The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea at the InterContinental London Park Lane

Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Musical note On the first day of Christmas Musical notemy true love gave to me Musical note a partridge in a pear tree ~ in the form of a partridge pie, washed down with a whiskey/pear/Champagne cocktail. Intrigued? I hope so, because I am about to tell you about a most fantastic Christmas Afternoon Tea in London.

In the past week alone, both Mr. Tea and I have been approached by people seeking a recommendation for Afternoon Tea in London. Without hesitation, we suggested (as we always do) the InterContinental London Park Lane. No surprise there, for readers of this blog already know how impressed I am with the service and tea food at the InterContinental, and I was very excited recently to be invited in to try their Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. And, once again, the experience was flawless.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea at the InterContinental London Park Lane is the perfect holiday indulgence. The only non-indulgent thing about it is the price.

Executive Chef Paul Bates is a master at creating and crafting a sophisticated themed Afternoon Tea (check out the Wellington Afternoon Tea) and his Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea, based on the English Christmas carol, is an absolute delight!

Eleven Pipers Piping
It is, after all, the season to be merry, so what better way to start a Christmas Afternoon Tea in London than with a tall, elegant flute filled with good cheer and topped with a sprig of decorative winter holly.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea begins with a festive cocktail of Champagne very subtly flavoured with Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey and Xanta Pear Liqueur (a nod to the pear tree where that partridge is hiding).

You may be asking yourself, as Mr. Tea and I did, “Whiskey and Champagne?” Trust me, it works and it works fabulously well. Splendid!

P.S. I like to think of the effervescent Champers bubbles as Nine Ladies Dancing:

Festive Champagne Cocktail. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane Wellington Lounge.

Partridge in a Pear Tree
Once all those pipers and dancing ladies have left the tea table, it is time for some of the rest of the pressies from your true love, and they arrive on a 3-tier server. The gift giving begins with a Mountbatten Estate partridge and morel mushroom pie. The melt-in-your mouth pastry was flaky and buttery, and the warm filling was rich and savory. A starter like this is perfect for a winter’s day Afternoon Tea:

Mountbatten Estate partridge and morel mushroom pie.The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.

Tea Sandwiches

The tea sandwiches in The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea have been cleverly devised.  To make the most of all those lovely flavours found in tea sandwiches, it is best to eat them in order from mildest to strongest, and it did not escape me that the tea sandwiches here were plated in just that order. It is precisely little things like this that set Afternoon Tea at the InterContinental London Park Lane apart:

Tea Sandwiches. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.
Three French Hens
The sandwich course begins with a French hens egg mayonnaise and cucumber in wholemeal bread sandwich. The light, delicate egg mayonnaise was a nice contrast to the crunch of the thinly sliced (but not too thin) cucumber.
Two Turtle Doves
A squab and wood pigeon white bread sandwich is next. I had never eaten squab or wood pigeon before, and found it reminiscent of chicken – but with much more complexity and flavour. It was really, really good and now I wish I had ordered seconds! (Seconds are encouraged by the Intercontinental at teatime.)
Ten Lords a-Leaping
No Afternoon Tea is complete without a salmon sandwich, and The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea version is a Speyside Scottish salmon with ‘Lord of the Hundreds’ cheese in granary bread sandwich. The combination is lovely, the salmon being nicely lifted by the strong, almost Parmesan-tasting cheese. (The unusual name of this cheese, which is made in a village dairy in Sussex, refers to tax collectors who worked on behalf of the local Lords who, during Saxon times, would oversee a region consisting of 100 Shires.)

 

Desserts

Your true love has definitely saved the best gifts for last:

Desserts. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Twelve Drummers Drumming
Dark chocolate torte drum, rolled in crushed walnuts and complete with mini drumsticks:
Dark Chocolate Torte Drum. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Eight Maids a-Milking
A three-milk flan, cranberry and mandarin compote:
Three-Milk Cranberry and Mandarin Flan. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Seven Swans a-Swimming
Swan shaped choux bun filled with Strawberry Chantilly and sprinkled with air dried raspberry:
Strawberry-filled Swan-shaped Choux Buns with air-dried Raspberry. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge
Five Golden Rings
Treacle tart decorated with gold leaf and topped with a sugar-spun spiral of five rings:

Treacle Tart with Gold Leaf and Five Gold Rings.The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.

Tea and Scones

We did of course also have [numerous!] pots of tea, and scones.

The tea menu at InterContinental London Park Lane is extensive, but we opted for their Wellington Blend tea because we fell in love with it during our last visit and, well, there was just no question about not having it again. It’s a delicious blend of Assam, China Black, and Earl Grey tea, softened by English cornflowers and mallow blossoms.

The scones, warm and homemade, are served with Devonshire clotted cream and Chef Bates’ renowned Kentish strawberry jam. I am so glad that they continue to use this particular scone recipe. These scones are flawless, the best I have ever had. Anywhere. You can read why I think these are the best scones in London.

 

Service with a smile

As with the last time we visited, the service we received throughout the tea was impeccable. This time, it was the lovely Indre taking care of us. She was warm, friendly and super-efficient and not only explained the nuances of the food to us, but also kept us updated on what was coming up next. She kept us happy with fresh pots of tea, and provided clean plates between some of the courses. She knew the details of everything, from beverage to the food, and although she had other patrons to look after, managed to make us feel as if we were the only ones in the room. Thank you, Indre – it was lovely meeting and speaking with you!

Team leader Linesh also stopped by our table to say hello and check on us. He, too, was so nice and took time out to explain the creative process behind the crafting of this themed tea. It was very interesting. Pleasure to meet you, Linesh.

 

Conclusion

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea at InterContinental London Park Lane is an exceptionally superior Christmas Afternoon Tea. Food presentation, taste and quality; service; value for money; atmosphere – it simply cannot be beat.

I highly recommend this tea during the holiday season, and urge you to make a reservation as soon as you can. (You could even make it an extra special holiday afternoon by walking over to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park after you finish with tea, which is what we did.)

 

Booking details

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea InterContinental London Park Lane is available 1pm to 5pm, seven days a week between 29th November 2013 to 6th January 2014. The price is £38 per person. It could be the best £38 you will spend this Christmas.

Denise LeCroy. The Tea in England blog. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge

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3 Whittard Teas That I Really Like

Pouring tea

I’m a fan of Whittard Tea (I’ve written about them before) – not just for their tea (oh, and the attractive packaging), but for their retail shops too, which are brilliant. If you’ve never been to one, I urge you to pop by for a visit. You will find them in shopping malls and in cities and towns from Basingstoke to York.

Whittard Tea Shop

Whittard shops are filled with the most wonderful tea (and coffee) as well as a fab selection of mugs, teapots, tins, tea accessories, and loads of other goodies.  Their customer service is fantastic, and every Whittard shop I have ever been in is always fully stocked and just an all around enjoyable experience.  Tip: There are usually free samples available towards the back of the store.

NOT YOUR GRANDMOTHER’S TEA BAGS

Recently, I had a chance to try some of Whittard’s tea pyramids – triangular tea bags made from sheer bio-degradable mesh and filled with whole leaves (or fruit) to infuse perfectly in your cup. These mesh tea bags are beautiful – they look and feel like silk.

 

Tea pyramid by Whittard

Tea pyramid by Whittard

 

Times have changed, tea lovers! Do not be fooled by the old ‘all tea bags contain inferior tea’ blah blah blah. Yes, this may be still be the case with some tea vendors, but we are now seeing more and more leading-edge tea companies (like Whittard) using full leaf tea in quality tea bags that are roomy enough to allow those leaves to fully unfurl, releasing all that tea glory!

A SAMPLING OF WHITTARD TEAS

I must say it was almost impossible to narrow down my list of the teas I wanted to review. Whittard offers black tea, white tea, green tea, yellow tea, Oolong tea, Pu-erh tea, Rooibos, single estate tea, flavoured tea, fruit & herbal infusions, and artisan tea. I mean, how in the world does one choose?

But choose I did and because autumn is my most favourite time of year, I decided to go for 3 blends that sounded comforting and autumnal:

Baked AppleMasala ChaiTruffle Praline
BAKED APPLE INFUSION

The first was Baked Apple which is actually an infusion and not tea (it’s only ‘tea’ if it contains tea leaves). Whittard’s Baked Apple is a delicious mixture of apples blended together with almond, cinnamon, hazelnut and cream flavours.

The scent alone is worth your trying this tea, but honestly, it was lovely. I expected it to taste similar to other apple flavoured ‘teas’ but this one had a pleasing, distinctive, more authentic apple taste than previous ones I have tried. (And the cinnamon is not overpowering as sometimes can be the case when paired with apple.) I sampled this tea straight up, with no milk or sugar.

MASALA CHAI

Next, I tried the Masala Chai black tea with spices. Masala Chai, or mixed spice tea, originates from India. Recipes vary from family to family but the inspiration stays the same.

Enticingly aromatic and beautifully warming, I sampled this tea with generous lashings of milk and sugar to evoke a traditional Masala Chai. If there was ever comfort in a cup, Whittard Masala Chai is it.

TRUFFLE PRALINE TEA

Truffle Praline was the final tea I tasted – a black tea with white chocolate pieces, rose petals and flavouring.

Again, oh my, the aroma was amazing. This is a light tea but with a very decadent taste. The small pieces of white chocolate (I promise you will be tempted to pick them out and eat them on their own!) add just the right amount of chocolate flavour, and the praline pulls it all together to form a truly rich tasting cup of tea. I sampled this tea with just a hint of sugar. If I had to pick a favourite of all 3, this one – Whittard’s Truffle Praline Tea – was it.

But don’t take my word for it – try these teas for yourself!

Whittard logo

WHERE TO BUY

Visit your nearest Whittard store, or better yet, place your order online. (Pssst…the Whittard Christmas shop is now open!)

And don’t forget to check out the Whittard Facebook page, the Whittard Twitter page, and Whittard’s Pinterest boards.

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The 5 Most Popular National Trust Tearoom Cakes

A Cream Tea at a National Trust Tearoom

Visiting National Trust properties is not only enjoyable because of their beauty and history, but also because most of them have excellent tearooms. Some are quite unique – for example housed in old stables, like the tearooms at Osterley House not far from where I live – and others may be located within the house itself or in an outbuilding on the property. All are worth a visit for their welcoming atmosphere and delicious food, but it is their reputation for yummy cakes that draws people to a National Trust tearoom.

When talking about the popularity of National Trust tearoom cakes, the proof is in the pudding. Collectively, over half a million slices of it are served every year – together with 22,000 cups of tea and 15,000 scones!

You will always find a plentiful variety of lovely cakes on offer at a National Trust tearoom, and here is a list of their most popular ones:

 

The 5 Most Popular National Trust Tearoom Cakes

 

Lemon Drizzle Cake

#5 Lemon Drizzle Cake – 52,000 slices served per year

A French recipe from the 1930s, Lemon Drizzle Cake is a long-standing teatime favourite that, traditionally, contains a wee bit of rum. I love this Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe from The Tea Rooms in London.

 

 

 

Carrot Cake

#4 Carrot Cake – 96,000 slices served per year

Carrots have been used in cakes since medieval times, when sweeteners were expensive and scarce; they contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides the sugar beet. During World War II, Carrot Cake became immensely popular in England due to sugar rationing. Here’s an article from The Guardian on how to cook perfect carrot cake.

 

 

 

Coffee and  Walnut Cake

#3 Coffee & Walnut Cake – 102,000 slices served per year

Ancient Romans considered walnut the fruit of the gods, possibly for its promise of virility. Compared to certain other nuts, such as almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts, walnuts contain the highest total level of antioxidants. Nigella Lawson’s Coffee and Walnut Cake recipe sounds (and looks) scrumptious.

 

 

 

Chocolate Sponge Cake

#2 Chocolate Sponge Cake – 108,000 slices served per year

This recipe goes back to 1764 when Dr. James Baker ground cocoa beans between a millstone to create baking chocolate. If you are American, you are no doubt familiar with Baker’s Chocolate.

 

 

 

Victoria Sandwich

#1 Victoria Sandwich – 171,000 slices served per year

The quintessentially English of all English cakes, the Victoria Sandwich was named for Queen Victoria. Apparently, it was her favourite cake, and it’s my favourite as well. This is usually the one I choose when visiting a National Trust tearoom. The Victoria Sandwich is a sponge cake, and is sometimes also referred to as a Victoria Sponge. It is a tearoom classic, and quite easy to make. I had rather good success with this Victoria Sandwich recipe from Betty magazine.

 

What about you?

Are any of these 5 cakes a favourite of yours? What other cake recipes are you fond of?

 

 

 

10 reasons why the Wellington Afternoon Tea could be London’s #1 Afternoon Tea

Wellington Afternoon Tea InterContinental Park Lane LondonThe tradition of Afternoon Tea began in England and the English certainly know how to do it and how to do it right. At every top London hotel that serves Afternoon Tea, the ambience, the tea and the tea food is excellent, a few perhaps marginally better than others.

If beautiful surroundings, excellent tea and delicious tea food form the baseline for Afternoon Tea at every top hotel in London, then what are the factors that would make one Afternoon Tea stand above all the others?

Red question mark

I found myself pondering that question after an Afternoon Tea I experienced last week-end. It was the Wellington Afternoon Tea at InterContinental Park Lane London. And it was the best Afternoon Tea I have yet ever had.  (You can read about it here.)

It was easy to identify the things that made it so special, so here is my list of 10 reasons why the Wellington Afternoon Tea in London stands out above the others:

 

Teacup image with the number 10 in itA take-away box Yes, it’s a simple gesture, but it’s one of those little things that make you feel  pampered. It’s like your own miniature tea hamper and it’s a lovely way to extend the tea experience once you’re back home. Here’s a picture of the Wellington Afternoon Tea take-away box that I brought home with me.

 

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 9 in itOffering tea for purchase There’s nothing worse for a tea enthusiast than discovering a fabulous tea, then not being able to source it. The Wellington Blend is one of two special teas created exclusively for the Wellington Lounge by London’s Tea Palace. You won’t be able to buy it at the Tea Palace – but you can buy it at the hotel shop.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 8 in itHonouring Afternoon Tea The InterContinental Park Lane London is mainly a business hotel, and has offered Afternoon Tea for a while. Two years ago some changes took place and they set out to turn their existing Afternoon Tea into something exceptional. They have succeeded, and to me this shows that they honour and value the tradition of Afternoon Tea.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 7 in itThe well-researched theme If you read my review of this tea you will know that I love a themed Afternoon Tea, but many of them go no further than coming up with clever names for the food. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s fun – but the Wellington Afternoon Tea had real substance behind its theme. Chef Paul Bates must also be a history major to have masterminded a tea sandwich using Spanish Monroyo ham and Monte Enebro cheese – ingredients that are a nod to the Duke of Wellington’s 6-year campaign in Spain. It’s served on potato bread, too - a cheeky reminder that England’s beloved military hero was actually born in Dublin. And that’s just one example of the level of thought that went into the creation of this tea menu.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 6 in it Presentation In a quest to be different, I suppose, I have noticed a growing number of variances in the way that Afternoon Tea is literally being served at table. The last time I had tea at a certain world-renowned London location, an empty plate remained on the tea stand until later replaced with a plate of warm scones . That just didn’t look right, and it just didn’t feel right. At the Wellington Afternoon Tea, I loved the fact that the 3-tiered tea stand arrived at the table filled with food, and that the tea guest chooses when to have the warm scones brought to table. I also really liked that they offer a signature sandwich, and a signature dessert. This allows  those two items in particular to periodically change so as to take advantage of seasonal foods and holidays.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 5 in itTea knowledge The level of understanding and knowledge that our waiter Mohammed had about Afternoon Tea and the tea beverage was incredible. It wasn’t a scripted, rote familiarity but a genuine grasp of what tea is all about. For a tea enthusiast like me, it was a real treat. But for someone who may be new to Afternoon Tea, this kind of guidance and expertise would be priceless.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 4 in itValue When I think back to tea last week-end and re-live it through my blog post and pictures, I remain amazed that the cost is only £28. The food alone is worth that price, but add in the level of service and all the other amenities that make up this tea experience and it simply has to be the best Afternoon Tea value in London. Try it for yourself and see if you don’t agree.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 3 in itTiming Several minutes after each fresh pot of tea was delivered to our table, Mohammed would return to subtly remove the small infuser basket from the pot. His timing was spot on and the first time he did it, he explained why it was being done. Seasoned tea drinkers know it’s so the brew doesn’t become too strong, but persons new to tea drinking will find the procedure fascinating and perhaps not even realise that they have just been given a very important lesson in the art of making tea. Proof again that Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge is about so much more than just eating tea sandwiches and drinking tea. It is about honouring and respecting a tradition that is such an important part of the fabric of English life.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 2 in itTraining  By now it should be apparent to you that Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge is taken very seriously by those in charge. They live and breathe it and one of the ways they do that is through a unique training programme that, among other things, allows staff members to go out and experience Afternoon Tea for themselves at different venues in London. What better way for them to see firsthand what works and what doesn’t work at tea, and what a great opportunity to observe the good and not so good tea services currently practiced in and around London. I applaud this kind of diligence, and am very impressed with the results as the entire team at Wellington Lounge personify professionalism at its best.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 1 in it Customer service I have given you nine reasons why the Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge stands out among the others in London, but here’s one more and it’s the number one reason: our waiter, Mohammed. From beginning to end, he was friendly, knowledgeable, efficient, professional (yet relaxed) and his timing (on everything from tea brewing to knowing just when to check in with us) was impeccable. He was easy to talk to and very adept at being able to anticipate our needs. I’m sure that the entire team are trained to this high standard, but if you ever have Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge, Intercontinental Park Lane London, be sure you ask for Mohammed.  He will treat you like royalty, and you will leave feeling very special indeed. And to Mohammed: Thank you!

 

 

 

 

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The Wellington Afternoon Tea – Flawless and Fit for a Duke

Wellington Afternoon Tea at the Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

As a tea enthusiast who has over the years enjoyed many an Afternoon Tea, I have by now developed a keen awareness of what I love in an Afternoon Tea – and one thing I love is a themed tea. Whilst there are indeed a few elemental things that every Afternoon Tea should contain, the ‘art’ of Afternoon Tea crys out for personalisation and creativity, and nowhere can this be better personified than in a themed Afternoon Tea.

Today I want to tell you about a themed tea that has surpassed all others I have ever had. It is the Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge, InterContinental London Park Lane. And it is in one word, flawless.

 

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Readers of this blog learned in my post about Apsley House that British military hero and twice Prime Minister Arthur Wellesley, a/k/a the 1st Duke of Wellington, was quite the tea drinker. He travelled extensively through India and Europe on his campaigns, drinking tea and enjoying exotic food. With a taste of his exploration subtly woven throughout, the Wellington Afternoon Tea honours the Duke by using the best of British ingredients infused with influences from his international destinations.

Talk about the art of tea!

 

The Wellington Afternoon Tea

 

Surroundings

With just the right balance of light and space, the ambience in Wellington Lounge is magnificent – sophisticated elegance, yet comfortably informal.

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane LondonAfternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

I love the view out the window across to Wellington Arch:

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Table Setting

The exotic green Anthuriums on the tea tables in Wellington Lounge are quite handsome and immediately evoke a sense of the Duke’s worldly wanderings.

The Wellington Lounge tea ware is striking. Its silver geometric design is a fresh change from what you normally see used at tea.

Wellington Afternoon Tea Wellington Lounge InterContinental London Park Lane

Tea Beverage

The extensive Wellington Lounge tea menu offers tried and true favourites, unusual teas, and a few exclusive house blends created through a collaboration between Executive Chef Paul Bates and the London emporium Tea Palace.

For our tea, we opted for their bespoke Wellington Blend, ‘a blend that embraces the spirit of a wonderful English tea. A balance of Assam, China Black tea, Earl Grey and softened by English cornflowers and mallow blossoms.’   It was outstanding – bright and full-flavoured with a gorgeous aroma.  Mr. Tea declared it the best tea he ever had! This from an Englishman. Need I say more? (We even brought a tin home with us. It can be purchased at the hotel shop.)

 

The Wellington Tea Blend Tea at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Tea Service

The Wellington Afternoon Tea is served in the traditional style – with a bit of a twist. The tea stand is brought to the table and displays tea sandwiches on the bottom tier, sweets on the middle tier, and a crowning glory signature dessert on the top tier. The ‘twist’ is a distinctive, independently presented tea sandwich served at the start of the tea.

 

Wellington Afternoon Tea, Wellington Lounge at Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

The Twist

Do you remember my saying how a themed tea crys out for personalisation and creativity? The unique, stand-alone tea sandwich served at the start of the Wellington Afternoon Tea is a perfect illustration of what I mean. Made with Spanish Monroyo ham and Monte Enebro cheese, the ingredients are a nod to the Duke of Wellington’s 6-year campaign in Spain. And it’s served on potato bread - a cheeky reminder that England’s beloved military hero was actually born in Dublin. Well done, Chef!

Spanish Monroyo Ham, Fig, and Monte Enebro Cheese on Potato Bread:

Spanish Monroyo Ham, Fig, and Monte Enebro Cheese on Potato Bread Tea Sandwich at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Tea Sandwiches

The Wellington theme continues with the Duke’s local association reflected in a Chilled Sirloin of Gloucestershire Beef with horseradish sandwich, served alongside an anything-but-boring Hen and Duck Egg mayonnaise sandwich with celery cress on brown bread. And thanks to the Portuguese Sardine with sherry vinegar and honey dressing sandwich, we’ll never forget Wellington’s protection of Portugal from the French army.  Who says history can’t be fun? (And delicious.)

Additional sandwiches are offered, should you desire. The sardine sandwich was so good, I asked for another. Up until then, I had never eaten a sardine in my life and wasn’t particularly worried about it either, but this sandwich was luscious.

 

8 Tea Sandwiches at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Scones

I appreciated that at the beginning of the tea service, our waiter Mohammed (more about him on Friday – a fabulous individual) gave us the option of choosing when to have warm scones brought to the table. This little nugget of information ensures that the customer is served fresh, warm scones precisely when they want them, and that is exactly what happened when the plate of homemade Sultana scones and Buttermilk scones arrived as requested. Generous scoops of clotted cream and strawberry preserve rounded out the interlude, one that is paramount to every proper English Afternoon Tea experience.

The scones were just the way I like them: light and soft on the inside, with a hint of delicate crunch on the outside. It’s my opinion that the hallmarks of a perfect scone (besides taste and appearance) are a good rise; a substantial yet light density; and the presence of a natural break line in the middle allowing it to be gently pulled apart in half.  These scones ticked all the boxes.

 

11 Sultana and Buttermilk Scones with Devon Clotted Cream and Strawberry Preserve at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Sweets

You’re full already, aren’t you? I know! But who can resist cakes at tea time?

In his duties as a military and political leader, the Duke of Wellington spent time in the Netherlands, India, Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, England and Ireland. The final course of the Wellington Afternoon Tea salutes his global travels with exquisite sweets of Blackberry and Vanilla sponge Bavarois, Coconut tart with Pistachio confetti, Gateau ‘Basque’ with comfiture of black cherries, and Raspberry Meringue with vanilla cream.

Do not let the 2-bite size of these little gems fool you – each one packs a flavour punch that will literally curl your lips with satisfaction.

My favourite was the meringue, whilst Mr. Tea preferred the coconut tart with its shards of fresh, sweet coconut.

 

9 Sweets, Cakes and Pastries at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Waterloo

It all began when the Duke of Wellington was taking care of business in Vienna and Napoleon decided to take care of unfinished business in France by escaping from Elba – so what Wellington themed Afternoon Tea would be complete without a worldly cake offering of the Sachertorte, Austria’s famous chocolate torte. This was my first Sachertorte. The chocoholic in me is saying that it won’t be my last. Read here about the interesting history of the Sachertorte.

Sachertorte:

10 Sachertorte at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Remains of the Day

Even after all these years of Afternoon Tea-ing, it still surprises me how filling tea food can be. The experts at Wellington Lounge know this, and will be happy to box up any leftovers so you can continue the experience later on at home with your own cup of tea.

12 Takeaway Box of Extras at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Conclusion and Recommendation

The Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge InterContinental London Park Lane is from all perspectives the best Afternoon Tea I have ever experienced. There are a number of reasons for this and I’ll be telling you about them on Friday, but in the meantime I strongly encourage you to book in and see for yourself.  You will be treated to beautiful surroundings, delicious food, impeccable service, and unparalleled value. An adventure the Duke of Wellington himself would have enjoyed.

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane LondonHow to Book the Wellington Afternoon Tea

 

Served Monday to Saturday from 1pm to 5pm, the Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge is priced from £28

Bookings are essential and can be made by ringing +44(0)207.409.3131

InterContinental London Park Lane – One Hamilton Place – Park Lane – London – W1J 7QY

 

 

 

 

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Wimbledon Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House: Another Winner

2013 Wimbledon Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House Hotel, London

As an Anglophile and mum to a son and a daughter who, in their youth, were talented tennis players, Wimbledon has always held a special attraction to me. The pure Englishness of it all – strawberries and cream, dress code, Royal patronage -  is enough to melt the hearts of even those who could care less about the game. And this year the world, and especially we here in England, celebrated with great enthusiasm, the long-awaited and much-anticipated victory by Britain’s Andy Murray.

I may only live 20 miles from Wimbledon, but I wasn’t privileged enough to attend any matches. (It’s on my Bucket List!) But recently, I was privileged enough to attend an event much more comfortable (in terms of surroundings) and perhaps more satisfying than Wimbledon tennis – and that was the Wimbledon Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House, London.

Grosvenor House Wimbledon Afternoon Tea Tropical Fruit Salad appetizer

Tea in England readers know that this wasn’t my first trip to Grosvenor House for tea – last autumn, I enjoyed the Downton Abbey ‘Upstairs, Downstairs Afternoon Tea’ at Grosvenor House. It was pretty impressive, and today’s tea was much of the same.

There are so many places in London that do Afternoon Tea – and do it well – so it must be somewhat of a challenge to fashion unique aspects that will make your tea stand out. One of those unique aspects at Grosvenor House is the Tropical Fruit Salad that they serve as an appetizer. I just love the teensy-weensy cubes of fresh mango, pineapple and melon swimming in tangy, mouth-watering  fruit juice. It’s a real wake-up for the taste buds, and totally refreshing.

 

Wimbledon Afternoon Tea sandwiches at Grosvenor House, London

The first course of an Afternoon Tea – the bottom plate on the tiered-server – is tea sandwiches, and Grosvenor House recently changed their service to include two plates of sandwiches. It may be a heavy start for some people, but others will appreciate the abundance. Variety wise, there is something for everyone:

  • Smoked Chicken and Tarragon (my favourite that day)
  • Cucumber with Mint Butter
  • Clarence Court free-range Eggs with Mayonnaise and Cress
  • Roast Sirloin of Beef with Creamed Horseradish
  • Loch Fyne Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese and Dill
  • Coldwater Prawns and Marie Rose Sauce
  • Ham with Somerset Cheddar

 

Wimbledon Afternoon Tea scones, Grosvenor House, London

The second course of an Afternoon Tea is usually reserved for scones, and at Grosvenor House they offer both raisin and buttermilk. I can tell you that Grosvenor House know how to make a good scone. They are not the most attractive scones I’ve ever seen on a tea table, but they are warm, light, [slightly] crunchy-on-the-outside-but-soft-on-the-inside, and full of flavour. So frankly, who cares what they look like. At the end of the day, taste should overrule appearance when it comes to a scone. (Do you agree?)

 

Wimbledon Afternoon Tea sweets, Grosvenor House, London

And finally, at the point where you are so full you cannot think of eating another bite, you reach the third and final course of an Afternoon Tea – the top plate on the tiered-server – which is the sweets. And the rule is, no matter how full you are, you must eat all of at least some of them. They are so beautiful and tempting.

The Wimbledon Afternoon Tea sweets included Chocolate and Orange Roulade; mini Victoria Sponge; Pistachio Macarons (to die for!!); Champagne Jelly with Berries (lovely!!); Vanilla Panacotta with Strawberries and Mint (Mr. Tea in England’s favourite); and a Strawberry Opera Gateau.  Everything was delicately delicious, but the macarons were my favourite. Confession time: I asked for extras!

 

Wimbledon Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London

I have left out details about the tea beverage itself, but our pots of Twinings tea were perfectly brewed, and served with panache by our efficient and friendly waiter, Mihail.

One detail I do, however, want to share with you are these charming sleeves that contain the artificial sweetener. Don’t you just love them! Until now, I’ve never seen an elegant camouflage for those ugly little pink packets; it’s a perfect solution and one that you could easily achieve on your own tea table with a bit of DIY.

 

Wimbledon Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London

An added bonus to the Grosvenor House Wimbledon Afternoon Tea was the availability of even more cakes and goodies located on a table in the centre of the room.  Talk about indulgence!

 

Park Room, Grosvenor House, London

Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House is a delightful and immensely satisfying treat. The atmosphere is dignified and grand – but the service is relaxed and friendly, and this is one of the things I find most appealing there.

Like the games themselves, this year’s Wimbledon Afternoon Tea has ended. But it’s always teatime at Grosvenor House, and they are now taking reservations for their signature Anna’s Tea – named for the woman who started it all by ‘inventing’ the ritual of afternoon tea: Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford.

Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel, is served from 2pm – 6pm daily in the The Park Room & Library overlooking Hyde Park.

When was the last time you went to Afternoon Tea in London? It’s time to treat yourself! Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House is an experience not to be missed.

 

 

 

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Tea at 78 Derngate may be the best Afternoon Tea value in England

78 Derngate decorated for Christmas

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a Scottish architect and designer of both the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements.  My interest in Mackintosh began many years ago when I learned about the furniture and interiors that he and his wife Margaret Macdonald created for The Willow Tearooms in Glasgow.  I haven’t made it up to Glasgow (yet) to see The Willow Tearooms, but I was fortunate enough recently to have been invited to see 78 Derngate in Northampton – the site of Mackintosh’s only domestic commission in England.

The modest house at 78 Derngate was a wedding gift in 1917 to Northampton businessman W. J. Bassett-Lowke from his father.  Not entirely to his liking, Bassett-Lowke hired Mackintosh to help with a renovation. The end result took portions of the house from modest to remarkable – a hybrid mix of geometric Mackintosh (the hall/lounge) and cosy Mackintosh (the dining room, below) – which is the Mackintosh style I favour.

 

78 Derngate decorated for Christmas

The Dining Room, 78 Derngate

 

I highly recommend a visit to 78 Derngate in Northampton. The staff are very friendly and accommodating, and the house tours are led by knowledgeable guides. Exhibits, special events,  and educational activities are held there, and you will also find a gift shop. More importantly, I am happy to say, is that there is also a place for Afternoon Tea.

 

 The Bassett-Lowkes at tea, 78 Derngate

Tea in the Dining Room, 78 Derngate, the Bassett-Lowkes

 

A balcony tea at 78 Derngate

Tea on the balcony, 78 Derngate

 

 

Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room tea room 78 Derngate, Northampton

Tea in The Dining Room restaurant, 78 Derngate

 

The Dining Room restaurant at 78 Derngate provides home cooked fresh food for breakfast, lunch, dinner – and Afternoon Tea.  The space is very welcoming: lots of windows with a simple but classy ambiance.

But the real attraction of The Dining Room is the food. I have had many an Afternoon Tea – and the tea food here ranks tops.

 

Afternoon Tea savouries from The Dining Room at 78 Derngate, Northampton     Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room, 78 Derngate, Northampton     Afternoon Tea scones and sweets, The Dining Room, 78 Derngate, Northampton
 

The full Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room is served on two – yes, two! – separate cake stands. The first arrives with savouries. On the day Mr. Tea and I visited, the first stand had sandwiches of egg; ham; and cucumber on the bottom tier; warm tarts and cheese scones on the middle tier; and coronation chicken filo cups on the top tier. All savouries – one of each per person – were freshly made and contained plenty of flavour and plenty of filling. We consumed it all, and it was superb!

At this point, we didn’t think we could eat another morsel, but when the second cake stand arrived – laden with warm scones; cakes (including a cupcake topped with mini-marshmallows which had been lightly toasted – scrumptious!); tarts; macarons; and truffles – we couldn’t resist giving it our best shot. Perfection on a plate is the only way I can describe it all.  There truly is more food here than two people can eat, but fear not – a takeaway box will gladly be provided.

At £16.50 per person, which includes unlimited tea or coffee, Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room has to be one of the best – if not the best – Afternoon Tea values in England.

The designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh at 78 Derngate aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but tea at The Dining Room, 78 Derngate is certainly mine.

 

 

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Ten tips to tracking down a terrific tearoom

Trying to track down a terrific tea room

For over 300 years the English have been drinking tea in tearooms. The first known tearoom was opened by Thomas Twining in 1706 at 216 Strand, London. In 1864, the Aerated Bread Company opened the first chain of tearooms called the A.B.C. Tea Shops. Thirty years later, J. Lyons and Co. started a chain of their own more upmarket Lyons Corner Houses. Hotels in cities began serving Afternoon Tea, and traditional English tearooms could be found in almost every town and village in England. Country farms, particularly in Devon and Cornwall, created their own little version of a tearoom, offering cream teas (with homemade clotted cream) to passing tourists.

Although A.B.C. Tea Shops and Lyons Corner Houses no longer survive, the English tearoom has and there are thousands of places across this Land of Hope and Glory and Tea where one can enjoy that most charming of English traditions called Afternoon Tea. But with so many tearooms scattered about England, how exactly do you go about finding a good one? I get asked this question all the time, so I thought I would share with you my ten tips to tracking down a terrific tearoom.

 

1. Word of mouth

 

Ten tips to tracking down a terrific tearoom: Word of mouthA glowing recommendation by a family member, friend, work colleague, or neighbour is the best and easiest way to find a terrific tearoom.  The next time you are at a family gathering, out on the town with your bestie, chatting with the person who sits across from you at work, or having a natter over your garden gate, make, “Been to any good tearooms lately?” one of your first questions.

 

2. Tea Books

 

Ten tips to tracking down a terrific tearoom: Tea booksThere are a number of excellent tearoom guides in print. My top favourite is Fancy A Cuppa; it not only lists great places for tea, but also the stories behind the tearoom owners, and the building. The AA Afternoon Tea books and Teashop Walks series have stood the test of time and are superb resources when looking for a tearoom. Bruce Richardson’s Great  Tearooms of Britain contains some of the country’s most well-known tearooms (and stunning photographs), and Jane Pettigrew’s Tea in the City: London focuses on the best tearooms in the capital.   Margaret Thornby’s Guide to Tea Rooms is another classic and chock full of tearoom listings and reviews.

 

3. Tea Magazines

 

The magazine Tea & Tea Room Talk regularly features tearoom reviews from all around England. I have also discovered the names of tearooms in the Food and Drink section of my local Lifestyle magazine, so find out the name of yours and check it out.

 

4. Tea Blogs

 

Top Ten Tips for Tracking Down a Terrific Tea Room: Tea blogsTea bloggers love to talk about tearooms and a tea blog is an excellent place to learn about places for tea. You will also usually find fantastic photographs and detailed tearoom reviews because, well, that’s just the way we are! Tea bloggers can be very opinionated about their tearoom experience, so these blogs are fun to read. Top English tea blogs (besides Tea in England, of course) are Kate and Chelsie and Teasemaid.

 

5. Tea Directories

 

Obviously, an online tearoom directory should be near the top of your list when you are searching out that perfect place in England for afternoon tea. Here are three of them that every tea lover should have bookmarked: Afternoon Tea, the UK Tea Council, and Tea at Three.

 

6. Tea Websites

 

Many tea company websites display their stocklists, helping their customers find tearooms and tea shops that carry their teas. Teapigs is one of them, as is Tregothnan Tea. Travel websites, such as Trip Advisor, are also a good place to look for a tearoom in the part of England you are interested in.

 

7. Facebook

 

Ten tips to tracking down a terrific tearoom: Social mediaThe Facebook search function makes it easy to do a quick keyword search using the words “tearoom” or “tea room”. Although tearoom owners are very busy people, many of them still find time to update their Facebook pages regularly with menu specials, upcoming events, discount codes, pictures, etc. The Tea Rooms (London) and Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms (York) are two personal Facebook favourites.

 

8. Twitter

 

When I first set up my Twitter account, I searched the keyword “tearoom” and followed a few of them that showed up in the results. I started re-tweeting their tweets and it wasn’t long before new tearooms were following me back and I was discovering ones all across England that I never knew existed. If you are on Twitter, you could do the same – or simply post a “Looking for tearooms in my area” tweet and see what happens.  Here are a few tearooms in England whose Twitter accounts I follow: Peacocks Tearoom (Cambridgeshire),  Scrumptious Tearooms and Poppy’s Tea Room (Essex), and Well Walk Tea Room (Gloucestershire).

 

9. Google search

 

Ten tips to tracking down a terrific tearoom: Google searchThere’s nothing quite as efficient as a basic Google search. To look for a tearoom, type “tearooms in (insert name of city, state, county, country, etc here)” or “tea rooms in (insert name of city, state, county, country, etc here)” in the Google search box. Don’t give up if you don’t see the name of a tearoom on the first few pages. Keep scrolling through because their website might be ‘buried’ amongst all the other listings.

 

10. Just ask!

 

Ten tips to tracking down a terrific tearoom: Just ask!When all else fails, never be afraid to email a tea blogger, tea book author, tea expert, or tea shop owner for the name of their favourite tearoom. Most tea people are happy to “talk tea” and they will consider it a privilege to be of help.

 

 

 

I hope my ten tips to tracking down a terrific tearoom will help you find the tearoom of your dreams. If you have a particular resource that you like to use when on the hunt for a tearoom, please share it with us by leaving a comment below.

 

Note: As “the only constant in life is change”, I strongly advise that before visiting any tearoom, you first ring to confirm that it is still open for business.

 

 

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Lemon Cake recipe from The Tea Rooms in London

Lemon Cake using recipe from from Secrets of the Tea Rooms Those of us who love frequenting tea rooms (you know who you are), just can’t help ourselves from obsessing over their decor, teapots, cups and saucers, and food. And although we wouldn’t dream of ever giving up the pursuit of the perfect tea room, we do enjoy re-creating one or more aspects of our favourite tea room once we’re back home.  Whether it’s sourcing their beautiful china for our own tea table, buying a tin of their popular house blend, or having a go at trying to bake their cakes or scones, we want the tea room experience to go on within our own familiar habitat long after it has ended at the one away from home.

The Tea Rooms, 153-155 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0UH

The Tea Rooms, London

But when it comes down to baking that cake or those scones, the problem is that some tea rooms want to keep their recipes a secret. Drat. Luckily, some tea rooms don’t mind sharing their recipes and even go so far as to publish them. The Tea Rooms, Stoke Newington Church Street, London is one of those, and I recently had a chance to review their cookbook, Secrets of the Tea Rooms – Recipes for Traditional British Cakes and Savouries.

The Tea Rooms, 153-155 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0UH

The Tea Rooms, London

The Tea Rooms opened in 2007 and are owned and operated by mother and daughter team Anne Wilkinson and Isabelle Allfrey; Isabelle is a professional chef. The tea setting is traditional (LOVE those bentwood chairs), with an emphasis on quality homemade cakes and confectionery. Who wouldn’t like a cookbook filled with quality recipes from a tea room with a professional chef, huh?


Purchase
 

Secrets of the Tea Room contains a variety of great sounding recipes – scones; cakes and pastries; soups; savoury pastries; biscuits and batch bakes; and Christmas cooking -  originating from family members and cookery books and adapted for the tea room. Measurements are given in imperial and metric, so the book is suitable for cooks on both sides of the pond.

Handy tips are sprinkled throughout as are colour photographs, making it an immediate winner as far as I’m concerned. There is also a brief history of tea in Britain – always a good sign.

I am certain that I will eventually try each of the recipes in this book: they are solid, traditional British tea fare. But I did have to narrow it down to just one for the blog post, so I decided on the Lemon Cake. With the days drawing in, I have been in a mood lately to drink more Earl Grey, and Lemon Cake and Earl Grey tea are an excellent pairing.

 

Lemon Cake

For one small loaf cake, made in a tin about 9 in (23cm) long. This loaf cake is made extra tangy with lemon syrup poured over the cake, straight from the oven.

 

Collected ingredients for the Lemon Cake recipe from Secrets of the Tea Rooms

Ingredients

1 lemon
5 oz (140 g) plain flour
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tblsp dark rum (I did not have any rum or rum extract, so I used vanilla extract)
6 oz (175 g) caster sugar
2 oz (50 g) melted butter
3 oz (75 g) double cream
2 oz (50 g) icing sugar

 

Method

Set the oven to 180°C (350°F) or Gas Mark 4, and prepare a small loaf tin by greasing lightly and lining with baking paper.

Grate the zest of the lemon (the skin without the pith) or use a zester. Add the zest to the eggs, salt and sugar, and whisk together, without overworking. Stir in the cream. sieve the flour and baking powder together and fold into the mixture. Then add the melted butter and rum. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 7 minutes at 200°C (400°F), Gas Mark 6. Then lower the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4, and bake for a further 33 minutes.

 Warm Lemon Cake just out of the oven, dotted with holes, ready for lemon syrup to be poured over

While the cake is baking, heat the juice of the lemon and the icing sugar together, until dissolved.

Tip: Do not let the lemon syrup boil, otherwise it could taste bitter.

The cake is ready when it is springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven, but leave in the tin. Prick all over with a skewer (I didn’t have a skewer, so improvised using a matchstick) and then pour over the lemon syrup while the cake is still warm. Turn out when cold.

 

Lemon Cake using recipe from Secrets of the Tea Rooms

The Lemon Cake looked and tasted fantastic. The recipe was easy to follow, and I already had everything on hand. Baked in small, individual loaf tins, the Lemon Cake recipe from Secrets of the Tea Rooms would be perfect for holiday gift-giving to friends, neighbours or work colleagues, together with a festively wrapped copy of the book itself.

Visit The Tea Rooms website for opening hours and more information about their tea room, teas, bespoke cakes, venue hire, and home tea party service. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.

 

The Tea Rooms logo

 

 

 

 

155 Stoke Newington Church Street
London N16 0UH
0207-923-1870

 

 

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Bettys is an English tea tradition

Bettys Tea Rooms

You simply cannot  talk about tea in England without talking about Bettys. The story of Bettys began more than 90 years ago with Frederick Belmont, a young Swiss orphan who trained in baking and confectionery in Switzerland and France before travelling to England to seek his fortune. Settling in Yorkshire, he opened the first Bettys Tea Room in Harrogate in 1919 and the combination of mouth-watering Swiss confectionery and Yorkshire warmth in such an elegant setting proved irresistible. Bettys was an instant success and was soon able to boast of ‘Royal and Distinguished Patronage’ on its letterhead.

With six Bettys Tea Rooms across Yorkshire, their own Cookery School (on my Bucket List!), and  now a home delivery service, Bettys has certainly grown over the years but amazingly, it is still run by Frederick Belmont’s family.

I have been a customer of  Bettys for a long time and over the years have probably ordered, among other things, at least a dozen of their adorable Birthday Cakes for delivery to family and friends. These little cakes are real gems, but my favourite Bettys products are those that come available just before the holidays, so I wanted to share with you a few of the ones I like best from this year’s Christmas collection, courtesy of Bettys.

 

Bettys Tea Room Blend

Bettys Tea Room Blend Tea

The boxes and tins of Bettys Tea Room Blend Tea have been updated with a charming new design created by Yorkshire artist Emily Sutton. The illustration was inspired by the Bettys Tea Rooms. The tea is a blend of East Africa and Assam black teas and is served in their tea rooms. It is a lovely, full tea – so lovely that I am already over halfway through a box received only a few days ago. Highly addictive. In a good way.

 

 

Bettys Mug

 

Bettys Mug

Finally! A Bettys mug! I don’t know about you, but I love ‘branded’ tea mugs and this is one of the prettiest I’ve seen. Emily Sutton is the artist and even Mr. Tea likes the design; he said it works for a man or a woman. It’s a nice size (not too large, not too small) and has a thin rim and generously sized handle. Fine bone china, and made in England.

 

 

Bettys Spiced Christmas Tea

 

Bettys Spiced Christmas Tea

I think I’ve tried just about every Christmas tea blend out there, but this one ranks high on my list. Why? Because it’s not so darn overpowering! It is so easy to overdo it with spiced holiday tea but the tea-to-spice ratio with this one is just right. Bettys Spiced Christmas Tea is black tea blended with lemon, orange, and mellow, warming spices. I have been enjoying a mug of this tea late in the evening. It smells as good as it tastes. Available as teabags or loose leaf.

 

Visit Bettys Online to place an order, but I warn you that it is going to be hard to choose because their entire selection is tempting. And if you’re curious as to why they are called Bettys, take a look at the Bettys Story.

 

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