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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Danesfield House
Henley Rd
Marlow, Buckinghamshire
SL7 2EY
01628 891 010
http://www.danesfieldhouse.co.uk/afternoon_tea

 

I feel sorry for anywhere that isn’t Danesfield House. Set in Buckinghamshire, amid the beautiful Chiltern Hills, and overlooking the river Thames – this once prehistoric hill fort, now luxury hotel and spa has it all. We had spent a chilly Autumnal day perusing the quaint riverside towns of Henley and Marlow. Lily flitted from shop to show, amassing an impressive collection of bags until by five o’clock she could no longer fit through doorways sidewards. With one last wistful look back at the shoes that might have been, even she was forced to admit defeat and together we set off to find tea.

During this time Amos had not been idle, and – in between paying for things – had solicited the advice of some friendly locals. Our options were twofold: retrace our steps to Henley or stop off outside Marlow at “the posh hotel on the hill”. Pulling up on the gravel drive of this stately home-cum-hotel, our excitement was twinged with a note of foreboding. We’ve had mixed experiences of country house conversions; the price is unanimously high, but the quality of the tea very variable, and many is the time Amos has got into furious rows with the management concerning the mark-up on a Twinings teabag. This white-faced mock Tudor castle doesn’t look beautiful, and it doesn’t look cheap either…

…And it wasn’t. But we’re pleased to report that the service and quality are up there with the very best. The orangery (funky old-fashioned flagstones meet modern metal and glass) houses a dozen or so tables, resplendent in white linen and silverware, creating a fresh, minimal setting whilst maintaining a convivial atmosphere. There is not a harpist in sight – instead faultless oven-fresh scones are accompanied by fine loose-leaf tea, the chinks of glasses and the crackle of an open fire.

The service is oily-slick and whisper quiet and the bill when it came was like receiving a massage. We lingered slightly longer than we deemed polite, and made a point of strolling leisurely though the formal gardens before retracing our way back to the car (which was easy to spot amongst the fleet of German executive saloon outside).

Reflecting back perhaps four and a half pots is mean, as it’s hard to know what could be improved upon. Maybe we’ll have to go back for a second opinion…

Read more tearoom reviews in and around London

Hot Gossip, Henley

October 24, 2011

Hot Gossip
7 Friday Street
Henley
Oxfordshire

Tearooms in Henley: Hot Gossip

 

Henley is lovely, although it’s not – I must say – particularly lovable. Famed for being one of the most expensive, most snooty, most disingenuous of all the Thames villages, Henley is a place to for the weekend but we wouldn’t necessarily move there.

Although spoilt for good shops (and of course the ubiquitous farmer’s market on Saturdays…), tea-wise it’s a bit disappointing. You could opt for one of the riverside hotels, or there’s a perfectly nice-looking Maison Blanc near the bridge but we’d back the local’s choice: Hot Gossip on Friday Street.

We felt immediately at home amid the kitch clutter of this cosy ground-floor tearoom. The half-dozen or so tables are staffed (I would hesitate to say perhaps slightly over-staffed?) by 4 wonderfully ditsy, pinny-wearing waitresses who, after much to-ing and fro-ing and whoopsie-daisying, managed to take our order. The home-made cakes looked delicious but since we couldn’t decide which to go for, we opted for one slice of each and (for the sake of balance) a scone-a-piece.
The scones came with a generous scoop of clotted cream and blob of Wilkinson’s Jam. In their prime they must have been superb but I’d take some persuading that they were fresh today. The cakes, though, were faultless. Even we began to struggle a bit after our 4th slice, but we soldiered on regardless. The tea was ok, but the star of the show was undoubtedly the hot chocolate, which – although they seemed to have been prepared such that most of the liquid was on the outside – did much to lift our spirits on the cold journey home.

We would usually direct readers towards a website or some other source of information, but so far as we can see none exists… and to be honest perhaps this is the true source of Hot Gossip’s charm. For all the topsy-turvy service and the spilt hot chocolate, the homely lack of commercialism makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, wholly British afternoon out.

The Attic Tearoom,
Coldharbour Road,
Bristol.

0117 909 0357
http://www.attictea.co.uk

Monday – Friday 8:30 am – 5 pm
Saturday – 10 am – 5 pm

Afternoon tea at the attic tearoom, coldhabour road, bristol

ATTIC: "All the Tea in China". Geddit?

Sandwiched – such as it is – amid a terrace of shops and cafes in an otherwise unremarkable residential region of Bristol, Coldharbour Road is an unlikely place as ever to find a tea house, and especially one of such high calibre. A couple of previous visits to the Attic were foiled by indiscretions of timekeeping but such is its repute we were determined not to miss out a third time. This – as it turns out – would have been a grievous error for its reputation is well-founded.

At odds with its name, the Attic has adopted a high energy, modern take on an ancient ritual – one which is brilliantly conceived, and rigorously executed by a small cohort of passionate staff. Sitting in moulded plastic armchairs at a faux marble table we scanned an impressive selection of loose leaf tea: a fair few old friends and some exotic newcomers. On a tray bearing an unusual assortment of saucers and glass mugs we were provided with an egg timer to ensure perfect infusion (only the second tea house we’ve come across to provide such an aid) and some striking mechanized tea filters as well as a heart-melting array of cakes and brownies.

The Attic is an eye-opener, which raises the bar on our already high teatime standards. What’s more they offer a mail order service on their whole range, and if you visit you’ll very likely find us back there, too.

 

See more tearooms in the South West

24a Bridge Street,

Bradford on Avon,

Wiltshire,

BA15 1BY.

 

01225 865537

Afternoon tea at the Bridge tearooms, wiltshire

"Journey back in time to the Victorian Era". Oh piss off.

Bare with us on this one because The Bridge is an excellent tearoom…. but there are some issues need sorting out. It does try very, very hard to cling to its noble lineage. Built sometime in the 17th Century in the picturesque riverside town of Bradford-upon-Avon, near Bath, it commands pride of place by the river and has won numerous awards for its traditional afternoon tea. They market themselves as having, “authentic Victorian surroundings” but unfortunately rather than actually appearing Victorian, it just looks like they’re trying to appear Victorian and the electronic till, refrigerated cabinets and wireless credit card readers are slightly incongruous with the low ceilings, oak beams and period costumes. Anyone with so much as a passing interest in tea, history, architecture or even just good taste would see through the sham immediately. The bridge isn’t the only tearoom we’ve come across now where this has been a problem and we would strongly encourage those proprietors who do dress A Level students olds up like dowdy maids in the hope of appealing to tourists – unless they derive a kick of personal gratification from it – to give the practice the boot. And while we’re at it if you’re going to go on endlessly about 32 varieties of loose leaf tea, fine bone china and three tier cake stands in your literature don’t bloomin’ well use plastic table cloths and paper napkins. It’s not on guys.

What’s frustrating is that they could be excellent. If you can look past this – and we’re glad we chose to – you can look forward to some very fine tea and brilliant service from waitresses clearly rushed of their pins. It’s frantically busy during season so you need to book and they only start serving tea at 2:30 so if like us you’re trying to sneak in a crafty few before lunch it’s not ideal. Reasonably priced by afternoon tea standards but you’d feel a little hard done by if you parted with £37 a head for the Champagne model. We look forward to returning as soon as we receive written confirmation that they’ll be dropping the tiresome Yea Olde Worlde facade.

See more tearooms in the South West

The Randolf Hotel

St Giles

Oxford

 

Afternoon tea at the Randolph Hotel, Oxford

The magnificent Gothic facade of supposedly Oxford's finest afternoon tea

Such is the reputation of the Randolf for ‘the best tea in Oxford’ we arrived with reservations made, and expectations high. To up the ante we’d agreed to wear Edwardian morning attire in keeping with the splendid Gothic facade and luxurious interior but Anna  – who was dubious from the outset –  “forgot” at the last minute so I couldn’t help feeling the effect was somewhat lost. I arrived first (uncomfortable and not a little self-consciously in starched wing collar and spats) and the most curious thing happened. I was informed that there had been a double booking. Someone with exactly the same name – although I flatter myself not as well dressed – had reserved the same table at the same time and the hotel, assuming there had been some mixup, had given him the spot. Sure enough when I entered the lounge there the blighter was eating my scones and drinking my tea.

I mention this incident for two reasons. Not only was it an amazing coincidence (I’ve never met another Amos Harris in my life) but as far as our enjoyment of the day went, it was by far and away more agreeable than anything which happened subsequently.

Impressive as this Ruskin-acclaimed five star mock gothic monster is from the outside and exorbitant as the prices are, these are no real reflection of what receive. Once they had somewhat ungraciously sorted out their own error, the scones didn’t taste particularly fresh, and the Twinnings tea bags dangled pathetically on string like a tampon, with not a loose leaf in site. Considering I’d gone to the effort of getting dressed up for the occasion [I do appreciate I must have looked a right prick – thanks for those kind words, Lily] one might have expected somewhat less perfunctory service. We left after thirty minutes shortly after a party of American tourists descended upon us and started taking photos of the sandwiches.

If you are looking for ‘the best tea in Oxford’ we would recommend you steer clear of the Randolph and head for The Rose, The Grand Cafe or The Old Parsonage which are all cheaper and better.

 

See more tearooms in the Midlands

Poppys, Chipping Sodbury

February 16, 2011

After surviving what is said to be the most depressing day of the year (the last Monday in January, apparently, for a whole host of reasons) we felt that further protection from the perishing cold was needed in the form of a day out and of course a cream tea… or three.

We tentatively ventured to Chipping Sodbury and were pleased to find a charming yellow-brick market town with a wide, attractive main boulevard seeping afternoon tea potential from every crevice.

After tearing Lilly away from the last of the New Years sales, we came across Poppys – boasting a range of freshly made cakes, hot food and a selection of fine teas. Poppys is well placed, in the middle of Broad Street, at the pounding heart of the Chipping Sodbury, and as such is clearly a popular haunt of a diverse array of her natives. We surveyed the menu and peered through glass bell jars at an extensive array of rather sturdy looking homemade cakes.  We started the ball rolling with one pot of Earl Grey and one of Assam, which arrived promptly. The mismatching crockery lent a quirky air, for certain, but we were less convinced by the teabags, and further disappointed to find they both tasted identical anyway.

We both are possessed of that quintessential British hatred of sending anything back to the kitchen in a restaurant (indeed when travelling abroad Lily has been known to heat her own meal with a magnifying glass rather than risk causing offence by sending it back) but we broke the mould on this occasion as the crumpets she ordered were nothing short of inedible. Our stammering request was met politely and the second attempt arrived hot on the heels of the first, and much improved.

Amos then attempted to tackle a dense and sizable wedge of Victoria sponge – the eating of which Lily unkindly compared to the town’s infamous annual uphill half marathon, the ‘Sodbury Slog’ – but even his most noble efforts were eventually in vain.  Strictly in the name of research, and not to be outdone, Lilly ordered the cream tea to finish with. The humble scone, so often a gold standard benchmark of an establishment’s merit did not taste (we have to say) overly fresh but it didn’t detract from the fact that Poppys is a reliable place as any to find a no frills afternoon tea.

See more tearooms in the South West

 

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!