January 8, 2014
No idea if it’s for real but though we had to pick up on this – the world’s most dangerous tearoom.
No current plans to review but will reconsider if there’s enough demand…
September 14, 2012
May 25, 2011
The Tea Cosy,
3 George Street,
Wednesday-Friday: 12-5pm, Saturday: 12-6pm, Sunday: 12-5pm
There is a sense of intense purpose about the Tea Cosy which hits you immediately upon entering. We liked the imposingly kitch window display, made steamy against the cold January backdrop from which we sought shelter. We liked manner in which we were asked to wipe our feet and shut the door behind us without so much as a by your leave. And we loved the bric-a-brac higgledy-piggledy decor.
With the excitement of naughty school children, and not a little apprehension, we were lead to our seats amongst half a dozen or so other diners whose expressions ranged from uncomfortable to bemused by the eccentricity of their surroundings. They have hoarded an elephantine collection of Royal Family memorabilia bordering on obsession, from an imposing portrait of Queen Victoria to (suspended from the ceiling) a toilet seat once graced by the Bottom of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall. The overall effect is, shall we say, not a little camp.
Then there are the menus, which specify the house rules on a range of afternoon etiquette, from the sensible (please turn off your mobile phone) to the daft (please avoid the unnecessary clatter of spoon-on-cup) to the downright ridiculous (much to Amos’ chagrin it is expressly requested that milk be added first, and Lily – who’s vitriolic mezzo soprano can be heard from one end of the lacrosse field to the other – had to suppress her exultations of glee to “2 beats lighter than chink of a teacup”).
Our minds turned to the teas they serve, which are called things like “The Charles & Camilla Elevenses” or “Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, Queen of Hearts, 10 year Anniversary, Your Death Has Torn Our Lives Apart, Fairwell Dear Princess Queen Of Hearts, Forever In Our Thoughts, Memorial Afternoon Tea”. Our order was taken with a carefully metered dose of effete distain and our tea and crumpets were deposited at the table so curtly it made us squirm with pleasure.
It’s fair to say that the atmosphere they create is a little overbearing to say the least. It probably won’t be the most relaxed experience but it may be one of the more amusing or bizarre depending on your outlook. The scones and what we were charged for them placated both our pockets and our palates and we look forward to returning.
There’s a lot to like and we wavered between three and a half to four pots, but they couldn’t quite scoop up the high scores because we felt they lacked vigour in their pursuit of a dream. If anything we expected it to be even more queer, even more camp, even more OTT. Next time we go, and when Amos sends the sugar bowl flying and Lily guffaws so loudly it upsets the plastic fountain on table three, we expected to be smacked firmly on the knuckles and asked politely to leave.
Today we visited a number of tea factories outside Kandy. We saw how the tea is gathered (20 Rupees per kg, with a bonus if they get more than 20 kilos…) and carried in baskets to a collecting station where they are weighed. Then they are carried by tractor to the factory, where the leaves are wilted in massive hoppers for a few hours to reduce the water volume. Then they are funneled downstairs to be sifted and fermented, before they are dried, graded, sorted and packaged ready for auction in Colombo. Next comes the most important stage: tasting! We tried some of the 350 varieties of tea grown in Sri Lanka and discussed the various blends, including one made specially for the Royal Wedding. There is a tea garden outside overlooking the neat rows of tea bushes, but of course it was raining….
Unreliable internet access has meant we’ve been unable to blog as regularly as we would have liked. Now we’re in back Colombo to watch the Royal Wedding so here’s a little update…
Last week we arrived in Ella, in the foothills, famous for it’s lush green jungles and orderly tea plantations. On the South Coast it had been scorching hot, well into the 30s and as soon as we got up to pour a drink we’d break into a cloying sweat. It was naive to think, however, that in a country as verdant as this, the weather would hold. Of course, we were wrong.
In Ella the monsoon rains came. It rained and it rained and it rained. Then there would be a small sunny window, where folks would start to put out their washing… and then it would rain again. With the rain, the mosquitoes disappeared, but in their stead came the leeches. We suffered terribly as we trekked through long grass and scrabbled over the wet rocks, and when we came home we had to burn the little blighters off one by one.
One morning, we got up early and climbed a rock the locals call “Little Adam’s Peak” – an hour’s climb from the town – from where we were rewarded with fantastic views of the sun rising over the plantations, and the famous ‘Ella Gap’.
From Ella, we headed further North, to Nuwara Eliya, the highest settlement on the island, where the early colonialists flattered the hilltop forests and planted row upon row of immaculate tea bushes in their stead. The road winds up and up through the hills, and on either side, the ramshackle tea factories vie for pride of place. We stopped for a few tastings along the way and finally reached the Grand Hotel where we were treated with our first afternoon tea in an incredible 3 weeks!
April 29, 2011
We’ve arrived in Sri Lanka, and here we are on the South Coast enjoying our first tea of the trip. They make iced tea the old fashioned way with freshly brewed tea, fresh lime, ice and LOADS of sugar. The result? About the most refreshing drink you can get until the sun crosses the yard arm,
Amongst our most pleasant discoveries since arriving is that yard-arm-sun-crossing seems to happen much earlier here…
Next week, we head North to the foothills, for our tour of the tea plantations.
April 1, 2011
Let’s see shall we?
As usual we’ve left packing pretty last minute. Now was NOT a good time to find out that my rucksack (last used for Duke of Edinburgh, aged 14) has been destroyed by moths and I have LITERALLY only odd socks.
We are setting off on our tea pilgrimage to Sri Lanka, India and China and our flight leaves for Sri Lanka in a few hours.
Bon Voyage Noveltea!
February 9, 2011
From the empty window display, cracked walls and uncleared crockery you might have been forgiven for thinking the shop was closed for refurbishment. As a matter of fact it was closing as we arrived but we were very grudgingly granted service – if you could call it that – from one of the most dour proprietoresses we’ve encountered in thirty counties. Clutter lined every surface: empty boxes and brick-a-brack rivalling for space amongst the assorted chairs and tables. Teenagers bedrooms could have taken messy lessons; had my mother been there she would have wept.
And it wasn’t just the mess. The place was, for want of a more descriptive word, filthy. The floor clearly hadn’t been swept in days and the teapot and cracked sugar bowel must have been harbouring – had we been there with a more biological bent – the most fascinating cultures of Lord only knows what.
The food, when it unceremoniously plonked before us, was hardly the highlight. We had scones, microwaved to within an inch of their (long) lives, and jam but couldn’t force ourselves to eat the cream, which looked (and smelt) like was meant for shaving, or to stir our tea with the rusty spoons so used a biro instead. Some bizarre compunction seized us to buy a rather lurid looking Battenberg cake on the way out which is still wrapped up in the boot of the car and there’s an unspoken tension surrounding its consumption. We’re both hoping the other will secretly destroy it in the dead of night.
Foul, dirty and depressing, yet, like an abusive relationship, people keep coming back for more. It’s unlikely you’ll see Royalty in there on your visit but we’d be lying if we said there wasn’t something slightly charming about the clutter, something comforting about the contempt with which we were treated. There was something so openly hostile about the hospitality we received it seems as though a gauntlet’s been thrown down and we’d strongly encourage you to go there and part with your hard-earned money just to spite them!
February 7, 2011
There’s been a flurry of interest in our first teatime debate which is great to see. Thanks to all those who have voted and left comments. The poll and the moment is split a nail-biting 50:50 so we’ll leave it open and see how it develops…
In the meantime we’ll work on our tearoom of the week review for Wednesday and another vote to respark debate on Friday.
For more news, reviews, letters and recipes visit our site www.noveltea.co.uk