Tea for you and me

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

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The Look Out Cafe Bar

World of Boats, Heol Porth Teigr, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF10 4GA.


View of Cardiff Bay from our table at The Look Out Cafe Bar.

I have to admit we weren’t planning on going here, we just got a bit confused about the bus route round the bay and ended up getting off next to World of Boats. World of Boats is in a lovely position next to the bay (as befits an exhibition about boats) and the cafe has beautiful views across the water.

The Look Out Cafe Bar had dotty tablecloths, floral arrangements, a little dog pottering around and tea that came in a teapot. It was nice. R and I enjoyed a nice chat and some tea drinking and decided that although we hadn’t planned to, we would have a look round World of Boats.


My pot of decaf tea and R’s glass of peppermint tea at The Look Out Cafe Bar.

Things were all going swimmingly, until the little dog (small and white with fetching brown patches) pottered over to the table next to us, cocked a leg, and peed on the floor. Once we told the staff it was all cleaned up very promptly, but we didn’t stay in the cafe for very long after that.

Instead, we paid our £5 each and went through into the exhibition space. World of Boats was not, as I had thought, a euphemism for a lot of boats. It was a small exhibition of boats from around the world (which is what R thought it would be). And very interesting and enjoyable it was too. There was even a section where you could try out semaphore.

  • Teapot? Yes, for the decaf tea.
  • Leaf tea? No, tea bag tea.
  • Milk jug? Yes.
  • Price? £2.25 for each tea and £5 each to go into World of Boats.
  • Cake? Yes and I think they had savoury food too.
  • Go again? Unfortunately not.

Visited on: Monday 27th March 2017

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Jam Factory

Hollybush Row, 27 Park End Street, Oxford, OX1 1HU.   (View on map)

My tea at the Jam Factory.

The Jam Factory is a restaurant and bar that has art classes and things as well. The art on the wall near the table where we sat was very familiar as I’d previously seen it at Jelly so the Jam Factory immediately felt like home (maybe the artists only exhibit in places named after food?). Plus they had a selection of indoor trees growing and I have always wanted to grow a tree inside my house.

The Jam Factory was specifically recommended as a place to go where you could get tea or beer, so some of us had tea and some had beer and some went even further and had coffee. I stuck to tea, but though there was a choice of loose leaf (including Rooibos and green tea) there was no Earl Grey. I went for Darjeeling and a slice of banana cake instead. The seven of us placed our orders and a combination of tea, coffee, beer, cake and caramel shortbread arrived at our table. There was banana cake, but not for me. In the end I went and asked for it and they gave me an extra large slice as an apology. The tea was nice, but there wasn’t enough of it (just a cup rather than a pot) but the cake was good.

Tea and my apology sized banana cake.

Teapot? No. The big jars of loose leaf tea behind bar looked promising, but then it went into a large teabag anyway.
Leaf tea? Yes.
Milk jug? Yes, a little one each.
Price? £2 for a cup of tea, £2.50 for a slice of banana cake.
Cake? Yes – and also flapjacks, museli bars and shortbread.
Go again? I’d quite like to try going here for a meal, but maybe not for the tea.

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Central Bar

Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX   (View on map)

My tea and a bit of the ballroom at the Central Bar in Royal Festival Hall. My apologies for the unappealing dribble of tea down the side of the cup - I split some whilst wandering about looking for a table.

Once again I was early and waiting to meet someone at a train station, this time Waterloo was the station of choice. It was cold and dark and raining so I didn’t want to go too far away, but all the places in the station were packed so I braved the weather in order to head to the Southbank. Royal Festival Hall was the first place I came to and I knew they had tea and lots of space, so I went in.

The tea was hot and was Clipper, but it was teabags and came in a paper cup, but I wasn’t expecting much else as I had ordered tea from a bar after all. Though they have a large number of tables and sofas all over the place, there were surprisingly few that were empty. After wandering about a bit I eventually found one in a corner overlooking the ballroom and settled down to pass the time.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No, Clipper teabag.
Milk jug? A big one you helped yourself to.
Price? £1.65.
Cake? Not in the bar, but I think there are other venues inside the hall that might do.
Go again? Yes, a good place to go to get some work done as there are tables and free wifi.

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Boulters Restaurant and Bar

Boulters Lock Island, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 8PE

The tea and the stunning view of the river.

Boulters Restaurant and Bar doesn’t seem to think we need an apostrophe for ‘Boulters Lock’ and so I haven’t put one in, but I feel there needs to be one. Confusingly, the River Thames website sometimes uses one and sometimes doesn’t; I’ll stick to using one when talking about the place and not using one when referring to the bar and restaurant.

Anyway, confusing apostrophe use aside, the river looks beautiful here and the view from the balcony of the bar is stunning. We were lucky enough to have a sunny day with blue skies and to get the last table on the balcony for lunch.

This is not the cheapest place to eat or drink but the terrace bar is much cheaper than the brasserie downstairs. We had a chicken ceasar ciabatta which sounds odd, but was very good and not too dry. The tea was over £2 and yet still didn’t come in a pot, which was disappointing, but the tea bag used was a good one.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £2.05 for tea, £7ish for the sandwich.
Cake? Puddings and scones rather than cake.
Go again? Yes, as the view is stunning.

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Document House

7-9 Wharf Street, Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 5AN

Tea with artful custard creams at Document House

Document House is a ‘lounge bar’ in Newbury that has a board outside saying it also does coffee and tea (which is why we went in). It’s a comfortable bar with sofas and tables and does very good food. We went in around 6pm and it was quiet enough for us to relax and have a proper chat.

The tea came in a latte glass with a long spoon but we were most impressed with the artfully arranged custard creams. C’s drink also came with the artistic biscuits so we were confident it was a deliberate choice.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No
Milk jug? Yes, mini china one.
Price? Around £1.60.
Cake? No, but expertly balanced custard creams.
Go again? Yes, when needing tea in the evening in Newbury this seems a good place to go.

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Amphitheatre Bar

The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD

ROH view

View from our table

Theatres and concert halls tend to have bars where you can buy tea. It’s a useful tip if you want to go somewhere quiet and a bit different. The Royal Opera House Amphitheatre Bar is open during the day for food and drinks and we headed inside to see if they had tea.

They had a range of cake, including macaroons and strange white bricks. We guessed cheesecake but when we asked the barstaff it turned out to be a giant marshmallow. Well, we thought, this doesn’t happen every day, we’ll share one.

It was minty. A big fat peppermint marshmallow. We tried to cut it in half but it sprang back at us and wouldn’t be cut. So I ate half and then my Mum ate the rest. Very strange and didn’t go well with tea. Worth trying, anyway.

ROH tea

Giant marshmallow and teabag tea.

The tea was a teabag in a cup job, even though it said a pot on the menu. I was disappointed. Nice view of the bar below though.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £2 I think.
Cake? Yes.
Go again? No.

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Contact Theatre Lounge Bar

Contact, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6JA.

Tea and cake at the Contact Theatre

Tea and cake at the Contact Theatre

We went to the Contact Theatre to see the play Medea, which was very good. Afterwards we headed to the bar for tea and cake. H works near to the theatre so she knew they had good cake on display in a glass cabinet. We arrived in the cafe bar and to our horror the glass cabinet was empty!

Not to be deterred, H asked if there was any cake left. Sure enough the bartender found a chocolate brownie and a slice of chocolate cake in the fridge and we happily agreed to share.

They had a variety of different tea bags, but only a choice between Breakfast and Earl Grey or many different varieties of fruit tea.

The Contact Theatre Lounge Bar was comfy, friendly and relaxed. I liked it.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Big milk jug.
Price? £1 for tea, £6.50 for 3 teas and two bits of cake.
Cake? Yes, larger range in the daytime.
Go again? Yes.

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70 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5NH

Tea at Cornerhouse

Tea at Cornerhouse

The Cornerhouse is, in a feat of logical naming rarely seen in the modern world, on a corner. It has three art galleries, two bars and a bookshop, with a cinema across the road on the opposite corner. I chose the upstairs cafe bar as it was the one that served food and this usually means a better chance of getting some tea.

I’d been lazy and decided to get the bus from Manchester Piccadily station to the Cornerhouse, rather than walk the length of the station and have a five minute train journey to the Manchester Oxford Road station, which is next door to the Cornerhouse. My laziness was my downfall and an hour later after two long and circular bus journeys I arrived. If ever I was in need of tea it was then.

The upstairs bar looked very bar like, but then I spied jars of large teapigs teabags and knew everything was going to be okay. Teapigs teabags are large tea bags made of gauze, not paper, and they have whole loose leaves inside them (most tea bags have chopped up bits of tea leaves, open one up and have a look). It was good but I was still grumpy about my self-inflicted bus journey confusion. I drank my tea and for the sake of economy didn’t order another.

Then a miraculous thing happened – a waitress came over with another mug of tea. Did I want it? It had been made by mistake and she’d remembered that I’d been drinking tea and thought I might like it. I could have it for free, think of it as happy hour.

I took the tea gratefully. Any busy bar that has a waitress that thoughtful gets the thumbs up from me. Plus the tea was really rather nice.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No, but excellent tea bags.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £1.45.
Cake? Small selection.
Go again? Yes.


Tea Smith

Tea Smith is a ‘tea bar’ in Spitalfields Market in London that also sells packets of tea, teapots, etc. I admit that I’d been to Tea Smith before and not liked it, so my hopes weren’t very high. I’m happy to say that I have changed my mind completely.

Previously, I’d gone on a Sunday afternoon (the market’s busiest day) and it was crowded and didn’t feel very special. I also chose an aged black tea as it sounded interesting, but really disliked the taste. This is my own fault, as I don’t particularly like strong tea. This time round we went late on Saturday and asked the staff for recommendations – they asked what we normally drank and what we liked and then pointed us in the direction of something a little bit more unusual, but that they thought we’d appreciate. The tea is taken very seriously here, with thermometers for the water temperature and timers for the infusions, along with different styles of tea pots for each different type of tea and delicate cups (Japanese style – no handles). The tea we drank was called ‘Lily Flower’ (I think) and ‘Mandarin Orchid’. My friend chose the first and I chose the second on the basis that it was also named after a flower. The first was floral and buttery and the second light and sweet and gorgeous. I bought a bag of the second to take away with me, and yes, it does taste that good even when not in the careful surroundings of the tea bar. I also enjoyed the music they were playing and the photography exhibit downstairs. All in all a very good tea place.

Teapot? Yes, and they even poured it for you.
Leaf tea? They’d be offended you even asked.
Milk jug? No milk here, this is naked tea.
Price? £3.50 to £8 for a small pot. Think of it like tasting wine rather than quenching thirst.
Cake? Yes, and chocolate. Small but carefully chosen to compliment the tea. We didn’t have any but it looked good.
Go again? Yes, but I’d avoid Sundays.