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

UK Tearooms

April 6, 2012

Yauatcha CakesWee BletherThe Tea Cosy BrightonThe Orchard, GranchesterThe Bridge, WiltshireThe Copper Kettle, Cambridge
Tea on the Green, ExeterTea for two, ElySt Tudno Hotel, WalesSinensis Camellia Tearoom, LondonRiver Tea RoomsThe Randolph Hotel, Oxford
The Muffin Man, London.Mrs Marengo's, LondonMaison Bertaux, SohoTearooms in Henley-on-Thames  Hampshire Hotel, Leicester SquareGrays Court, York
The Grand Cafe, Oxford (inside)Grand Cafe, Oxford (outside)Fir Tree tearooms, KentThe Edgecumbe ArmsThe Buttery, LymmingtonCrumpets!

UK Tearooms, a set on Flickr.

We’re going live on Flickr over the Easter Bank Holiday to celebrate some of the wonderful tearooms we’ve visited over the last couple of years. The trouble is we’re usually too busy scoffing scones to remember to take photos! We’ll be adding to the collection over the next few months so watch this space…

cupcakes with a heart at the centre

 

We came across this the other day (never underestimate the amount of time we spend scouring Google Images for pictures of cupcakes!) and were… well, astounded! How do you do that? It takes a lot to impress us but our hats off to you, that is one groovy cake!

I started writing this article some time ago but it got shelved due to time constraints. I had observed  that tea-based cocktails were coming into fashion – or I should say back into fashion. Now they have become so ubiquitous in all the trendy bars that I feel I can put off writing it no longer.

The practice of cocktails – that is to say blending spirits and other ingredients – does not seem to have gained much popularity until the mid 1800s and ironically it wasn’t until the days of prohibition in the 1930s that people actually started congregating to drink them. Some from the period we may still recognise, like the Old Fashioned, or the Sidecar but many others have subsequently fallen out of favour.

A selection of the kind of lurid, tecnhicolour cocktails popularised in the 1980s

As with many men, back in the 80s when my father had more hair and less of a paunch, he used to play barman and throw extravagant cocktail parties for his other yuppie friends. Growing up I remember leafing through all his glossy books filled with wonderfully lurid drinks in exotic glasses. The White Russian, the Pink Lady, the Gin Fizz, the Harvey Wallbanger, the Tequila Sunrise and the Singapore Sling. They were usually very colourful, very sweet and by today’s standards – like a lot of 80s popular culture – very tasteless.

Serving up a storm in a teacup: the growing trend for tea-based cocktails

Some cocktails called for small quantities of cold tea, such as Earl Gray, to be thrown into the mix – probably the most famous example being the Long Island Iced Tea. Rather like adding Angostura Bitters, the effect is to make the drink a little more savoury, a little more tannic, a little more interesting and a little more shall we say grown up. In contrast to the cloyingly sweet cocktails and ‘alcopops’ of the 90s and early naughties it is easy to see why these flavours are now reappearing on the cocktail menus.

Obviously at Noveltea we’re very partial to tea and not impartial to cocktails either so this fusion is right up our street. In addition to our usual research of finding decent tea rooms we have been on the look out for places serving good tea cocktails. The best so far is probably Papajis lively bar-cum-tearoom in Bristol who serve a selection of delicious aromatic cocktails including one particularly interesting one based around hot sake.

If you stumble upon any good tea-based cocktails then please do let us know. In the meantime here are some recipes for you to try at home:

1) The Oolong Moojito

  • 2 parts rum
  • generous squeeze of fresh lime juice
  • unrefined/cane sugar or sugar syrup
  • fresh mint
  • 2-3 tsp cooled Oolong tea
  • 1-2 drops of soda water to taste

The tricky thing about mojitos is the lack of mixers, which can make it a bit difficult to gauge quantities. The trick is to be generous with a good quality white or golden rum and buy plenty more limes and mint than you think you need.

Smack the mint leaves between the palms of your hands and muddle in the glass with the lime juice and sugar. If you don’t like the granular texture of the sugar then consider making up a litre or two of sugar syrup (boil water and sugar and allow to cool) which has a practically indefinite shelf-life in the fridge.  Add the tea. Fill the glass with ice, top with a small quantity of soda water and stir. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

 

2) a REAL long Island Iced Tea

  • 1 part vodka
  • 1 part tequila
  • 1 part light rum
  • 1 part dart rum
  • 1 part tripple sec
  • 1 part cold Earl Gray
  • Good squeeze of lemon
  • Coke

There are 101 recipes for Long Island Iced Tea but trust us, this is the daddio. Coke is NOT a main ingredient of this drink and it is a big mistake to use too much. It is only used to top up the last finger or two in order to add colour and to carbonate the drink. You will need to invest in several different spirits. I like to spread it over several different shopping trips so as to conceal the cost.

Place all the ingredients (except for the Coke) in a shaker with ice and mix thoroughly for at least 30 seconds. Top a tall tumbler up to the brim with fresh ice cubes and pour over the mixture. Finish with Coke and a sprig of mint.

Coming up in 2012…

January 20, 2012

We’ve been a little slow off the mark this year, although we are gratified to see that older reviews like The Teacosy, Brighton,  (which we dubbed ‘Britain’s Campest Tearoom’) Poppy’s, Chipping Sodbury and our disappointment at The Randolph, Oxford continue to attract readers.

We’ve also noticed how much you like our pieces on teatime etiquette and other important questions of state, such as ‘how far do you take hand hygiene?‘ or ‘how to do afternoon tea on a budget?‘.

So what’s in store for 2012?

– Well we have visited over 150 tearooms in the UK and will continue to drip out our reviews via the blog and website.

– We would like to make our interesting recipes like the all day breakfast scone and the  gin and tonic fairy cakes available for blog readers to see. We are also working on some all new recipes like strawberries and cream cornish pasties and egg and cress scones and will also be publishing some out-takes of recipes which went…. ehem… less well than we would have liked.

– We will come up with some new teatime debates in the spirit of cream first or jam or the biscuit you can’t live without both of which sparked some hot controversy.

– We’re going to start running an informal feature on other tea-time blogs out there, starting with the inspired ‘Afternoon Tea Total‘.

– And we will of course be keeping our fingers on the pulse of the latest tea-time trends and keep you abreast of all that is brewing in the news.

If you have any questions of comments on the blog or website or there is anything you would like us to research or discuss for you then, as usual, drop us a line.

Amos J Harris signature

Lily Pemberton signature

A Scottish tea cosy: this'll keep the wind off

 

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

O, My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose by Robbie Burns

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be up in Scotland, enjoying (amongst other things): heather, haggis, tartan, sporens, cold feet, rosy cheeks and of course TEA! Something about Scotland always makes us think of Christmas so hopefully these next few tearooms will get you in the mood for the festive season…

We received a question the other day by email:

***

“Hi, I have recently moved to the UK from Canada. Many things baffle me about this country, but nothing more so than the word, ‘tea’. What on earth does it mean, please?”  Jake, London.

***

Dear Jake,

Thank you for your question. It is one which troubles not only visitors to these shores, but many locals too. The word “tea” is used in different contexts. Confusingly it can refer to two things:

1) A drink (usually served with milk and a healthy dose of gossip, as in “let’s stop for a cup of tea”)

The word ‘tea’ on its own usually means a meal. Lower and lower-middle classes, and many people in the North of England traditionally refer to the meal eaten between 6-8 as “tea”, which originates from the practice of only eating 3 meals a day (breakfast, dinner – meaning lunch – and tea). If they wish to distinguish between “tea” (the meal) and “tea” (served between 4-6 with tea, bread, cakes etc.) they say “high tea”.

English upper and upper-middle classes tend to eat somewhat later, and refer to the meal served between 7-9 as “dinner” (formal) or “supper” (informal). The meal served between 3-5 is referred to as “afternoon tea” or sometimes just “tea”, as there is no risk of confusing it with any other meal.

Or 2) or a meal (as in, “I’m starving, what’s for tea?”).

People of all classes and backgrounds also enjoy tea as a standalone entity, but tend to distinguish it from a meal by quantifying it i.e.  “a cup of tea”, or just “a tea”.

The bottom line:

People get very worked up about this distinction. Indeed, even amongst the British, etiquette is a great source of stress (even fear). Allow me to impart the following advice:

1) Don’t worry! Take solace in Dr Seuss’ mantra that “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter”. Any self-respecting English host will make clear their intentions on the invitation and will be graceful, kind and humorous should any mistakes arise.
2) If in doubt ask. There is such an acceptable variation in what is meant by “tea” that there is no shame in asking for clarification.
3) Enjoy! The English tea custom has fascinated me for many years. Wherever you go for tea, whatever you eat, and whoever you share it with, you will not only experience one of our most interesting social rituals, but one of our tastiest!

Debretts etiquette for girls book opf modern manners

Teatime etiquette in modern Britain: Minefield.

For more information have a look at my website www.noveltea.co.uk

Cream tea wars

June 3, 2011

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13436963

 

I spotted this interesting article about protected designation of origin regarding ‘Devon Cream Teas’.

protected designation of origin, devon cream tea

Just some of the many British foods given protected designation of origin status

Will it make much difference? I recall the uproar (we;ll the closest Brits come to an uproar) caused when Cornish Pasties were awarded PDO status. Would it be kosher to serve a Devon Cream Tea with Ceylon tea and Cornish Clotted cream? Where will it end?

In theory I think it’s no bad thing to offer protection to local manufacturers but in practice, it’s a bit bureaucratic and European for my liking. Very unlike English cream teas, in fact…

Valentine's Day. Say it with tea!

Say it with tea! A Valentine's card made from old tea bags

Valentine’s Day can be a potentially stressful occasion, especially if – like Amos – your best intentions gift-wise have a nasty habit of being misinterpreted or lost in the post! With the fateful day looming we thought we’d brush the dust off this old card, which mysteriously arrived on Amos’ desk this time last year!

We hope this gives you some inspiration. Fingers crossed for something this year too…!

For more news, reviews, letters and recipes visit www.noveltea.co.uk