The Mock Turtle, A Brighton tea shop

The Mock Turtle Tea Shop, Brighton, England

Tell me, who can resist a tearoom overflowing with blue-and-white china, especially when it’s the Willow pattern? I certainly can’t.

There are conflicting stories behind the history of the ‘Blue Willow’ pattern. The most commonly held belief has the original engraving being done by Thomas Minton in 1790, inspired by the blue and white porcelain that the English were importing from China at that time.

There’s a pleasure eternally new, ‘Tis to gloat on the glaze and the mark, Of china that’s ancient and blue. -Andrew Lang, Ballades in Blue China, 1880

The marketing behind Minton’s Willow pattern was clever: tell everyone that the pictures in the design are based on an ancient Chinese legend about two lovers who are transformed into lovebirds. It’s a nice thought, but no such legend exists. The story is English in origin, and has no links to China.  It doesn’t seem to make any difference, however – ‘Blue Willow’ has been in production for over 200 years now and remains as popular as ever.

Speaking of china (the other kind of china), the picture above is what I call The Great Wall of China and it was taken at The Mock Turtle in Brighton, England on my last visit there.  The Mock Turtle has been a tearoom for decades. According to the authors of Fancy A Cuppa, 80-year old customers of The Mock Turtle tell the new owner that little has changed since they came for tea there more than 50 years ago.

 

The Mock Turtle Tea Shop, Brighton, England

It’s impossible to pass by The Mock Turtle and not be lured inside by its cosy front window display. It’s a very popular place and unless you get lucky, you will more than likely have to queue for a table. I happen to think it’s worth the wait.

 

The Mock Turtle Tea Shop, Brighton, England

More beautiful blue and white china, this time on the walls.

 

The Mock Turtle Tea Shop, Brighton, England

Food is homemade and has an excellent reputation for being delicious.  They carry a full breakfast and lunch menu (I have had their Welsh Rarebit before, and loved it), and serve Cream Tea, Afternoon Tea, and of course, a wide selection of cakes.

 

Cream Tea at The Mock Turtle Tea Shop, Brighton, England

On this visit to The Mock Turtle, it was the perfect time of day for a Cream Tea . The tea was loose-leaf (their own Mock Turtle blend) and although the leaves were left in the teapot to stew brew (not an unusual practice in England), a small top-up jug of hot water was included. The tea was very good.

The scones looked similar to a bread roll and despite being a departure in texture from the more traditional ‘short’ scone, they were quite tasty. Jam, butter, and clotted cream was served alongside. I have seen some online reviews of the Cream Teas at The Mock Turtle that say whipped cream is used, but it has been my experience there (several times now) to have always been served clotted cream.

Cost of the Cream Tea was £5.75 and included 2 large scones (a choice of whole wheat or white), and a pot of tea.

The Mock Turtle is a 2-minute walk from Brighton Pier.

The Mock Turtle
4 Pool Valley
Brighton
East Sussex BN1 1NJ
01273 327380 ‎

 

See the Tea in England Facebook page for related content, and more pictures of my visit to The Mock Turtle.

 

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Would Carson approve of Downton’s “Upstairs, Downstairs” Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House?

Tea Table, Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London

Downton Abbey mania has swept the world and I for one am not ashamed to count myself a fan. As a tea enthusiast, some of my favourite scenes are those when tea is either served or mentioned – and those scenes are plentiful. I make no apologies for fantasizing about what it would have been like to live the Downton lifestyle. “Tea is served, m’lady.”   Sigh.

Perhaps one of the reasons I love going for Afternoon Tea is because it gives me a sense of ‘another time, another place’.  Whatever the reason, love it I do and on Saturday I had an opportunity to dine like the Crawley’s and the Grantham’s at a Downton Abbey inspired Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House, London.

 

Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London

 

To create a special Downton variation on our award winning Tea was easy for me as I am a huge fan of the series! – Nigel Boschetti, Executive Chef

Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea was designed to celebrate the launch of series 3 of Downton Abbey, which takes place during the 1920’s – when Grosvenor House itself first started serving Afternoon Tea.  Nigel Boschetti, Executive Chef at Grosvenor House, created the special menu after researching cuisine from the 1920s. He has done an excellent job of fusing decadent ‘upstairs’ delights that the Crawley’s and Grantham’s might have indulged in, such as Smoked Salmon Pin Wheels, with ‘downstairs’ fare, like Bread Pudding, that would have fueled Carson and his team of servants.

 

Tea Table in Window, Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London

 

Upon arrival for our 4 o’clock reservation, we were escorted to The Park Room which is where Afternoon Tea is served at Grosvenor House.  I really, really liked this space – it was wide and open and tables weren’t jammed close together as often is the case in hotel tea venues.  Sunlight was streaming into the room, adding a beautiful golden glow to the already opulent surroundings. A pianist was playing a piano in the corner of the room.

I didn’t take any photographs of the room in order to preserve the privacy of other diners, but afterwards I popped out and snapped the above picture to show you the table where we were seated. Window tables are smaller than most of the other tables in The Park Room; nevertheless, we very much enjoyed looking out over Park Lane and Hyde Park, and never felt awkward even with a fairly steady stream of outside passers by.

 

Table set for Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London          
 

The tea tables in The Park Room at Grosvenor House are lovely and welcoming. Instead of white table-covers, theirs are a warm shade of what I would call ‘tea green’, and nicely match the green-and-gold edged design on the pretty white china. There was a small flower on the table to add colour. Altogether, the appearance was one of understated elegance.

After reviewing the extensive tea menu, we decided on Lady Grey, and English Breakfast. The tea was Twinings loose-leaf and it was perfectly brewed. As an ardent tea drinker, I can honestly say that this was a superior pot of tea. In fact, when we did our weekly food shop the following day, we made a point of purchasing a box of loose-leaf Twinings – it was that good. As we finished our respective pots of tea – and with precision timing – our waiter returned with hot water for a second infusion, which turned out to be just as tasty.

I will take a moment here to mention the excellent service we received. Our waiter was super-efficient, very friendly, and obviously trained to a high standard. He was able to answer every question I had about the tea and food, and he truly did seem to enjoy what he was doing.

 

 

Before the tea food arrived, we were served a mouthwatering fruit salad of mango, pineapple, and melon – a lovely, unexpected surprise. The fruits – diced into little bitty pieces – were in just the right amount of juice. After a long day of traipsing about London, it was the perfect appetizer. Very refreshing!

 

Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London

Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea
Grosvenor House, London

 

 

The sandwiches, a nice selection of  ‘above stairs’ and ‘below stairs’, were fair.  We felt that the cucumber could have been sliced a bit thicker and that, generally, all the sandwiches could have used more filling.  But overall, they were tasty, and extra sandwiches were provided when we asked. (The bread seemed to taste a bit fresher with the second round.)

 

 

I was looking forward to the Baked Bread Buns, and they did not disappoint.  Although rather un-dainty to split open (I had to use my fingers; too dense to cut with a luncheon knife), once spread with butter and jam, they were quite enjoyable – true comfort food. I could just imagine a scrubbed pine table below stairs bearing a plate of these freshly baked bread buns, a sturdy Brown Betty on stand-by ready to serve up enough tea to wash them all down.

The scones, on the other hand, did disappoint. As soon as I saw them I knew something had gone wrong in the kitchen. They clearly had not risen and just didn’t look right (this from a woman who has baked many a scone in her day). I wanted to at least try to eat the plain scone, but it crumbled everywhere when I gently eased it open. I had better luck with the fruit scone, but the taste was mediocre at best. I realise that these things happen, but scones are at the very heart of an Afternoon Tea; I question the decision behind putting them on the plate to begin with.

 

 

 

The dessert tier was sheer perfection. Every pastry and cake was fresh and full-flavoured. Mr. Tea pronounced Carson’s Bread Pudding to be exceptionally satisfying, and I found the Lemon Chiffon to be an excellent finale to Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House.

 

Overview

Mr. Tea and I have had Afternoon Tea at a number of London venues. Following today’s tea at Grosvenor House, we discussed whether or not Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea was good value for money (£34.50 each).  We talked about what makes an Afternoon Tea – for us –  GOOD.  We determined that if we were in pleasing, comfortable surroundings; were served good food of a fair portion, and tea that was properly brewed; were waited on by staff who were friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable; and at the end of it all, felt full and satisfied, then  – regardless of the cost – we had experienced good value and a satisfying Afternoon Tea.

Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House in London ticked all those boxes mentioned above, and earned our approval. With some minor adjustments to the tea sandwiches and scones, we think Carson would approve, as well.

 

Grosvenor House’s very own 1920’s Afternoon Tea price (1920 is the year in which Downton Abbey series 3 is set) of £2.25p for Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea, is available to the first two telephone bookings received (for two people only) on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday until November 11th.

Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea is £34.50 per person at all other times and will be served in The Park Room at Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel, overlooking Hyde Park, 2pm – 6pm daily from Sunday 16 September until Sunday 11 November. To be in with a chance of securing a 1920’s priced Tea, call reservations from 11am on +44 (0) 207 399 8452 and quote Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea.

 

 Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary services for review purposes, which has not influenced this report.

Afternoon tea on the village green with Royal Albert

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

It’s not often that a person has the opportunity to be served Afternoon Tea on Royal Albert china on a sunny afternoon on a lovely village green – for free. But thanks to an invitation from Royal Albert (and a very thoughtful husband who doesn’t mind my dragging him by his gorgeous fifty-shades-of-grey hair all over the country for tea), it happened to me.

There’s nothing quite like Afternoon Tea served on beautiful china, and Royal Albert have been dishing up this type of English tea experience for over a hundred years. They started manufacturing china in 1896, and they continue to produce hundreds of beautiful patterns today – their most iconic being “Old Country Roses“.  This year, 2012, Royal Albert have updated several designs in their floral range to give them a fresh look and one that, I might add, screams out to be mixed-and-matched together. They are enchanting.

To celebrate the launch of the new patterns, Royal Albert tucked an adorable little van full of tea, cakes, and their beautiful new wares, and embarked on a Royal Albert London Tea tour, providing a “pop-up” afternoon tea experience for those of us who enjoy English style afternoon tea.  Lucky for me, one of these events was not too far away, so Mr. Tea and I toddled over to Kew Green on a crisp autumn Saturday morning for a late breakfast of tea and cake. (Don’t judge me.)

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour sign at Kew Green

It was a lovely day in Kew.
Several of these’Join us for Tea, Cake, Fun & Frivolity’ signs were strategically placed around Kew Green.

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

A charming tea tent was set up with tables and chairs and …..

 

 

Bunting. Photo courtesy of Victoria's Vintage www.victorias-vintage.co.uk/

….. bunting!

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour van at Kew Green

Royal Albert’s friendly Tea Lady
You can see some of the beautiful new china patterns.

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

Each table was set with a sugar bowl, milk jug, and 3-tier server of sweets using china from the new range. The fabric on the table cover and chair pads matched the china!

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

“Coffee, tea or me?”
Server’s in smart waistcoats delivered cups of hot tea.

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

Cupcakes and macarons for breakfast, anyone?

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

Top: NEW COUNTRY ROSES (pink) pattern
Middle: ROSE CONFETTI pattern
Bottom: NEW COUNTRY ROSES (white) pattern

 

 

Royal Albert wallet. Photo courtesy of Victoria's Vintage www.victorias-vintage.co.uk/

Also on each table were really cute Royal Albert travel card cases, pretty postcards, and a booklet with photographs of the new china range.

 

 

Denise toasts The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

Cheers, Royal Albert!
Teacup: POLKA ROSE pattern

 

We were one of the first to arrive at Kew on that day, and it was fun to listen to the gasps of disbelief as people (like the family of 5 seated next to us who just happened to be on the green that morning) realised that there was no cost involved in this. Hopefully, it encouraged folks to think more about Afternoon Tea, and about the enjoyment that comes from making your own teatime just a little bit more special by using pretty dishes.

I think it’s outstanding that Royal Albert are willing to put all their beautiful china into the hands of the public (well, we did have to give it back). The pieces truly are lovely and the type of thing every tea lover should have in their china cabinet.

Thank you, Royal Albert, for a lovely Afternoon Tea on Kew Green!

Visit the Tea in England Facebook page for additional photos of the tea.

 

(Thanks to Victoria’s Vintage for letting me use her image of the bunting and travel card since I had forgotten to take pictures of those two things!)

Impressed with the zest of the Nell Gwyn Tea Hamper

The Nell Gwyn Hamper from the English Cream Tea Company

One of the most fulfilling aspects of being a blogger is meeting people who share similar interests. Because I write about the subject of tea, I have had the pleasure of connecting with a number of  ‘foodies’, and I love getting to know them and their businesses.

When I first came across The English Cream Tea Company I thought …. well, it goes without saying. They had me at the words ‘cream tea.’

 

The Company

Wife Jane and husband Roger (a chef) are the owners of The English Cream Tea Company in Essex. Years of travel gave them opportunities to indulge in afternoon tea at hotels around the world. After their children were born, they continued their afternoon tea adventures with family trips to London’s grand hotels. They know how tea is done.

We believe in providing excellent customer service and always strive to create and maintain the deliciousness of our hampers. – Jane Maylon, owner and Chief Scone Gnome, The English Cream Tea Company

But not every person can travel to tea, so Jane created The English Cream Tea Company to bring tea to the person. Anything from a Cream Tea for two to a full London hotel-style afternoon tea for four (sandwiches, cakes, scones, jam, and cream) can be delivered straight to your front door – the food freshly made, arriving chilled and ready for consumption.

 

Hamper Review

Thanks to the generosity of The English Cream Tea Company, I was privileged to take delivery earlier this week of one of their themed products, the Nell Gwyn Hamper, and I must tell you that the quality, thought, and artistry behind this product was both impressive and outstanding. Everything from the packaging to the food to the presentation was first-class.  It was immediately obvious to me that they operate to a very high standard and want to provide their customers with a product of great beauty and great value.

To begin with, I love their concept of an orange-themed Nell Gwyn Hamper!  Nell Gwyn was born in London in 1650 of  very humble beginnings. As a young woman, she sold oranges at the King’s Theatre and, believe it or not, became one of England’s leading comedy actresses. She eventually caught the roving eye of King Charles II, and became his mistress (and mother of several of his children).

From The English Cream Tea Company website:

This box comes with a brief history about ‘pretty, witty Nell’ who was renowned for her buxom charms (hence our Saucy Meringues!) and this hamper celebrates both Nell and orange flavours in style.  However, as Nell is attributed with persuading the King to set up Chelsea Hospital as a permanent home for military invalids, we would like to honour her spirit.  Therefore £2 from each Nell Gwyn box will go to the Carver Barracks Injured Soldiers Fund.

The Nell Gwyn Hamper:

Olde English Marmalade Sandwiches
Freshly Made Orange and Cointreau Sultana Scones
Luxury Orange Curd
Clotted Cream
Saucy Meringues*
Orange Pekoe loose-leaf tea
Bournville Chocolate & Orange Delight (my hamper contained chocolate brownies instead, which I actually preferred)
Orange teapot
Napkins and bamboo cutlery

The food from the Nell Gwyn Hamper was delicious, full of flavour, and tasted like it had just been made. Portions were lavish. The incredible orange fragrance from the sandwiches and scones proved to me that the ingredients used in this tea hamper were superior.

Included in the box was a very helpful leaflet describing the product ingredients used in all their hampers. The leaflet also reminds customers that their hampers are made with hugs from the Scone Gnomes. You just can’t help but smile.

Whether you want to treat yourself, your friends and family, or your employees – or are looking for an alternative way to host an Afternoon Tea (by letting someone else provide the food!) – I highly recommed a hamper from The English Cream Tea Company.

 

Product photographs

The sheer extravagance of  the Nell Gwyn Hamper compelled me to take detailed pictures so I could show you the high standard of product and presentation. You will see by the table I set just how easy it was for me to create a magnificent afternoon tea by doing little more than simply opening a box delivered to my front door from The English Cream Tea Company.

 

Box containing hamper from The English Cream Tea Company

Attractive, substantial packaging.
Delivery is arranged so that you know exactly
when your hamper will arrive for signature.

 

The Nell Gwyn Hamper from The English Cream Tea Company

Very appealing corrugated cardboard box,
thoughtfully wrapped with a bright orange satin ribbon.

 

The Nell Gwyn Hamper from The English Cream Tea Company

Top layer contents:
Scones, orange curd, clotted cream (chilled), brownies, tea.
Each item had a small sticky sponge on the back so that this
attractive arrangement remained intact during shipping.

 

The Nell Gwyn Hamper from The English Cream Tea Company

Bottom layer contents:
Tea sandwiches, meringues, napkins and bamboo cutlery.

 

The Nell Gwyn Hamper from The English Cream Tea Company

Freshly made tea sandwiches are kept cold by chilled inserts.

 

The Nell Gwyn Hamper from The English Cream Tea Company

The orange slice and parsley are a delightful garnish.

 

The Nell Gwyn Hamper from The English Cream Tea Company

Light-as-air meringues with glacé cherries

 

*If you are familiar with this famous portrait of Nell Gwyn,
you will understand the symbolism behind the saucy meringues!

 

 

Setting up for a Nell Gwyn Afternoon Tea courtesy of the Nell Gwyn Hamper from The English Cream Tea Company

Easily create a stunning Afternoon Tea:
All you need are some plates, teacups, and …..

 

A Nell Gwyn Afternoon Tea. Food and tea from the Nell Gwyn Hamper, The English Cream Tea Company

….. a hamper from The English Cream Tea Company!

 

Tea sandwiches from the Nell Gwyn Hamper, The English Cream Tea Company

The orange marmalade tea sandwiches
were fresh, soft, moist and bursting with flavour.

 

Scones and meringues from the Nell Gwyn Hamper, The English Cream Tea Company

I am a scone baker and can honestly say that these scones were perfect.
They were a good size, firm, and full of moist fruit.
The meringues were lovely – not too crumbly, and very light.

 

Orange Curd and Clotted Cream from the Nell Gwyn Hamper, The English Cream Tea Company

Orange Curd and Clotted Cream.
The bamboo spoons included in the hamper were perfect for serving.

 

Orange Pekoe loose leaf tea from the Nell Gwyn Hamper, The English Cream Tea Company

The Orange Pekoe loose leaf tea was excellent.

 

Scones with orange curd and clotted cream from the Nell Gwyn Hamper, The English Cream Tea Company

Orange and Cointreau Sultana Scones in action.
Partners in crime: Orange Curd and Clotted Cream.

 

 

 

The English Cream Tea Company label

The English Cream Tea Company
www.englishcreamtea.com

 

I urge you to visit the website of The English Cream Tea Company to view their complete range of products that include cream tea weddings, food for crowds, corporate boxes – and of course, Christmas hampers.

In conclusion, if you are searching for tea hampers of five-star quality and value, look no further than The English Cream Tea Company.

 

(For an unbiased review of a tea or tea-related product of beneficial interest to the readers of Tea in England, please get in touch with me via the contact form.)

Afternoon Tea at Sea

Afternoon Tea aboard Queen Mary 2

Afternoon Tea is, without a doubt, the consummate English experience –  and Afternoon Tea at sea, aboard the historic British ocean liner Queen Mary 2, should be at the top of every tea lover’s to-do list.

Mr. Tea and I recently returned from a 10-day cruise to Spain and Portugal aboard Queen Mary 2. This was our first trip to the Iberian Peninsula, and our second cruise with Cunard, having previously sailed from America to the UK on their transatlantic voyage. We fell in love with Spain and Portugal (I’ll be blogging about Lisbon’s English tea connection later), but first I thought you might enjoy seeing the the Afternoon Tea experience on Queen Mary 2.

 

Portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Bust of Queen Mary, Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

A bit of history: The Cunard Line was founded in 1839 by Samuel Cunard. The first Cunard ships carried transatlantic mail. In the dark days of war, troops were transported around the world on Cunard, and for a very special moment in time, immigrants rode the waves with Cunard on their way to a better life. (In 1914, my grandfather emigrated to America from Austria aboard a Cunard ship.) Cunard eventually became the name in prestige transatlantic passenger travel – Queen of the ocean liners.

Getting there is half the fun. – Cunard’s motto

I’m not sure how long Cunard have been serving Afternoon Tea aboard their passenger ships, but they certainly know how it’s done. And although they are now British-American owned, Cunard believes that retaining the Afternoon Tea tradition reinforces their British heritage.

 

Waiter pouring tea, Afternoon Tea in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

Afternoon Tea is served at 3.30 every afternoon on Queen Mary 2, with the exception of embarkation day, and there are three location options: 1) Kings Court: a casual, buffet style tea; 2) Queen’s Grill Lounge: for passengers traveling in the suites; and 3) the Queen’s Room – which is where we enjoyed our teatimes.

The Queen’s Room is the largest ballroom at sea and can hold 562 people. It is formal, but comfortable and relaxing.

 

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

 

When everyone is seated, white gloved waiters emerge carrying pots of tea and silver platters with sandwiches, scones, and cakes.  Bottomless cups of tea? Endless sandwiches, scones, and cakes? Bliss!

 

White gloved waiters preparing to serve Afternoon Tea in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Afternoon Tea sandwiches being served by a white-gloved waiter in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Afternoon Tea scones (and clotted cream) being served by a white-gloved waiter in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Wedgwood china on the table and Twinings tea in your cup further emphasize Cunard’s strong British ties. Speaking of Wedgwood, my mother-in-law purchased a Cunard teapot (below) for me as a surprise birthday present. (Yep, you can buy them onboard.) What a lovely memento of our trip and time together!

 

Denise's birthday pressie: Cunard teapot by Wedgwood

 

We had a wonderful holiday sailing with Cunard on Queen Mary 2, even if we did overdo it a bit with daily Afternoon Tea.  But I suppose indulgence is what a holiday is all about – and what could be more indulgent than Tea with the Queen?

 

Queen Mary 2

 

(See the Tea in England Facebook fan page for more Queen Mary 2 Afternoon Tea pictures)

 

Big brother is watching you ….. make tea

George Orwell Drinking Tea

In high school English class in the early 70s, we read the book 1984 by the English writer George Orwell. At that time in American history (still the Vietnam War era),  my generation were very distrustful of the government, so Orwell’s story of a people under surveillance by the authorities (“Big Brother”) helped to reinforce our suspicions.  (We also thought that it would take forever to reach the year 1984. Ah, the naivety of youth!)

Right. I know. What on earth does this have to do with tea?

Well, our George Orwell – journalist, novelist, essayist, social reformer, soldier – was also a dedicated tea drinker and dogmatic tea connoisseur. In January 1946, he wrote an essay called A Nice Cup of Tea, setting forth his personal tea making rules.

Before I send you off to read the essay for yourself (it’s not very long), I have summarised and paraphrased these Orwellian tea principles:

A Nice Cup of Tea by George Orwell. The Pocket Guide.

1) Use only Indian or Ceylon tea. Chinese tea hasn’t enough ‘oomph’ to it.
2) Brew it in a china teapot. Best made in small quantities (ergo, a teapot), never an urn.
3) Warm the teapot first. Best done on the hob rather than rinsing out with hot water.
4) MAKE IT STRONG. VERY STRONG. TEA SHOULD BE STRONG.
5) Loose leaves in the pot.  No infuser or anything that will impede the unfurling of the leaf.
6) Boiling water. Take the teapot to the kettle, not the other way around.
7) Stir the pot, allowing the leaves to settle.
8) Drink the tea from a mug. Tea cools down too quickly in a teacup.
9) Use non-creamy milk (what today we would call semi-skimmed milk).
10) Put the tea in first, then the milk.
11) No sugar.

How does this compare to your own tea making ritual?

Orwell says in his tea essay that two of the rules would elicit “pretty general agreement”, but that at least four others would be “acutely controversial”.  Which four do you think he meant?

As a little added bonus (we like added bonuses at Tea in England), here is a video of George Orwell a) recounting his time spent fighting in the Spanish Civil War (the boring part); and b) discussing the perfect cup of tea (the fun part). The fun part begins at 2.31 minutes into the video.

 

 

You can read the entire George Orwell tea essay here: A Nice Cup of Tea by George Orwell

 

“All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong,

but like it a little stronger with each year that passes.” – George Orwell

 

 

Teatime in the Garden (Centre)

Jamie Oliver Green Fingers Mug - Click to buy

You would think that someone like me, a tea enthusiast, would have green fingers. After all, tea comes from a plant (Camellia sinensis) and people who are into plants are usually into gardening.  (Before we go any further ….. the U.K. phrase ‘green fingers’ is akin to the U.S. phrase ‘green thumb’. I don’t know why British gardeners get five fingers and American gardeners only get a thumb, but The Word Detective thinks he knows.) Anyway, I’m no gardener (I can kill a silk plant. Can you?), but folks here in the U.K. spend nearly 5 billion pounds every year on garden products – that’s a lot of green fingers, thumbs, and other appendages.

 

Golden Acres Garden Centre, Heather Plants

 

There are close to 3,000 garden centres in the U.K.

 

Golden Acres Garden Centre, Laura Ashley Wellies

 

Several years ago, when large DIY chains started to drop their prices, garden centres fought back the competition by adding a different type of merchandise to their basic stock of plants, fertilizer and garden tools.

 

Golden Acres Garden Centre, Kitchenware Display

 

Soon, things like statuary, gifts and home interior products, cards and stationery and books, toys, outdoor clothing, holiday items, and more were filling the shelves of garden centres.

 

Golden Acres Garden Centre, Cream Tea

 

Garden centres quickly became leisure destinations – and many of them added on-site cafes and/or tearooms.

 

Golden Acres Garden Centre, Treats

 (As I am writing this post, I am DYING right now for one of those custard tarts.)

 

Golden Acres Garden Centre, Toasted Teacake

 

Garden centres are now very, very, VERY popular places, especially on Sundays. And why not? They are bright, airy, filled with lovely things to buy – and a great place for tea.

I took these photographs at Golden Acres Garden Centre in Wiltshire. That was me above in their cafe, reading my book, eating a Toasted Teacake.

And hey – if you’re a tourist, a visit to a local garden centre would be a unique addition to your itinerary. Thumbs of all colour welcome.

So, this ghost walks into a tearoom . . .

Bourne Mill Antiques Centre Tearoom Table

One of the reasons my husband and I moved back to England was because we missed going places and doing things. Not that there weren’t places to go and things to do in America ….. but we missed those oh-so-quintessentially-English places. Like antiques centres. Housed in 17th century buildings.  With ghosts.  And tearooms.

 

Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England

One such antiques-centre-in-a-17th-century-building-with-a-ghost-and-a-tearoom is the Bourne Mill Antiques Centre in Farnham, Surrey. It is our favourite spot for antiquing-and-tea. The building is a former mill (a little tributary still runs alongside).

According to the Bourne Mill Antiques Centre website, it was a drinking club in the 1960s, frequented by Mick Jagger!  The club eventually closed down and the antiques centre later took over. Whilst it’s true that in some of these places you can’t always get what you want, wild horses couldn’t drag me away from here because there is something for everyone.

 

Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England

There are over 60 dealers displaying, and it has been described as an Aladdin’s Cave of Antiques. Indeed! It is a treasure trove. I love places like this, where you can rummage through baskets and dig deep behind lower shelves.

 

Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England

Oh, the temptation.

 

Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England

 

Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England

Is it true that you can never have enough teacups?

 

  Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England      Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England    Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England

There are 4 floors to this building, with nooks and crannies everywhere.

 

Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England

More temptation.

 

Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England

You can walk around the entire building from the outside.  A building that is 400 some years old just can’t help but be enchanting, can it?  Oh look … a sign.  With the word TEA on it! Shall we?

 

 

Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England

All the antiques centres we have been to in England have had tearooms on the premises; the one here at Bourne Mill Antiques Centre is our favourite. We like to arrive as soon as the tearoom opens (10.00), have breakfast (scrambled eggs on toast), then shop till we drop. Well, the truth of the matter is that he never lets me we don’t always buy anything, but even so – sigh – one does work up an appetite so after we’ve had a good look around, it’s time for tea and cake.

 

Bourne Mill Antiques Centre, Farnham, England

Did someone say cake?

 

I hope you have enjoyed poking around the Bourne Mill Antiques Centre with me. Later this evening I am going to upload the rest of my pictures on the Tea in England Facebook page and you will have a chance to see all the other rooms and goodies.

What’s that? Oh, right, the ghost!   Here she is.

 

 

This Chocolate Teapot is a wise choice

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom, Esher

In England, there is a phrase we use to define something that is useless. For example, if my husband Mr. Tea gave me a book written in Mandarin, I would say to him first, that he was brainless, and second, that the book was “as useful as a chocolate teapot.”  The logic behind this idiom is that a chocolate teapot would melt as soon as you poured boiling water in it, so it is used as a comparison to anything useless or badly conceived. (Next time darling, just check my Amazon Wish List, okay?)

I had a chocolate teapot experience of a different kind on Saturday, one that warmed my heart into a big gooey puddle of English tearoom bliss.

 

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom, Front window

 

The Chocolate Teapot in Esher is anything but a proverbial chocolate teapot. As tearooms go, it certainly ticked all the right boxes for me: ambiance, cleanliness, friendly staff, and good food and tea.

 

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom, Front door

 

The best tearooms are ones that reflect the personality of their owners. This variety of style is what makes visiting them so much fun. My favourite tearoom style is traditional: lace curtains; pretty, mismatched china; real flowers; wooden chairs; and – above all – a cosy, comfortable atmosphere.  The Chocolate Teapot in Esher did not disappoint!

 

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom, Interior

 

Mr. Tea and I arrived midday and the crowd had already come and gone, so we had the tearoom all to ourselves (although there was a small special event taking place in the courtyard outside).  Combined with perfect weather and glorious sunshine, could Afternoon Tea get any better?

 

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom, Table set for tea

 

The wait staff at The Chocolate Teapot are very friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient, and we were also lucky enough to meet the owner, Jane, who was charming.

 

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom Afternoon Tea for Two

 

The menu at The Chocolate Teapot is just right: a good selection of snacks, meals, and of course, teas. We ordered the full Afternoon Tea which included our choice of sandwich and homemade cake, accompanied by a pot of tea, scones with jam and cream and – appropriately – a tiny chocolate teapot brownie. (I love that little extra touch!) The food was excellent.

 

Denise helping The Chocolate Teapot, Esher celebrate its Second Anniversary

 

On the tearoom’s first anniversary last year, they set off balloons with coupons inside for a free slice of cake. One of the balloons – believe it or not – ended up in Germany, and the nice man who found it contacted the tearoom and the story was written up in his local German paper.  Saturday happened to be the tearoom’s second anniversary, so Jane asked if I would do the honours of releasing this year’s balloons. It was my privilege, so here I am.

If you ever find yourself in the Surrey area (inside London’s M25 corridor), I suggest you visit The Chocolate Teapot in Esher. You will receive a friendly welcome, delicious food, cosy surroundings – and the only chocolate teapot that melts will be that bite-sized brownie in your mouth.

Fit for a Queen: Lavender Tea

Lavender Fields, Mayfield Lavender Farm, Surrey, England

Lavender, to me, is so very, very English. As an Anglophile teenager, I wore Yardley’s Lavender Eau de Toilette. Once married, I searched high and low for lavender scented beeswax furniture polish so that my home would smell like a stately English manor. And in later years, I longed for lavender in my garden so that, like the washerwomen of days past, I could lay my tea linens over the plants to dry and absorb the lovely scent. (Did you know that those washerwomen were called ‘lavenders’?)

 

Lavender, Mayfield Lavender Farm, Surrey, England

If it’s so English, what is its history here? Well, you can’t talk about English history without talking about the Romans and the Romans couldn’t get enough of lavender. They loved the stuff, using it in medicine, in their religious ceremonies, and in their hair, clothes, beds and baths. By the time they finally left England (good riddance), lavender was growing in monasteries here, and when Henry VIII dissolved those in the 1500s, lavender growing moved to domestic gardens. So ….. ‘apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads’ (any Monty Python fans out there?), we can indeed thank the Romans for bringing lavender to England.

During Victorian times, Queen Victoria’s fondness for lavender made the herb very fashionable amongst ladies. The North Surrey Downs at that time was the centre of lavender oil production, and last week-end I visited that area’s Mayfield Lavender farm. What a delight being surrounded by all that pretty purple perfume!

 

Lavender Fairy Cake and Lavender Tea, Mayfield Lavender Farm, Surrey, England

A versatile plant, lavender has many uses throughout the home, including that of culinary herb. It can be used to make, among many things: jam, scented sugar – and lavender tea*.

Elizabeth I drank lavender tea to treat her migraines. I was able to buy fresh lavender tea at Mayfield Lavender, but Elizabeth I no doubt had to make her own.

If you have never tried lavender tea before, I would encourage you to give it a go. I am normally not a fan of flowery, scented tea, so was very surprised at how much I liked it. To help you along, here is a lavender tea recipe fit for a Queen:

 

Lavender Tea

  • 3 tbsp fresh lavender flowers (or 1 and 1/2 tbsp dried lavender flowers)
  • 2 cups boiling water

Put the flowers in a teapot. Cover with boiling water and steep for at least 5 minutes. Pour into cups, straining to remove flowers. Serve with honey and sliced lemon, if desired.

 

Denise's Lavender Tisane

 

*Calling it lavender ‘tea’ is a bit of a misnomer. ‘Tea’, per se, contains tea leaves from the tea plant Camellia sinensis. So whilst a mix of lavender flowers and loose tea leaves (such as English Breakfast or Earl Grey) can rightfully be called lavender tea, a mix of lavender flowers and hot water cannot and is best called a lavender infusion or a lavender tisane. You know, just in case it ever comes up on Mastermind.