Tea for you and me

Join me on my epic quest to find the best tea ever

Leave a comment

My new top five

I have to admit I’ve been a bit slack with updating my top five cafes, but a few days ago I have updated the list to show my current top five places to drink rooibos tea.

Teashop by the canal

Tea and cake at The teashop by the canal

For a long time, my top five has displayed as:

  1. The teashop by the canal
  2. Delicious…
  3. Ladurée
  4. The Ritz
  5. Sweet Tooth Cupcakery

This list is out of date for two reasons. Firstly, it was made before I started drinking rooibos tea, and secondly, two of the cafes have now closed. Sadly, Sweet Tooth Cupcakery and Delicious… are no more.

One of the reasons I haven’t updated the list before now is that it’s so hard to choose. Especially when my favourite places change depending on what I’m looking for from my tea. Do I want somewhere convenient? Somewhere that’s good to write? Somewhere that’s good for meeting friends? I also don’t travel as much as I used to and tend to revisit the same places more often than before.

My new top five are:

  1. Nibsy’s
  2. Siblings Home
  3. Picnic
  4. Reefside Kiosk
  5. North Tea Power

Here’s a little explainer as to why they made the top five (please imagine the kind of chirpy music that you get with a music video countdown).

Nibsy's tea

Pot of rooibos tea and the marvellous chocolate brownie in Nibsy’s.

Nibsy’s It’s got rooibos tea in a pot and excellent cake with very friendly staff, as well as a mix of normal tables and chairs and low tables and armchairs. It also has a toilet, which can be crucial if you’re drinking lots of tea.

Siblings Home Loose leaf rooibos in a pot, good food and a lovely environment. And a toilet. I especially like that it’s got lots of plants.

Picnic Rooibos tea in a cup (but it always comes with a little caramelised biscuit). Great soup with generous amounts of bread, brunch at the weekends, salads and cake.

Reefside Kiosk The photos in my review don’t do the views from the pier justice. It was very calming and a cup of hot tea when we’d been walking was just what was needed. Plus it sells ice cream.

North Tea Power The only place I’ve ever been to that sells tea latte. Genius.

Don’t forget, if you have any other suggestions of places to try, let me know and I’ll add them to the wish list.



Leave a comment

Farewell, Cafe W

I’ve been adding reviews to this blog for a number of years now and have seen a fair few cafes open and close in that time. One of these days I’ll manage to double check all of the reviews and note which ones are now shut.

The most recent one to close is Cafe W in the Oracle Waterstones, as the whole shop has shut down. There is another Waterstones in Reading, but that one doesn’t have a cafe.

In my review of Cafe W I said I’d like to go back when they were more established (and I wanted to see what their tea was like in a pot rather than in a paper cup). I’m sure that they must have got their crockery sorted a while back, but I’m afraid I didn’t make it back before they closed.

Other Waterstones have cafes and they’re also called Cafe W, so I could try one of those instead. The cake sold at the Reading Cafe W was supplied by Picnic, so you can still get the same cake in Reading.

It’s still a shame though. So long, Cafe W, thanks for all the rooibos tea.



Leave a comment

Intrigue in Waterstones

I think this is the first time I've seen a poster with the words 'See you there' and thought, 'Yes, you will'.

I think this is the first time I’ve seen a poster with the words ‘See you there’ and thought, ‘Yes, you will’.

There are two branches of Waterstones in Reading, one in the Oracle shopping centre and one on Broad Street. The one in the Oracle used to have a Costa Coffee inside it, but, in line with Waterstones’ policy of not renewing external coffee company contracts and instead putting in their own cafes, this has now closed.

While I’m sad to see the lovely and super friendly Costa coffee staff go (they’ve gone to the Debenhams a few metres away), I am intrigued by the thought of a new cafe. Waterstones branded cafes are called Cafe W and I’ve never been in one. Not ever.

When I went in yesterday there was a white hoarding around the area where the Costa used to be and a smell of fresh paint. Tomorrow, there should be a whole new cafe there. I’m not sure what it’ll be like, but I’m going to go and find out. And then, dear reader, I’ll post about it on here so you can know too.


Strange but true

Three of us went out for a curry the other week, it was lovely food and good fun but then we finished our main courses and L fancied some coffee (she drinks tea too, don’t worry).

The waiter presented us with a teapot and we protested that L had ordered coffee, but the waiter assured us that he knew that – this indeed was the coffee.

A specially set up 'action' shot that unfortunately does nothing to illustrate how weird having coffee come out of a teapot was.

Maybe the waiter had heard KD and I discussing the mess-with-your-mind tea latte at North Tea Power and decided to mess with our minds some more? I found it most confusing to see the teapot but smell coffee. More importantly, if you ordered tea and the teapot had previously had coffee in it, what would it taste like? Is this why some tea tastes so unusual?


Leave a comment

Mindful tea drinking




This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sometimes life is very busy and time seems to rush past you. You prioritise the important things that must get done, leaving the enjoyable things to sit in a corner and wait for you to slow down.

When I visited some friends at Cleeve House I was offered a cup of tea before I left. Unsurprisingly, I accepted. MZ conjured up an impromptu cream tea for us and we sat in the sunshine and waited for the tea to brew.

Sometimes tea drinking can provide the break we need and the reminder that there is time to stop and relax, however busy other things may be. Making a cup of tea with a teabag allows you to rush around some more, but making a pot makes you stop and wait for the tea to brew. It creates a window of time we can use to be mindful – to be conscious and aware of what is happening.

I think every busy person needs to stop and make a pot of tea now and again. If possible, they should also drink it outside in the sunshine. And eat scones.



Tea with Mrs Beeton

If it's got a teacup on it I'm generally attracted to it.

I’ve just finished reading ‘The Campaign for Domestic Happiness‘ by Mrs Isabella Beeton. I admit I was swayed in my book choice by the picture of a teacup on the front cover, but the book is mainly about how to manage your household followed by some recipes. I’ve learnt that I need to be an early riser to ensure my house is ‘orderly and well-managed’. If I ‘remain in bed till a late hour, then the domestics… will surely become sluggards’ (page 10 of the eBook edition). I always knew my inability to sleep late was going to be good for something.

The section on tea is intriguing, mostly because it comes under the heading of ‘Recipes for Beverages’ (page 83). How many cookbooks nowadays come with instructions on how to make tea? It’s just taken for granted that we can. Mrs Beeton thought there was ‘very little art in making good tea; if the water is boiling, and there is no sparing of the fragrant leaf, the beverage will almost invariably be good’ (page 84).

Interestingly, she recommends putting the tea into the teapot, adding a small amount of boiling water and brewing for five to ten minutes – then topping up the pot with water. She stands by the ‘old-fashioned plan of allowing a teaspoonful [of tea] to each person, and one over’ (page 84).

I’m not sure about the idea of brewing a small amount of tea first and topping it up with hot water, but I might try it the next time I make a pot of tea and see what it’s like.

There’s not as much about tea in here as I’d like, considering the cover image, but the section on managing a household had me entertained for a good while. Well worth a read and I’m looking forward to reading others in the ‘Great Food‘ series.


Make tea for art

Ever wanted to be in an artwork? Ever wanted to make tea in an artwork? Yes? Then the forthcoming exhibition of Jeremy Deller’s work at the Hayward Gallery is for you.

There are three areas where they are looking for volunteers, one of which is a re-creation of a cafe in Manchester called ‘Valeries’. Volunteers will be in the cafe working in pairs serving tea. I wanted to volunteer but reading the small print I can see they want people to do a minimum of five shifts which I can’t do and still manage to get to work, so not for me. If anyone does decide to do it, let me know!

I’ll content myself with going to see it instead (did I mention the tea they serve is free?).

Leave a comment

Tea Tanks

I’ve just had an email from my brother to inform me that all British tanks since World War Two have had tea making facilities on board. Not sure how much I believe this (sorry S) as the source for this revelation is in fact Wikipedia, but it’s an interesting idea. If it’s true, then it’s interesting that tanks need tea. If not true, then also interesting that someone thinks that this is an idea that should be promoted.

Any military historians out there who can verify or deny?


The strange case of the dodgy jammy dodger

I’d purchased a ‘tea time selection’ pack of biscuits a few days previously and had decanted the pack into an airtight tub to keep the freshness in. I was happily sitting on the sofa and enjoying a cup of tea when I felt the need for a biscuit. After retrieving the tub from the kitchen I opened it up and selected a jammy dodger. It looked fine at first glance, but just felt a bit wrong. There was something not quite right that I couldn’t put my finger on. Then I realised – it was inside out.

Hastily, I pulled out another jammy dodger and confirmed my fears – that I had a jammy dodger that had been stuck together with the right sides facing inwards. I showed it to R, then photographed it so I could put it on here and share the wonderment, and then ate it. After all, an inside out jammy dodger is still a jammy dodger. And they do taste mighty good.

Normal jammy dodger on the left, shockingly inside out jammy dodger on the right.


Leave a comment

Suggestions for Cardiff?

So, I’m off to Cardiff in a few weeks and I’m looking for any suggestions. So far I’ve been told to go down to the bay and go to the Norwegian Church and to a place called ‘Craft in the bay’. If I have enough time they also recommended going to one of the arcades as there’s lots of little cafes there.

The Norwegian Church is intriguing, is it really as simple as a church that is Norwegian? I’ve been told ‘Craft in the bay’ sells crafty things and tea, so that sounds good.

Anyone have anything more to add? I’m only going to have one afternoon free, so there’s a limited amount of tea drinking I can do unfortunately. I’d like to make sure it’s good tea!