Beat cancer in 7 minutes

February 17, 2012

Perhaps? This certainly seems to be the message behind this BBC news article this week:

Tea has always been the darling of those who obsess about the health benefits of food. And for sure, from a medical and psychological point of view there is a lot to be said about for it. First we found out that it’s more hydrating than water, then that it speeds up your metabolism. Now we find out that it’s the single greatest source of antioxidants in the British diet and the longer we leave the bag in, the greater the concentration.

The trouble is of course that the role of antioxidants is little understood even amongst the medical profession. They seem to have a role in mopping up the free radicals which expose our cells to the risk of mutation and thus, theoretically at least, cancer. This much has been shown in laboratory experiments but it’s harder to prove this in real life. Are people who eat foods rich in antioxidants any healthier than those who don’t? Well yes, but you have to factor in the fact that they tend to be more health conscious generally. They probably eat less processed food, less salt, do more exercise and see their doctor regularly.

OK so the evidence is equivocable. As usual when these health stories break we’re left none the wiser but in this instance at least we don’t have to rush out and spend a fortune on organic rhubard and accai  berries. All we have to do is leave the bag in a little bit longer, so it’s got to be worth it, right?

There’s been a book out recently called, Sorry, I’m British” by Ben Crystal and Adam Russ

Being in the afternoon tea business (if you can call eating cake for a living “business”) we’re always interested to hear what people say about British traditions and customs, and we’ve spoken at length before about books like Jeremy Paxman’s “The English: a portrait of a people” and Kate Fox’s “Watching the English”.

Needless to say, the subject of food often crops up – whether it’s fish and chips, Gloucestershire cheese-rolling, the Full English Breakfast, or (of course) the English afternoon tea ritual. But Crystal and Russ elude to another aspect of Britishness which is altogether more sinister: the Jobsworth Employee.

The word ‘Jobsworth’ comes from an abbreviation of the phrase, “more than my job is worth” and refers to an official – usually a minor one – being unhelpful or downright obstructive at the expense of common sense, like the case of Mr Smith (his real name) who was fined £50 by policemen in Scotland for ‘littering’ after he accidentally dropped a £10 note (reported in the Daily Mail).

We got our own taste of jobsworthness on a ‘Southern’ train the other day. It transpired that one of our railcards had expired the day before. Although the mistake was a genuine one, the inspector took it upon himself to be judge, jury and executioner, and not only charged us the full price of the ticket (rather than a £3-4 upgrade) but also fined us £20. When we pointed out that this was slightly unreasonable he threatened to see the matter our in court. The crowning moment was his parting shot, when he put his nasty face very close to mine:

“Do you have a job?” he sneered.

I replied that I did.

“Well I take it you have RULES then?”

With hindsight a hundred and one clever replies spring to mind, but I was silent just long enough for him to conclude:
“Well so do I!” with which he turned his back on us and marched triumphantly off to terrorise some other poor traveller.

This is of course the very definition of jobsworthness. (Incidentally, it transpired that he had overcharged us but because he had taken the original ticket and we had not made a record of his name, the train company were unwilling to pursue the matter further.) Obviously it was extremely unpleasant and something which has rankled ever since, not because of the money at stake, but because it represented a victory for some unpleasant little bully against decency and common sense. 

When I was younger my mother told me that bullies are all cowards, and I must confess that at the time I didn’t understand. But of course, it is a truism based on sound psychological reasoning. Insecurity born out of a sense of inadequacy drives them to exploit other people with what little powers they have. It’s most often what I call the ‘petty uniform brigade’, although of course there’s some degree of chicken and egg : do bullies and rule-lovers become parking inspectors and health and safety officials, or do their jobs make them rule-lovers and bullies? 

Unfortunately, these people are a product of an ever more litigious society and its a problem I anticipate will only get worse. So what should we do? How to deal with these situations can be very tricky indeed and I would welcome any suggestions. In the meantime I will do some research of my own and report back with my findings. 


What sums up Britain to you? Afternoon tea, The Queen, or over-zealous parking inspectors?







Perhaps you can help us out on a domestic argument, which arose during tea out at a pub near Henley…

We were mid-meal when the owner’s black Labrador – a kempt and attractive young bitch of about 1 – approached me with such a winsome expression of good will, that I stopped to ruffle her hair, and to compliment her on being such a good doggy.

Lily promptly chastised me for my poor hygiene and refused to eat anything I then touched. I do acknowledge that then proceeding to touch everything edible item on the table was childish… but who sides with Lily? Should I have got up to wash my hands, or does Lily need to relax her standards?

Do you let animals share your food? Do you carry sterilizer around in your handbag for such an event, or do you subscribe to the theory that germs are probably good for you?

A basset hound licks a baby's face. Cute? Or hygiene nightmare?

Do you always wash your hands after contact with animals?

Teabacks hung out to dry on a washing line to save money

What lengths will you go to to save money during a recession?


One of the best ways to enjoy all the frills of afternoon tea without the expense is DIY. We have been reviewing hotels and tearooms on our website for the last 3 years but still some of our best experiences have been in people’s homes:

Invite a few friends round, either informally over the phone, or make special invitation cards and post them with themed stamps, or tea-stained envelopes.

Dust off your old tea set from the attic or buy a mismatched assortment of pots and cups from a charity shop. Ask around and see if anyone has got three-tiered cake stands, silver sugar tongs, or fancy teapots.

Decorate the table imaginatively – don’t be afraid of the Kitsch, the Naff and the Downright Ridiculous. Gingham, flowers, bunting, silverware, portraits of the Queen. Anything goes.

Ask your friends to make or buy cakes, scones, sandwiches, strawberries, clotted cream, crumpets etc.

For more ideas, and some interesting recipes to try at home have a look at

#1 Prepare for public transport: Choose a bus which is 80-90% occupied and position yourself near the back. Arrange for about 60 friends (or preferably strangers) to rush on and join you at the last minute.

Men travelling by open topped truck through the streets of india

#2 Prepare for the frustration: Write a list of about 10 important jobs which you might hope to achieve in the average day. Include things like posting letters, buying everyday household items, arranging trains/taxis, meeting friends, paying bills &c. Pick one from the list at random. With a lot of pushing and shouting and queuing and hassle this will be the one job you get done today. Now cross off half the remaining list. However important they may seem, and no matter how hard you try,  accept they will never get done. The remaining ones will get done eventually but establish a time frame of between 5-10 times longer and more stressful than you would anticipate.

#3 Preparing for the head-bobble: This is one to try with people in trains/buses/supermarkets/at work &c. Whenever anyone asks a question give NO indication whether you have heard, understood, or know the answer. Instead wobble your head from side to side as if trying to touch your ears to your shoulders. Observe their reaction. The more frustrated they get, and the more they repeat the question, the more insouciant you should attempt to make the gesture.

#4 Prepare for the stray dogs: Run naked through a rubbish tip covered in Pedigree Chum.

Old Indian ambulance crashed and burned out by the side of the road

#5 Prepare for the laundry: Substitute your regular washing powder for a handful of dirt and one or two small rocks. Lay your clothes out on the ground to dry, preferable in a spot where cats/dogs/humans are known to defecate.

If your biscuit delivery ship was going down, which would you reach for to accompany you on your dessert island?

Friday teatime at the Noveltea offices is always a slightly fraught time. As you might imagine we start the week with a tin brimming with biscuits, full of all our teatime favourites: jammie dodgers, chocolate hobnobs, pink wafers, party rings, custard creams and garibaldis; you name it, we’ve got it. By Friday afternoon, however, our collection is a bit thinner on the ground, and tempers start to fray as we fight over the remaining crumbs. Today, as Amos and I had a tug of war over the final chocolate bourbon, we got to thinking, if you were stranded on a desert island what biscuit would you want with you? Amos favours hobnobs and garibaldis, whereas I’d always pick a party ring or a pink wafer. We both agreed on one thing for once though, absolutely no digestives. What do you think? Whats your favourite biscuit of all time? We’d love to hear your thoughts so please cast your votes and leave your comments below!

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Good afternoon tea-lovers, and happy Friday! Nearly time to put the kettle on, your feet up and kick back till Monday.

We don’t know about you but this week has just seemed to draaag, so we’ve come up with a little poll to ponder over the weekend.

What annoys you most, come teatime?

Everyone knows that a cup of tea can be the most welcome, uplifting, joyous luxury in the world. So why is it some people just can’t see to get it right?

We’re interested to know what your pet hates are relating to tea. It could be something really naff about your local tearoom, like paper doilies, squirty cream or Victorian maid uniforms (that really bugs Lily). It could be the tea-making facilities in your office, like flakes of limescale, UHT milk, or having to fish out tea-bags with a chewed up biro. Maybe it’s when your friends give you cracked mugs, stale biscuits, or someone puts a wet teaspoon back in the sugar…

Whatever it is we’d love to hear all about it, so place your votes, or leave a comment below.


Hello tea lovers,

In addition to our regular tearoom reviews we’re going to spice it up a bit from now on! Starting tomorrow, every week we’re going to pose a tea-related question which you can mull over on your break. We very much look forward to hearing what you have to say, and even have a few little goodies to give away to the best responses, so put kettle and thinking caps on, and get pen to paper!