This is an age old question that never fails to spark controversy whenever it rears its ugly head.

Here are some of Amos’ arguments for putting cream first:

How do you eat your scones?

1)      Cream is a substitute for butter – you wouldn’t put jam on your toast before butter so why change the rules when it comes to cream? If you want to get technical, the fat (yes who’d have thought?) gets absorbed by the scone and not only moistens it but primes it in preparation for whatever jam you’re having.

2)      The scone is the most dense component and thus makes the foundations, then the cream and then the jam. The cream is sticky like mortar and adheres to scone below and the jam up top. You wouldn’t make a cottage from thatch and a roof from bricks, would you?

3)      Jam – with its slippery surface and tiny raspberry-seed roller-skates – makes the cream slide all over the scone and in all probability, all over the tablecloth and down your trousers too. If you like cats licking your crotch, then who am I to reprimand, but every time I see someone putting jam first I naturally assume they’re a pervert.

And here’s Lily’s argument against:

How do you eat your scones?

1)      It may not be recommended by doctors but it didn’t take me long to realize that if you apply jam first, then you can have butter too! Butter + jam + cream works, but butter + cream next to each other? Now that’s going a step too far!

2)      From an aesthetic point of view, it’s much prettier to look at.  This way you can evenly spread out the jam and then lightly dollop the clotted cream on top in a little mountain
of pleasure.

3)      The jam first camp has quite a formidable number of supporters. It’s got the stamp of approval from The Queen for a start, which is good enough for me!

Have we managed to persuade you either way? Now have your say!

To find a tearoom near you visit www.noveltea.co.uk

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Tea on the Green, Exeter

February 2, 2011

2 Cathedral Close

Exeter

EX1 1EZ

01392 276 913

In a moment of spontaneity and wanderlust Amos whisked Lilly away on a romantic trip to… Exeter. It would not have been a Noveltea day out without at least several afternoon teas. Desperately needing our spirits lifted after a few drizzly hours traipsing around the city we came upon Tea on the Green, a Tudor style building overlooked by the famous Exeter Cathedral.

We looked tentatively through the raindrop-spattered windows into the sparsely occupied, low-ceilinged interior, and keen to get into the warm and dry we made a faltering push inside.

In our extensive experience in the tea reviewing game we have come across a phenomenon we have dubbed the “cathe-dull tearoom” and it is this: we have found that many tearooms surrounding cathedrals or other points of interest are able to, and often do – by virtue of their central location – become the ‘default setting’ for afternoon tea in a given city. Given that they can almost guarantee a fair footfall of tourist trade such places can happily rest on their laurels and provide a barely passable standard of tea which does a disservice in the eyes of the world to this great, British tradition.

Seriously hoping to break the trend we ordered a pot tea from the “historic” Tregothnan Estate (in Cornwall), teacakes and a slice of Vicky Sponge. The first warming, earthy sips of the West Country blend transported Amos to the wild and sunny shores of his Cornish childhood… until he was unhappily bought back to earth by a thudding great slab of VSC being slapped down at our table (a gutsy £3.95 a slice, by the way).

The staff were found to be polite and service was not slow. The menus were comprehensive and the fare of adequate quality. Perhaps because of the rain, though, the atmosphere wasn’t there, and we were forced to ask the question:

“did this cathedral tearoom break the mould?”

There are nice touches, like using local jams and loose leaf tea – which we applaud – but although there was nothing strictly wrong with it we both agreed that it reached only really the minimum standards required of such an establishment.

 

See more tearooms in the South West

Sinensis Camellia

January 26, 2011

12 Kingly Court, London W1B 5PW

http://www.camelliaworldteas.com

020 7734 9939

Soho's best stocked tearoom

A wide selection of teas, tisanes and infusions in Sinensis Camellia, London

Being fairly well versed in most tea-related gossip, puns and trivia, the name of our next destination ‘Sinensis Camellia’ (the botanical name for the tea plant – NB it should really be ‘Sinensis camellia’, of course…) was not lost on us.

Even by our standards our trip up to London was fairly fraught as Lily lost her ticked on the train. When Amos politely expounded the situation to the inspector he was rather less than sympathetic and threatened him with an ASBO should we not sit down and cough up the exorbitant fine.

The rain – which had been threatened all week – chose the exact moment we left the Naughty Office at Victoria Station to descend in one enormous mass, and we arrived at the charming top floor courtyard tearoom (just off Carnaby Street) soaked to the skin and muttering menacing curses to the Heavens and Southern Trains.

Slave to research, Amos had selected this particular destination (on the advice of a good friend and fellow tea lover) to celebrate a ‘Special Occasion’ and despite our inauspicious arrival we were not to be disappointed.

A lot of thought has gone into making the interior of this well-thought-out little tearoom as pleasing on the eye as to the palate. They have strived to create a welcome oasis or tranquillity for body and soul that we appreciated greatly, as we dripped our way through the clientele to our table in the corner.

One wall is lined with huge tea caddies, featuring many usual suspects and many more we’d never seen before, ranging from Cupid’s Delight (“a tonic for the reproductive system”), to Gout Remedy, (“flushes away excess uric acid deposits”), to Toxin Tea (“loved by your liver!”). Opposite there is a rather shamanistic array of similar ‘health’ products like soaps, scents and teapots.

If anything, the slightly commercial aspect of all this detracted a little from a very credible afternoon tea experience. We paid London’s ubiquitous (it seems) thirty-odd quid for gorgeous home-made scones, sandwiches and cakes, two cups of “White Eternity” and even received a “free” sample of tea to take home, in a little bag.

Had we not arrived so late, and had we had more time and deeper pockets, it would have been a very convivial place to while away an hour or several with their extensive catalogue of tisanes and infusions as many of our fellow guests seemed to be doing. Alas, and although in the end we had enjoyed our meal and found solace from our morning’s misdemeanours, we were forced to break for home before Amos’ curfew ran out.

See more tearooms in London

We’ve just discovered this rather compelling site, documenting the most expensive versions of everyday (and some less that every day…) items!

http://most-expensive.net/tea

Look what they have to say about tea… we were aware that Darjeeling could set you back a bob or two but $3000 a kilo is a bit steep, don’t you think? Lily – who’s actually a magpie masquerading in human form – was also drawn to this: the world’s most expensive teabag!

The world's most expensive teabag

Grays Court, York

January 19, 2011

Afternoon tea at Grays Court, York

The perfect setting for afternoon tea in York

In a city as renowned for its historic relics as it is its superb selection of afternoon tearooms, it is difficult to decide on the best. However, right up there must be Grays Court – a building dating back to 1080, first commissioned by the original Archbishop of York, and now claiming to be the oldest continuously occupied house in the country. (We now know of 3 other such tearooms making the same claim…)

Nonetheless, the current proprietors seamlessly combine the beautifully preserved surroundings with what must be some of the best homemade cakes in York. Truly a tearoom for all occasions, light, airy rooms with tables for families and friends are juxtaposed between alcoves perfect for a romantic tryst. The service was speedy and charming, with excellent knowledge of their different blends of loose tea available. Hidden away behind large formidable gates yet in the very centre of the city, it is easy to escape for an hour or two.

On a final note, we feel obliged to warn you of the multiple alleged “other wordly” sightings. The subtle suggestions made by the staff were made certain in Lilly’s mind when, upon returning from the bathroom she found only half of her chocolate brownie remaining and a totally baffled Amos.

See more tearooms in the North

Noveltea Goes Mobile!

January 16, 2011

Find a tearoom on the move

Now your nearest tearoom is in your pocket!

We’ve noticed over the last year or so that more and more of our traffic is coming from mobile sources, meaning that the splendour of our original site is often lost when viewed on the move. Although we try to keep up to date – luddites that we are – we often struggle with the technology.

But fear not!

Noveltea has now gone mobile! We have just launched a skeleton version of the site which is available (apparently) on over 97% of mobile phones and handheld computers, meaning that even when you’re out and about your nearest tearoom is now right there in your pocket!

**Technical(ish) bit**

This has proved quite tricky, as we needed to code in a little PHP magic to let the server recognise what type of computer is being used to access the content and redirect user appropriately. Obviously we’ve had to rejig the formatting of each page (in HTML) so as to be compatible with smaller screens. All this has proved a fairly steep learning curve for old fuddy-duddies like us and there’s little help available online so do get in touch if you’ve been having similar problems.

**Technical stuff over**

The upshot is we hope you like it. Thanks for your feedback so far – we’ll be adding to it over the next few months so bear with us and in the meantime, if there’s anything you’d like us to incorporate don’t hesitate to let us know!

Hello Dear!

October 29, 2010

As some of you know we’ve been inundated with fanmail from…… Russia and Ukraine! Goodness alone knows how our fame has become so widespread. The letters may be bizarre, but at least they’re entertaining!

“Hello. My name is Alexander Shpak. I live in Ukraine. I like the way your company produces its products. Our whole family uses them. Us they like the quality and practicality. We recommend them to friends, and they too loved it. I’m so in love with your company, I want to ask you, what would you have sent me gifts from your company. Because she’s amazing.”

Need a break?

October 21, 2010

We just popped out for a tea break the other day on the South Bank and saw these two street performers doing the same!

 

Two street performers enjoy a crafty fag

Fame in far flung places

October 16, 2010

Unsurprisingly the Noveltea inbox is permanently “over quota” and as you can imagine we get some fabulous emails and the some frankly quite bizarre one, too. Even so, something very perculiar has been happening over the last few days that has taken us quite aback.

For some reason we have been contacted by no fewer than 52 Russian and Ukrainian importers, exporters, individuals, retailers, and entrepreneurs, all seeking samples of tea from the UK. It sounds incredible, but listen to some of these…

Good day.
Russian acquainted with tea in 1638 godu [the Russian word for year] … Tea in Russia is constantly growing. By the XIX century it has already drank all estates. In the years 1830-1840 Russian statistics noted: in those areas where increased consumption of tea, falling consumption of liquor. In Russia tea is very popular… my husband and son, we just adore tea and ready to drink from dawn to vechera [evening]…We hope you will always have a good harvest, stability and prosperity of your tea company.

Or how about this one?

Hello! Me and my family love to shop on-line or not. We always in search of new productions or new brands.
We found you site and we fall in love in it! It`s lovely and charmed.
But before bought we need to try it out. So we will be very thankful if you will send us free samples of your productions!
Thanks for attention!

Tea time in Теберда

Some of them are very friendly (“I would be very happy and grateful if you would send me by mail a free sample of your beautiful tea”) and some direct to the point of sounding threatenting (“Thank you, I hope my request will not remain ignored”), but EVERY one asks for a free sample sent by post to an address in Russia or Ukraine.

Confused? Well so are we! If anyone can throw any light on this, or suggest what we do about it then we would be most grateful…

Lily and Amos

The Last Couple of Months

October 5, 2010

Hello Tea-Lovers,

The autumn leaves are falling and summer is officially over, and it’s about time we updated our blog!  We’ve had a busy couple of months chasing the sunshine and as ever searching for that perfect cup of tea.  We read in the papers the other day that one of the most popular items in the British suitcase is a supply of tea bags, and as you’d expect ours was packed full!  Amos even wanted to take his favourite tea pot, but after a long winded discussion Lily’s new shoes won out.  However, as it turns out we could have left it all at home, because wherever we went we found tea delights.  Yes, that’s right, Noveltea has gone international, and we’ve reviewed teas in Jersey, Vancouver, Boston and Los Angeles to name a few.  Some of our favourites were the yummy cupcakes from Crumbs Bakery in LA to the rather toxic alcoholic blueberry tea in Whistler….

Back in the UK there’s been a flurry of activity in the kitchens of THQ.  Amos has been perfecting our legendary strawberries and cream cornish pasties (and creating a lot of mess along the way) and we’ve been working on our recipe for the Live Longer Scone.   We’ve also got an update from Marie Curie, a story about a tortoise, and plenty more reviews coming soon, so be sure to visit our new-look website and keep up with what’s going on.  In the meantime, do keep in touch – we love to hear from you!

Happy tea drinking,

Love Lily and Amos x