Where there's tea there's hope

Spotted in a shop window in Bristol

 

2012 has been a busy year for Noveltea for all sorts of reasons. We visit dozens of tearooms over the course of the year and have reviewed plenty for you on our blog and website including Lahloo in Bristol, The Rose in Oxford, and Cup in Glasgow.

 

Find a tearoom on the move

In 2012 Noveltea went mobile: now your nearest tearoom is in your pocket!

 

We’ve also been baking, of course in the THQ kitchen and look forward to sharing some of our better concoctions in the New Year as well as a special little expose we’ve been preparing about the ones which didn’t work so well. (On this note, one thread which attracted a lot of attention was The exploits and misadventures of Herman the German Friendship cake – a cautionary tale of the unexpected pitfalls which await the unwary). 

 

Delicious apple cake enjoyed with a cup of tea

Herman the German Friendship cake passes through the Noveltea kitchen on its worldwide journey.

 

Amongst other inervations we’ve introduced our new BlogWatch feature, which lets us bring to light other tea-related blogs like Afternoon Tea Total and Tea for You and Me. If you manage such a blog or website, or just know of one we might like then please do get in touch.

 

Blog of the week features other friendly bloggers who obsess about tea

New in 2012: our BlowWatch feature focuses on the exploits of fellow tea-lovers

 

Noveltea was established – all those years ago – to help fellow tea lovers find great afternoon tearooms. What continues to delight and surprise us year on year, though, is the enthusiasm we get in return.Along the way, and among others, we’ve met Fanny, Sam and Jane from vintage tea party planners Nips and Crumpets, and the guys from The Attic, Bristol. This year we met TV presenter Maddie Moate, spent a week with Professor Robert Murphy in his beautiful cottage in Ireland and made contact the Chester Ladies Cycling Club and are very much looking forward to a project together in 2013.

 

Maddie Moate

We bump into TV presenter Maddie Moate who is happy to model our new range of headwear

 

Allow us to extend our warmest seasonal wishes to all the above, and of course you our loyal readership. 600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012 and in the same period we understand that this blog got about 3,500 views. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years. For more nerdy statistics and figures you can view our full annual report.

It only leaves us to iterate our thanks and best wishes and we look forward to seeing you back next year.

 

Lily Pemberton signature Amos J Harris signature

A week has past since the Great Herman Debacle and life is gradually returning to normal at THQ. True, the walls around the boiler may never return to their original colour and there is a faint yeasty smell in the air which has proved resistent to even the most liberal daily doses of Febreze. We have been all but living on a delicious apple and cinnamon cake which issweet and  crispy on top and moist in the middle as a good cake should be. The bruise on my hip is fading and tomorrow we’ll pick up my coat, jacket and trousers from the dry cleaner – hopefully cakemix free.

Above all we got back in touch with some old friends. Rose calledfrom Canterbury to say that just when she thought her week couldn’t get any worse someone had played a horrible practical joke on her in the post. We declined to offer any further explanations but then Hannah rung from the Post Office, where she had been judiciously summonsed to explain why the morning’s mail bound for Fulham was all stuck together.

“If I hadn’t recognised your writing I would have called the police!”, she chided.

Finally, Olivia sent us this picture from Sailsbury of the package she received the following day:

Never underestimate the potential mess involved in sending live yeast in the post

If at first you don’t succeed: Herman arrives in tact (more or less)

I would hesitate to call the episode an unmitigated success. On reflection I think sending ANYTHING living in the post is probably best avoided. In this instance it seems the pressure of the gas given off by the metabolising yeast (like a frail shoot punches up through thick tarmac) was enough to cause lid and tub to part company somewhere on the tube, and then again in the local sorting office.

We have heard several mentions of Herman the German Friendship cake since then and each time we roll our eyes knowingly and swear that if anyone pulls that stunt again it’s going straight in the bin. You know, the one with the dent in it.

A strange sight would have met your eyes, were you to have entered the kitchen of Tea Head Quarters on the morning of the 10th day. I couldn’t get the stamps off the ruined envelopes, so there they sat, limp and discoloured on the draining board to dry while a bowl-full of cake mixture bubbles along contentedly from its prefered spot on the toaster.

We resent the cake again, this time using surgical tape and industrial quantities of string to stop the lids from erupting, while we completed the final stages of the recipe.

Delicious apple cake enjoyed with a cup of tea

After all the excitement of the last few days it’s nice to sit down with a piece of cake and a cup of tea. The end product is delicious, even if the smell has pervaded the entire house for over a week previously.

At last! Just when we were begining to question how long we could stretch this feature out, the final day is nearly upon us. I get out the address book only to find that I don’t have anyone’s current addresses. Several texts and a ball of string later and here we go:

Herman the german friendship cake ready to dispatch by mail to friends around the country

All wrapped up and ready to go…

I take the packages up on the train with me to London, intending to post them as soon as I can find a box. 4 hours later I’m still carrying them around like a lemon. The security guard at the Tate Modern gives me a token and a very funny look when I go to check them in. I notice a funny smell but put it down to the drains on the South Bank. We’ve still got the blasted things in the bag come the afternoon and we’re in Selfridges when I look down at my coat and notice something sticky. I go to wipe it off but it has the opposite effect. I look down at my shoes and the same sticky residue is evident there too.

Glancing behind me I see a thin trail of slime, stretching out like that of a monsterous snail. People are giving me funny looks and I realise what the smell is. All three mini-Hermans have exploded in their envelopes and are gaily leaking their contents all over the 5th floor.

Cake mixture leaks all over the floor

The 1st attempt did not go well

We managed to talk the management into giving us one of their smart yellow bags, shortly before we are thrown out. We do try to explain that it’s cake mixture but we don’t sound convincing, even to ourselves. We return to THQ with our tails between our now rather sticky legs and rethink our options.

Why you shouldn't send german friendship cakes by post

We repatriate the German friendship cake back into its container and prepare to resend it, this time in rather smudgy, sticky envelopes.

 

We are both sick of the sight and smell of the thing but since there is only a day to go we decide to stick at it. I take it down from the top of the boiler and reinstate it on the toaster in preparation for day 9.

I go out to the Post Office and spend about £20 on stamps and padded envelopes. We decide to send our Hermans out to old friends who we haven’t seen in a while. Lily is against the idea from the start but I convince her it will be a nice way of keeping in touch.

Lily takes it to mean 7 or 8 vigorous assaults with a whisk, a fact which I am able to deduce by the spattering of cake mixture all over the boiler, the walls and, remarkably, the ceiling too. Herman is loving all the attention; the bin is not. There is now a sizable dent in the lid from where we’ve been climbing all over it to stir the cake, and there is a bruise the size of a large melon on my left hip.

We’re meant to be “stiring well” every day for 4 days. What does that mean, exactly? I take it to mean 3 or 4 quick stirs with a teaspoon.

Herman is hungry so we add sugar and flour to the yeast mix

Herman is looking pretty content, comments Lily. Little does she know I have been spiking it…

“Herman is hungry” says the instructions. Lily is besides herself with excitement so I decide not to let slip that I already fed it the day before. Not much appears to be happening so we move it to on top of the boiler. It can now only be reached by standing on a bin, balanced on a chair. We very nealry loose the whole thing when Lily gets up in the middle of the night “to check up on it…”

I’m getting twitchy at this point so while Lily is out in the garden doing whatever she does with old tea leaves I sneakily add some more sugar to rev things up a bit.