Tea and twirling teacups at the county show

Vegetable exhibit

Growing up in the rural farmland of Illinois in the American midwest, the annual county fair was a much anticipated event. I have fond memories of  elephant ears and caramel apples, riding the thrilling Tilt-A-Whirl, stock car races, farm animal competitions (remember Charlotte’s Web ?), and my favourite: the cooking and crafts tents. The county fair was just plain FUN!

After I moved to England, I was so happy to discover that the county fair/county show was alive and well on this side of the pond (where the whole idea probably originated anyway). Mr. Tea and I have now been to several of these (Egham Royal Show and Royal County of Berkshire Show) and mark our calendar with the dates every year. We arrive promptly at opening time, and try to see and do  everything we can before early afternoon when the crowds begin to swell.

Come on, let’s go for a walk and I’ll show you around, where you will see:

 

Pasties

Hearty food like pasties,

 

Meat sandwiches

Baps,

 

Ice cream trick

and – of course – ice cream!

 

Cake table

There are cakes to be judged,

 

Winning Victoria Sponge

and prizes to award.

 

Miniature flower arrangement

Flowers to evaluate,

 

Winning dahlias

and more prizes to award!

 

Greyhound in Need charity

One of the most enjoyable things about county shows are the interesting exhibitors, like Greyhounds in Need, a charity dedicated to the welfare and rescue of greyhounds.

 

Natural wicker coffins

This was a rather unique exhibitor, a company that manufactures “environmentally friendly biodegradable coffins from sustainable resources”. I think they are beautiful.

 

National Hedgelaying Society

Yes! Save the hedgerow! The NHLS is committed to conserving hedgerows through traditional skills. Their patron is HRH The Prince of Wales.

 

How to thatch

I always wondered how a thatched roof is constructed.

 

The Band of The Brigade of The Gurkhas

There is music,

 

Horse rider

and animals,

 

Games booth

and fun, wonderful things for the kiddie winks:

 

Merry-Go-Round

Carousel

 

Punch and Judy

Punch and Judy Show

 

Coconut Shy

Do you know about the Coconut Shy?

 

Children's cricket game

The ECB Cricket Factory teaches children (and adults) about the sport. (Note to self: Next time, give this one a go. Am hopeless at understanding cricket!)

 

Pimm's o'clock

But besides this ↑, the best part of the county show for me,

 

Tea sign

is this,

 

 

Tea sign

this,

 

 

Yorkshire Tea booth

this,

 

 

Denise at the Mad Teacup ride

and THIS!!!!!!!!!!

“Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.”

 

 

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.