10 May An Afternoon at SD Bells Tea Specialists & Coffee Roasters
By now it’s no secret that I have a penchant for herbal teas. In fact, I’ve been known to keep peppermint teabags in my pockets and handbags should the need for a dose of minty goodness arise while on the go.
Naturally, I have received quite a bit of eyebrow raising about my teabag storing habits. Resourceful or weird? You decide.
When I’m not rummaging through my handbag desperately searching for my next hit, I enjoy taking things up a level by dabbling in the speciality tea at cafés.
I’ve had my eye on SD Bells for quite some time now, my interest well and truly piqued upon spying the words “Tea Specialist” on the window. Obviously, I had to pay a visit.
Steeped (ha) in history, SD Bells is Ireland’s oldest independent tea importer AND coffee roaster. Around since 1887, I was so thrilled to discover Belfast’s tea history located handily on East Belfast’s Newtownards Road.
Their website has an old photo of the establishment back in the day. I always find old photos fascinating and this is no exception. The sparse-ness of the Newtownards Road in comparison to the built up urbanity of today is something to marvel at. Or I think so anyway.
Making the most of a free Saturday, myself and Scott paid a visit. When you walk in, you walk into a tea, coffee and supplies store that’s attached to the cafe. This is a nice touch and there’s lots of loose leaf teas and coffee beans available that aren’t on the cafe menu. Many of the teas come in cute, colourful, old-style tins. It’s all reasonably priced and I plan on frequenting it a good bit in the future.
For a business dating back to 1887 (actually celebrating its 130th birthday this year I’m just realising!) it didn’t feel particularly old. And as someone who just loves old buildings, this underwhelmed me. I suppose I was expecting old creaky wooden floors and decor but I’d say keeping the same decor for a century is a bit unrealistic. And probably against health and safety regulations.
ANYWAY. There are some “olden” style decor pieces but by and large it feels like a relatively modern little cafe.
I opted for the Lemon & Mint herbal tea (which is their own blend of course) and a caramel square. The tea was refreshing with a slight kick from the lemon, not bitter by any means but certainly zesty. This is levelled out nicely by the input of mint, endeavoring to bring together a wholly pleasant tea. The tea drinking experience was obviously enhanced by the delicious caramel square too.
It might come as a surprise, but alongside being obsessed with tea, I’m having a bit of a love affair with coffee at the moment too. I mean, I’ve always liked coffee but I’m just drinking it a lot more lately. After having the best coffee ever in Copenhagen last month, I’m on a bit of a quest to find a coffee that can live up to it.
SD Bells have a range of intriguing coffees including Mexican coffee and Columbian coffee. I’m particularly intrigued by the Columbian coffee for some reason and plan on having it next time I’m there.
There’s an even larger range of exotic coffees in the shop with Cuban, Costa Rica and Mt Kilimanjaro catching my eye. I think there’s a larger emphasis on coffee than there is on tea but that isn’t to say that they don’t have an intriguing range of teas either. I was very close to buying a tin of their Jasmine Pearls tea actually.
I was a bit miffed that I hadn’t heard of SD Bells before recently or even knew anyone who had been before. For such an historic little cafe, I don’t feel as though it’s widely known in Belfast. I noticed a while ago that they have a tea/coffee stand at St George’s Market so perhaps that will have some impact.
Either way, I love that there’s large range of exotic coffees and teas stashed away in this shop/cafe. A hidden gem of sorts. I’m already planning my next visit to try out some exciting coffee for a change.