next coffee that we sampled is one of the most expensive coffee beans in the world – a ‘geisha’ varietal from the Calcedonia region in the mountains of Colombia. Blame my unsophisticated palette but I didn’t enjoy this one – it was an odd combination of floral notes with a very earthy base, a bit like drinking muddy water I thought. However, Nick had left the best until last – a ‘mokka’ varietal, grown by the same family as the previous bean. Now this one I really enjoyed – a fantastically sophisticated taste (much like very fine wines can taste like another fruit entirely) that was spicy at the beginning, had hints of butter in the middle and, would you believe, blackberries at the end!

AFter Andrew had pulled out all the stops it was Tim’s turn to wow us. He started us off with a cold tea, served in glass tumblers – the so-called ‘Oriental Beauty’, a Taiwanese oolong tea which has a very powerful floral aroma produced partly by the effect of insects nibbling on the leaf before it is harvested. Next was the phemoninally expensive Rou Gui from Master Xu’s tea plantation in China, another oolong tea with a fragrant aroma and a hint of fruit – I’m not a tea drinker at all but I thought this was delightful.

Tim upped the game at this point by presenting us with matcha stoneground tea, usually used in the traditonal Japanese Tea Ceremony, but in this instance sprinkled over un-flavoured ice cream – this very distinctive green tea is made in the Aichi province by another small producer, the Ishikawa family. To finally seal the deal we were then served with a chai – a speciality of Assam in India, this tea is combined with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom, black pepper and bay leaves to give it a real spicy quality. Another excellent cup of tea, and this coming from a non-tea drinker!

We ended the night with a round of voting, which Tim won by a considerable margin – no doubt because of the showmanship of his presentation and that ice cream course! I’m still a confirmed coffee drinker however…

Both of these guys really know their stuff when it comes to their chosen drink of choice, travelling the world to meet producers and selecting the best quality produce – check out Andrew’s company here, and Tim’s Postcard Teas if you want to get into the sophisticated world of high-end hot drinks.

About Pete Stean

Pete Stean is a London-based writer and photographer. He can also be found on Twitter and on Google Plus.


  1. Great write up Pete, thank you for coming along and I hope you're enjoying your samples. By the way, Nick is my brother. It might be worthwhile changing the name Nick to Andrew in the text above.

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