While new coffee bars are more ubiquitous than bus stops, tea's image seems to have stayed with the greasy spoon, or the drawing-room. But not for long. Whittard's new tea bar, the t-zone, is a designer take on the country's favourite beverage. Giles Hilton, a man who can tell from the taste of a tea leaf whether it was picked while it was raining, believes it's time that tea had a makeover. "You go into a coffee bar and, essentially, you are served one blend of coffee - usually a house blend - either in the form of a latte, cappuccino or espresso. It's a bit like going into a vintner and only being able to buy one type of wine from each country. At t-zone you can choose from over 150 different types of tea, 100 to 120 of which are single-estate teas." Not content with offering this exhausting array, Whittard customers at its new Carnaby Street store will be able to create their own blend from 12 different varieties of fruits and flowers, five oils and three base teas. Fruit and flower flavours range from rose petals to papaya, and oils include vanilla, lemon and strawberry. A blender will be on hand to help advise on balancing the lemongrass and the orange pekoe (one of the three base teas). When the customer is happy with the blend, they will get a smart label to christen it - either after the genius that conceived it, or perhaps, more classically, along the lines of the Chinese, who tend to name their teas Dragon's Whiskers, Spider's Legs or Jade-in-the-Clouds. Aoife O'Riordain.

Whittard t-zone, 43 Carnaby Street, London W1 (from March 10).