‘I’ve always been a bit of a tea buff…’ – Pia Ikkala of Piacha Tea

Tea blends have always been highly esteemed in many eastern cultures and more recently western science is taking note of the plethora of health benefits. Pia Ikkala is a tea lover and creator of tea bar and shop, Piacha – a stylish cafe described as an ‘oasis of calm’ in the heart of Islington, North London. Stocking a broad range of tea blends the tea bar is a charming escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. We wanted to find out a little more about Pia and her Piacha tea bar so we grabbed her for a cuppa and to delve a little deeper…

Tell us about Piacha, when did it all begin?

I’ve always been a bit of a tea buff… but the Piacha project really started when I changed my eating habits in 2013 and went on a low-gluten diet. That’s when I stopped drinking coffee altogether, and also became a huge fan of green tea. In London, it is easy to enjoy a remarkably good cup of coffee – but choice and quality in tea is still lagging behind somewhat. Back then, as I couldn’t find what I wanted, I decided to create it – I thought if I was looking for it, others must be, too.

What inspired your love of and passion for tea?

Health – and cooking! I think of tea blends and drinks a bit like dishes, or desserts, and same flavour combinations, herbs and spices that work in food can often work in tea. Also, a big part of tea passion for me is the health benefits – more and more interesting research is coming out of that topic, and it is fascinating to read.

What are some of your favourite Piacha tea blends?

There are many, as I drink so much tea. My current favourites are definitely Mao Feng Green Tea for its elegant taste and smooth, full texture, and the Oolong Shui Xian, which is a dark Oolong with roasted notes. Some herbals, too – I like Liquorice Mint and Ginseng Spice. And English Breakfast, of course!

What have been some of your most popular teas since opening?

Perhaps surprisingly, our ‘hit blends’ are not in the black tea category, even though that’s what British population still tends to drink most. I am really pleased that our customers have welcomed, also, the more interesting and adventurous blends, as well as greens and oolongs. At Piacha, some of the really popular blends have been Ginger Chilli, Rooibos Rhubarb Fudge and Moroccan Mint – with one spicy, one sweet and one fresh and digestive, it’s a nice trio.

piacha-tea

What teas would you recommend for maintaining wellness during winter?

Tea is known for being a good source of antioxidants, and as such a good healthy habit – not only in the winter but always. Since it is so much easier to stick to good habits that are enjoyable, my rule number would always be this: pick a type tea (black, green, white or oolong) that you actually enjoy drinking, and make it your everyday habit. Besides teas that are actually tea, i.e. made of the leaves of Camellia Sinensis, herbal infusions are very winter-appropriate in many ways. For instance, blends with ginger root or chilli are wonderfully warming in the winter, also, dried ginger root is known for its anti-inflammatory and chilli for immune boosting properties. If you are on a January detox but crave a bit of sweetness, blends with liquorice or cinnamon are lovely choices, also, cinnamon is very anti-oxidant, and liquorice is believed to aid against colds and flus.

And for our Southern Hemisphere friends, which teas are great for summer?

I love icing lemongrass, mints and hibiscus infusions. Blend them in an extra portion of fresh herbs, berries or fruits, and you have ice tea smoothies!

What do you think is a great gateway tea for people who want to get into tea?

I’d say go for the tastes you enjoy in general. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, try tea blends with vanilla, liquorice or cinnamon; if you like spices, go for blends with ginger, chilli or cardamom. If you think you’ll enjoy tea more on its own, invest in quality, as it does make a difference. If possible, book yourself into a tea tasting that allows you to experiment many different teas and infusions in one go – with the selection in the market these days, you’re likely to find some new favourites.

Which teas are the best for inspiring a little calm in your day?

Chamomile is known for its relaxing properties, and the non-caffeinated Rooibos has a soft, soothing taste that invites you to take break – both are wonderful options for a bit of peace and quiet.

What’s your favourite tea blend? Let us know in the comments…

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