Tea for you and me

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



26 Cross Street, Reading, RG1 1SN.

Visited on: Monday 17th August 2015

Interior of Nibsy's

The view from my table at Nibsy’s. It’s not normally as empty as this and it got busier almost as soon as I took the photo.

I’ve been coming here pretty much since it opened and keep meaning to blog about it, but never got round to it. When they started advertising their first birthday celebrations it made me realise that I’d been putting it off for far too long.

Nibsy’s is a gluten free cafe. That’s not the reason you should come here though, you should come here because the tea comes in pots, the staff are friendly, there’s a nice atmosphere and the cake is divine. I like writing in here and they have free wifi, which can be useful. Plus, they’re honest – on the menu behind the counter it says ‘TEAS (bagged)’. No surprises here.

There are three seating areas – outside, inside on the ground floor and inside downstairs. There’s a mix of soft armchairs and sofas and proper tables and chairs. There’s also a toilet (necessary if you’re going to spend an hour or so writing and drinking tea). Everything ties together visually, for example, the colour of the light pink chairs match the colour of tiny metal buckets the sugar comes in and also matches the logo and the spots on the loyalty card.

Nibsy's tea

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

The visual impact and physical space of a cafe makes a big difference to how you enjoy your tea and cake. Beautiful surroundings do help a sense of restful calm. No matter how high quality the food and drink, I bet afternoon tea at the Savoy would not be so enjoyable if you had to eat it in a portacabin. Nibsy’s is a nice place to be as well as somewhere that sells nice food and drink. I hope they celebrate many more birthdays.

  • Teapot? Yes.
  • Leaf tea? No, but Whittards tea bags, so we’re in safe hands.
  • Milk jug? Yes. There’s a choice of different milks as well, all at no extra cost.
  • Price? £1.65 for a pot of rooibos tea and a £2.85 for a chocolate brownie.
  • Cake? Yes, oh yes. It’s all gluten free and it all tastes amazing. Some of it is vegan. They have four different types of chocolate cake (including the brownie). I’ve tried three of the four and the brownie is still my favourite, but there are other things too. Fruity frangipane, bakewell tarts, flapjack… It all looks good. I would try more except I keep going back to the chocolate brownie. There are also savoury tarts and pasta and sandwiches, but I’ve never got any further than the cake, so you’ll have to try that lot yourself.
  • Go again? Without a doubt.

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The Old Forge, Merchants Place, Reading, RG1 1DT.   (View on map)

The spacious upstairs seating area at shed.

The spacious upstairs seating area at Shed.

I’d seen adverts for Shed around before, but only got round to visiting it today. It’s tucked away down a side street with a small downstairs and a large and roomy upstairs seating area, with some big windows and comfortably sized tables.

They have a number of salads, sandwiches and toasties available for lunch and a range of tea and coffee. For drinks I chose a redbush tea and tap water and for lunch I fancied a salad. I picked my salad after asking advice from the lady serving: hot cous cous, chicken, chorizo and coleslaw.

The salad had a lot of chicken and chorizo in it, so I was pleasantly surprised. The tea was good too.

Salad and tea at Shed.

Salad and tea at Shed.

I was hungry and concentrating on lunch, but even so some of you will be shocked when I tell you that I didn’t notice what cake was on offer. I have a vague memory of triangular millionaire’s shortbread and a banana and chocolate loaf, but that’s all I can tell you. There may have been more, there may have been nothing else, I may have dreamt the shortbread. I can only apologise and pledge to do better next time.

Teapot? No, a mug and saucer with a tea bag.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £1.60 for the redbush tea, £5.90 for the salad (the most expensive salad they have, so it’s easy to eat for less if you’d like).
Cake? Yes, I think (see above).
Go again? Yes. I’d like to try some different food and check whether they have cake. Plus upstairs looked like a useful place to go if you needed to get some work done.

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Palmers Cafe

Reading Museum, The Town Hall, Blagrave Street, Reading, RG1 1QH.   (View on map)

Fun tea related museum objects in Palmers Cafe - note the stuff on the wall as well as the amazingly brilliant Tea Tricycle.

There used to be a cafe inside Reading Musuem called ‘The Biscuit Tin’ that I always meant to post about but never got round to. I realised I’d missed my chance when they put up a sign saying it was closing and a new one would be opening, but I have managed to go and visit the new one, so perhaps all is forgiven. In keeping with the biscuit theme (Reading was the home of the famous Huntley & Palmers biscuit company) the new cafe is called ‘Palmers Cafe‘.

The new Palmers Cafe has the same food ordering and serving area, but a new seating area has been created in what used to be the area for temporary exhibitions. It’s really welcoming and friendly and makes you feel like the café is more a part of the museum than the old café. I liked it a lot.

I asked for two teas, the man serving asked if we wanted ‘tea for two’ instead. We said yes, but then a tiny teapot was put on the tray. When I questioned that this was meant to be tea for two, he explained he meant one pot between two as you can get over a cup each out of the pot. I was a bit confused and was also thinking that one cup each wasn’t enough, but agreed anyway. It turned out that he was being immensely helpful, as we hadn’t realised that the museum and therefore the café was due to shut in 15 minutes so just over a cup each was all that was really needed or we had time for.

The pot of tea for one for two at Palmers Cafe.

We spent a happy 15 minutes drinking the tea, chatting about whether or not ‘Palmers Cafe’ needed an apostrophe and looking at the Tea Tricycle.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £1.50 for a pot of tea.
Cake? Cake, traybakes, ice cream and – on the day we went – posset. I’m not sure what posset is, but I love that they sell it. If you want hot food you can get it between 12 noon and 2pm. They have sandwiches and snacks 10am – 3pm.
Go again? Definitely. The tea is very reasonably priced and the atmosphere in the seating area was very peaceful. They also had a mix of seating which I like in a cafe – sofas, armchairs or chairs. And where else are you going to see a Tea Tricycle?


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The Hatchet Inn

12 Market Place, Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 5BD.   (View on map)

Leather armchair, tea and a log fire at The Hatchet Inn.

A Wetherspoon pub is not somewhere to go for a great cup of tea, but it will do a passable cup of tea and it will do it cheaply. Every Wetherspoon’s I’ve ever been in will serve a cup of tea in the same way: the teabag in the mug, a saucer on top of the mug and a milk jug on top of the saucer. This does allow you to carry it all with one hand (handy) but does mean that drinking the tea leaves you with a dilemma. Is the saucer for the teabag? For the mug? For the mug and the teabag? I tend to use the saucer for the teabag and milk jug and let the mug sit straight on the table as it’s quite a small saucer and things don’t balance properly if you try to put the teabag and the mug on the saucer.

Anyway, the tea at The Hatchet Inn was hot and strong and only cost 79p, but the best thing about this place is the log fire. The pub opens at 7am and though I’ve never made it there quite that early, I have made it in before 8am and the log fire is lit if it’s cold outside. A leather armchair, a book, a cup of tea and a log fire. Lovely.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No, a Tetley drawstring teabag.
Milk jug? Yes, a tiny one.
Price? 79p for tea, though the menu says it’s £1.19 I have never been charged that much. Sometimes I am charged 99p though, must remember to ask why the price changes when that next happens. They also do a loyalty card with a free tea after five hot drinks are purchased. Bargin.
Cake? No, but muffins, biscuits, breakfasts (including hot drink and a breakfast item – such as a a bacon roll – for £1.89).
Go again? Yes, there’s a log fire!


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La Baguetterie

22-24 The High Street, Theale, Berkshire, RG7 5AW   (View on map)

Tea that comes with a biscuit at La Baguetterie.

La Baguetterie seems to focus on lunch food rather than tea, as it has a large counter with a variety of different sandwich and baguette fillings. Unlike some sandwich shops it has a reasonable amount of seating so you can sit down and enjoy your lunch at a table. I went in the afternoon and it was very quiet, but that was just what I felt like so it was fine by me.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £1.60 for tea and ‘infusions’.
Cake? A very limited selection of pastries and tarts when I went, but as I went in the afternoon I imagine that they had already sold a lot as they were clearing up for the day. The tea came with a caramelised biscuit anyway.
Go again? Yes, if I’m in Theale.

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Monkey Island Hotel

Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire, SL6 2EE.   (View on map)

Monkey Island Hotel is on an island, you drive into the car park and then cross a bridge to get to the hotel and grounds. The day we went there was a mini heatwave so it was baking hot and the cool breeze from the river as we crossed the bridge was most welcome.

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There was a private party in the grounds so it was busy outside, we sat inside in a room lined with wood panels. It wasn’t as hot as outside, but it was still very warm. We asked for some jugs of tap water as the journey had been long and hot. Though there were five of us, two of the party were too hot to eat much, so we ordered four afternoon teas between five.

There were four sandwiches per afternoon tea, one each of: ham; salmon; cream cheese and cucumber; and egg and cress. An odd touch was the crisps in between the sandwiches and my first reaction was that we were at a children’s party. They were ready salted and the day was so hot we did wonder if they had been added just to make sure no one keeled over from the heat. We enjoyed them – though I think we would have been less impressed if the weather had been colder.

The other strange twist were the scones. When the tiers of food were first brought there was some confusion as to why we had profiteroles instead of scones, or maybe we had both? On closer inspection we just had scones, but it looked like they had been backed in a shallow bun tin rather than a flat baking tray and so they were very round with a tin line across the side. It made them extremely crunchy.

The cakes made up for the scones and crisps as there were so many different ones and one of each variety for each afternoon tea: chocolate brownie; fruit tart; ginger cake with ginger snap on top; mini bakewell tart; cheesecake; chocolate eclair; and strawberries dipped in chocolate.

We had the usual problem of running out of milk and running out of jam (one tiny pot per afternoon tea, though there were four mini scones per afternoon tea).

SH noticed some more people enjoying afternoon tea as we left, only they had mini macaroons. We were jealous, especially as they were in many different colours, but were too full to go and ask for some.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No, but Twinings teabag. Very limited black tea choice of English Breakfast and Earl Grey, the rest were fruit or herbal.
Milk jug? Yes, but we had to ask for refills twice.
Price? £14.95 for each afternoon tea.
Cake? Yes! All tiny.
Go again? It’s a good place to go if you’re already relatively near, but the scones mean I wouldn’t make a special effort.

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Hungerford Arcade, 26 High Street, Hungerford, Berkshire, RG17 0NF   01488 683701   (View on map)

A view of the rafters in Rafters cafe in Hungerford Arcade

D and I were in Hungerford and looking for somewhere to have tea that I hadn’t been before, she suggested the cafe at the top of Hungerford Arcade. The cafe is called Rafters because you can see all the rafters as you are sitting in the apex of the shop. Hungerford Arcade is much bigger inside than it appears on the outside and every spare inch of space is given over to selling antiques, even the displays in the cafe are for sale.

Rafters was busy when we went in, always a good sign, and it took me a while to choose my lunch as the sandwiches, salads and pies on offer all looked good. I went for the soup in the end. D went up to inspect the cakes more closely before making her decision and said the scones looked so good she was going to have a cream tea, but with coffee instead of tea.

The staff called this a ‘cream coffee’ and though that makes logical sense, it still seems like a strange term to me. But then R did used to think that a ‘cream tea’ was tea with cream on the top, like some Frankenstein version of hot chocolate and when we ordered him an actual cream tea was disappointed that he’d already experienced it. He wasn’t disappointed for long though, as a cream tea is still a good thing.

Soup, tea and D's 'cream coffee' at Rafters

Anyway, my generous portion of soup arrived with a warmed half brown baguette and it was very tasty. D’s cream coffee arrived with a warm homemade scone, clotted cream, strawberry jam, butter and a sliced strawberry. And a filter coffee. My Earl Grey tea was a Twinings tea bag affair and there was a proper milk jug. D saved me some scone as she said the strawberry jam was very good and I had to try it – she was right, it was good. Tasting of strawberry instead of jam, an amazingly strawberry strawberry jam.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No, but Twinings teabag.
Milk jug? Yup, one for D and I to share that was actually big enough for both of us to take milk. Hurrah!
Price? £2.20 for the Earl Grey, £4.75 for the soup, £5.25 for the cream tea (or coffee).
Cake? Yes.
Go again? Yes.

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The Tea Kiosk

Caversham Court, Church Road, Caversham, Reading.  Please note the tea kiosk is only open Thursday-Sunday (and Bank Holidays), April – October.

The view of the first section of Caversham Court, with the 'footprint' of the old house.

The Tea Kiosk is a tea kiosk in Caversham Court. Caversham Court is a bit of Caversham owned by the council – the gardens were redeveloped with lottery funding in 2008 and opened to the public in 2009. The kiosk is in the gardens and run by different charities with the profits going to those charities. A nice example of community partnership working and tea. There is also a Friends group and more info about the gardens can be found on their website.

Mug of tea and custard Danish (my favourite kind of Danish pastry) at The Tea Kiosk in Caversham Court Gardens.

I’ve gone a bit photo happy here as the gardens are beautiful. They lead down to the river and are well worth a visit. There are toilets in the gardens and this, along with the tea kiosk, makes it a great place to visit.

There were a selection of drinks available the day I went, including tea, coffee, hot chocolate and squash. Also a selection of homemade cakes and some Danish pastries. Yum. Very cheap too – everything was £1. As the kiosk is run by different charities on different days, I’m not sure if these prices stay the same every day, but I’m sure there won’t be too much difference.

View of the Thames from my table.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Milk added by the lovely kiosk ladies.
Price? £1 for tea, £1 for any bit of cake.
Cake? Yes – and all homemade.
Go again? Yes, but it’s only open Thurs-Sun (and Bank Holidays), April-October so I probably won’t be heading down here until 2011 now.

View of the kiosk (far left) from another bit of the garden.

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The Forbury Hotel, 26 The Forbury, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 3EJ


Teapots and sandwiches at Cerise

When KD said she wanted to go for afternoon tea in Reading and that it looked quite reasonable at £15 a head I was very impressed. When she mentioned it was in The Forbury I was astounded to realise I’d never thought of checking here before.


Cerise is the restaurant inside The Forbury Hotel and we headed there on a Sunday afternoon to sample the afternoon tea. They offer an afternoon tea for £15 – which includes a round of sandwiches each, two scones, a selection of patisserie cakes and tea. If you pay £20 then it includes a glass of champagne as well.

There was no room on the table for the cakes and the sandwiches, so we had a 'cakes in waiting' area.

All the food was extremely tasty and we had problems finishing off all the cakes (though we managed it in the end, naturally). There were some hiccups with the afternoon – bizarrely, we weren’t given any knives (though we each had a fork and a spoon). As we were in a private booth area we couldn’t easily attract the attention of the waiting staff so we improvised with the spoons and everything worked out fine. We also constantly ran out of milk – only two small jugs for six people didn’t seem like enough. The tea isn’t loose leaf but I’ll forgive it that as the food was good and it’s very reasonably priced. This place is more about the food than the tea, I feel.

Once the sandwiches were consumed the cakes made it onto the table. Take a look at the mini mound of scones as well.

I would recommend afternoon tea at Cerise as an end to a hard morning of shopping or a good place to meet friends when you need a proper catch up. The atmosphere is calm and private and the food was very tasty.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No, Twinings teabags.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £15 for afternoon tea, £20 for champagne afternoon tea.
Cake? Yes – a selection including blackberry macaroon, fruitcake, strawberry tart, chocolate something, meringue and an eclair. Mini fruit and plain scones too, with clotted cream and strawberry jam.
Go again? Yes, definitely. You should too.

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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.