Time Out London recently ran a cover story on London's 50 best "secret" museums. The Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum in Southwark was the only one on the list I hadn't already visited. So, for the sake of completion.../p>
In all my years of visiting low-key, off-beat and odd museums I have never before encountered one with a live pianist to accompany my lazy ambling through the vitrines. I mean, even the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas didn't have that. But here at the Bramah the entrance area doubles as a traditional style tea-room where you can have sponge cake and sandwiches whilst listening to some very easy listening show tunes. And as the museum itself is so small you never get out of earshot of the moonlight serenading.
For some reason they are rather strict on photography, with numerous signs stating that it is strictly forbidden. I am not sure why, most of the exhibits are either made of china or are actually tea itself. Almost all of the paper item are reproductions. Super spy skills were needed to snatch the blurry image above.
There doesn't seem to be any reason to restrict photography unless they are trying to maintain the secret that there is actually not much here. Unless you are seriously into teapots of which there are a few hundred.
By far the best thing about the museum is the smell. It reeks of tea. It's wonderful. There are loose teas all over the place. Tea crates and sacks spilling over onto the floor. They smell great, but in truth piles of tea are not much to look at.
By the time I got to the end of the exhibition space I was wondering who would actually choose to spend a sunny day looking at cabinet after cabinet of fancy tea cups and novelty promotional items from tea companies. I mean who, other than somebody like me who had to tick off the last museum in London. There in the guest book was some kind of answer. In the column titled "Where did you hear about the museum?" there was a recurrent response. "Tea Magazine". Wow.A magazine entirely devoted to tea. Now that I have to see.
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.