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

“I try to find different places to drink tea wherever I go

and have a theory that if you’re in a new place and need to find tea quickly

you should head to the local public library

as tea places seem to congregate around them.”

We have once again been scouring the interweb, reaching out to fellow tea lovers. This month’s featured blog is TEA FOR YOU AND ME, which has – like ourselves – been scouring the country with only one noble pursuit. From the Ritz to Morrison’s café is there NOWHERE this intrepid adventurer will not dip leaf in water in search of the perfect brew?

All over the country, from deepest, darkest Wales to Cornwall and the South Coast to the bleakest extremities of the A1(M), our mysterious author(ess) has an impressive catalogue of over 165 cafes, pubs, restaurants, tearooms, leisure centres and even supermarkets. There are even a few smattered reviews as far afield as Belgium and Sweden.

Not only is he or she surely a tea aficionado of the highest order but the reviews are informative and accurate and strike to the heart of some of the most portentous issues in the world of tea (including how on earth you’re meant to lose weight when eating cream teas for breakfast, lunch and… erm… tea). We love the pictures and the handy summary table at the bottom of each page.

We were amused to note that friends of the blog include two adorable looking border terriers and we have now joined their ranks in support of this most worthy venture. Cheers!

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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…

Beat cancer in 7 minutes

February 17, 2012

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

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17030879

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?

A selection of the best blogs about tea and tearooms

 

Today’s featured blog is afternoon tea total, which has been sharing in the secret’s of some of London’s top tearooms since 2009.

In Natalie, the author and self-described “cycling afternoon tea obsessive”, we appear to have found somewhat of a kindred spirit. She has visited many of London’s top tearooms, some of which like Bea’s of Bloomsbury or The Wolsley are part of our own repertoire but plenty more are new discoveries for us. We have even learnt a thing or two about baking and bubble tea into the bargain.

We adore her relaxed, friendly style, her wealth of knowledge and clear dedication to the cause. Here is a lady that will clearly leave no crumpet un-buttered in her pursuit of the ultimate tea experience. We also enjoy the narrative and the characters who frequent her reviews, most of all the mysterious ‘Coffee Boy’ who we take to be her adoring suitor and one of the luckiest young men in London.

To both of you we wish happiness down to the last crumb and that you keep up the good work in 2012.

Best wishes,

Lily and Amos

 

P.s. on a personal note we must share your frustration when a much loved – and sometimes meticulously ‘researched’ tearoom closes down such has been happening a lot to us recently.

 

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

Wee Blether,
Kinlochard,
Scotland

It was a glorious morning. The silvery water of Loch Ard glistened in the early April sunshine. The birds were singing a chorus of merry tunes, accompanied by Amos, sweating and cursing at the oars of our little boat. Our destination: the highly recommended Wee Blether Tea Room, housed in an eggshell blue beach hut on the loch side in Kinlochard run by a group of cheery Scottish ladies.
Inside was packed to bursting with customers, cakes, treats and goodies that couldn’t fail to satisfy even the most discerning tea goer. We sat outside at cast iron tables on the wooden jetty and satisfied our sweet tooth on homemade Victoria sponge and freshly baked melt in the mouth scones served with small, hot pot of tea. It was all going so well until we went to settle the bill and discovered that we had been charged an extra £1.00 for asking for a pot of hot water to top up the tea. Bloody Scotts.

Verdict: a pot knocked off for being stingy 3 pots/5

For more Scottish tearooms check out Noveltea.co.uk

Wee Blether, Kinlochard: always open, in fact more than always open...

The Library Tea Rooms,
Balquhidder,
Scotland

Finding the small glen of Balquhidder, nestled at the end of a long windy narrow road to nowhere was predictably tricky, especially as the local signposts pre-date the death of Rob Roy in 1734, who is buried in the local church. But the discovery of the Library tea rooms was well worth the inevitable petty tussles [and nearly £300 damage to the car – ehem sorry, Amos] that ensued on the way. The Library Tearooms are about as tiny as the glen itself, and even the crisp white wood panelled walls did little to create the illusion of space, but don’t let this put you off.
A log fire was burning in the corner, and the built-in bookshelves were piled high with quirky reading material and delicate floral-patterned gilt bone china cups and saucers. We sat at the only table large enough to accommodate our hungry appetites, and feasted on scones fresh from the oven, filled with bouncy, joyous currents and served with perfect homemade strawberry jam and frothy whipped cream.
A treasure.

Verdct: a splendid 4 pots/5

For more tearooms in Scotland visit Noveltea.co.uk

The Library Tea Rooms, Balquhidder: we have tried very hard to avoid using the word "quaint"

 

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…