Tea for you and me

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


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Ancoats Coffee Co.

Unit 9, Royal Mills, 17 Redhill Street, Ancoats, M4 5BA

Visited on: 27th August 2016

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The inside/outside area at Ancoats Coffee Co.

I know, I know, going to drink tea somewhere that calls itself a coffee company is bound to end in trouble, but I was with people who wanted to drink coffee. And that’s fine, I used to drink coffee too (just not as much as I drank tea). Plus, the whole reason we were in Ancoats in the first place was that H had mentioned how good the pizza was at Rudy’s Pizza was and I wanted to try it (it was very, very good).

H had heard about Ancoats Coffee Co. and how it had good coffee. So off we went. It’s in a converted mill, with seating inside and seating inside/outside – outside the coffee shop but underneath a glass roof, in what would have been a courtyard in the mill.

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The cappuccinos and the biscuits.

We ordered our drinks: H had a decaf cappuccino (and wasn’t impressed when they charged an extra 50p for decaf without that being obviously listed on the menu or being warned about it first) and E had a normal cappuccino. I tried to have rooibos, but I think now rooibos tea has become so mainstream that Tetley sell it, it’s too mainstream for hipster Manchester – I couldn’t get rooibos in any of the places we went in during this visit. I ended up having red berry and hibiscus on the advice of the guy who served us. We also had two lavender and lemon biscuits – one for me and one for E and H to share.

The biscuit was delicious, sweet and light and with a lovely lemon icing. E and H said that their coffee was very good. My tea was, well, not really my cup of tea. It came in a tea pot, so that was good, but it also came with an empty carafe and a wine glass with honey on the inside. I don’t take sugar with my tea and wouldn’t have ordered a biscuit if I’d known that the tea would come with honey. Anyway, I tried it as it was. I quite like the idea of having the carafe to pour the tea into once the tea is strong enough, but the tea itself was quite bitter. You needed the honey to offset the bitterness. The issue with having the honey in the glass is that the first glass of tea is very sweet and the last glass of tea is not sweet at all. I didn’t finish it. It’s my own fault really, I know I don’t particularly like red berry style fruit teas, but I wanted a cup of tea.

Overall verdict? We liked the space and E and H liked their coffee, but we would have liked a little more information before ordering. I would have liked to know the tea would come with honey and H would have liked to know that having decaf coffee would be an extra 50p (H would have had a normal coffee if that had been explained).

  • Teapot? Yes, and a carafe too. First time I’ve ever been given both.
  • Leaf tea? Yes. Well, I suppose technically it wasn’t tea, but it was a loose infusion.
  • Milk jug? No milk with this beverage.
  • Price? £2.70 for the infusion/tea, £1.50 for the biscuit and £3.20 for the coffee (I think, not too sure of the coffee price as I wasn’t drinking it).
  • Cake? Yes and brownies and biscuits.
  • Go again? No. Not unless I was with people who really wanted coffee.


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Reefside Kiosk

Boscombe Pier, Boscombe, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH5 1BN.

Visited on: 31st May 2016

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Dorset Tea from the Reefside Kiosk, Boscombe Pier. 

R and I walked from Bournemouth seafront to Boscombe Pier in the rain. It wasn’t particularly cold rain, but it was more than just drizzle and so by the time we arrived at the pier we were both in need of a cup of tea.

Ice cream with a flake, sea in the background.

Ice cream! With a flake! Next to the sea!

Reefside Kiosk is a kiosk at the entrance to Boscombe Pier. The kiosk had black tea, green tea or fruit tea, but unfortunately no rooibos or decaf. R was happy as he’s a fan of green tea and had a cup of that. I’m not a fan of fruit tea (it makes my teeth feel funny) and green tea has caffeine in. Reader, I wanted a cup of tea badly. I ordered the black tea. Then I moved across to the Reefside Ices window and ordered an ice cream (because we were at the seaside).

The tea came in a paper cup and was a Dorset Tea teabag. The milk came in little plastic pots. There was a wooden stick instead of a spoon. But wow, did that cup of tea taste good. Was it the fact it was caffeinated? Was it that it was a brand local to where we were? Was it that I drank it sat on a bench watching the rain fall on the sea but stayed dry as the benches on the pier are covered by a roof? Probably it was all of those things.

The ice cream helped too. My ice cream was Purbeck ice cream and I had a two scoops cone: one of honeycomb hash and one of chocolate. With a chocolate flake. It was very good.

Boscombe Pier, unlike Bournemouth Pier, is free to walk on and has no amusement arcades. When we were there they were installing mini golf (though this seemed a risky entertainment for a pier – how many golf balls were going to go in the sea?). There were also musical instruments that you could play and I had a go on all of them. They made lovely chiming noises.

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The view from our bench.

We didn’t go further than the pier, but Boscombe seemed much quieter than Bournemouth. It was very peaceful sitting on the pier and looking out over the sea, listening to the waves and watching the birds. The setting makes this one of my favourite places to drink tea so far. Thanks to the lady in Bournemouth’s tourist information office for suggesting that we walked down to Boscombe pier.

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The view of the Reefside Kiosk from the road. I took this after we’d eaten, notice that the ices section has now closed for the day.

  • Teapot? No.
  • Leaf tea? No, but it was a Dorset Tea teabag and we were in Dorset.
  • Milk jug? No, little plastic pots.
  • Price? £1.60 for a cup of tea. £3.60 for two scoop ice cream and an extra 30p for the flake (worth every penny).
  • Cake? No, but there were sweet crêpes, which looked amazing. Sadly I was too full to try one when we were there.
  • Go again? Yes.

 


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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.

 

 


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The Cookie Jar

Unit 3, 164-170 High Street, Crowthorne, Berkshire, RG45 7AT.

Visited on: Thursday 8th October 2015

The Cookie Jar

A view of The Cookie Jar from my table.

Cookie Jar tea and brownie

This photo is deceptive, because the brownie doesn’t look that big. I should have put a ruler up to the cup so you could see it’s a big cup, but that it was an even bigger chocolate brownie.

I know this is a blog about tea, but the most memorable thing about The Cookie Jar was the huge and very delicious slab of chocolate brownie. The rooibos tea was nice, but came in a cup rather than a pot and wasn’t loose leaf. I liked the cute little milk bottle and managed to retrieve the lid after I dropped it in my tea (my fault, not the fault of the milk bottle).

There aren’t that many tables in The Cookie Jar (three, I think?) and there’s no toilet. So it’s not a place to linger, but for a tasty sugar hit and a hot drink, it’s definitely the place to go.

  • Teapot? No.
  • Leaf tea? No, but they did have rooibos.
  • Milk jug? Yes, though again it was a little glass bottle for the milk. Came with a little lid and everything.
  • Price? £1.90 for a cup of rooibos tea. £1.75 for a huge piece of chocolate brownie.
  • Cake? Yes, all made on the premises. Cookies (naturally), ice cream, biscuits, meringues, and three different types of chocolate brownie: choctastic, vegan and marshmallow. I think there was cake too, but to be honest, once I’d spotted the brownies I’d stopped paying attention to any of the other things. They also sell savoury food at lunch.
  • Go again? Yes.


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Manhattan Coffee Club

Upper Level, The Oracle, Reading, RG1 2AG.

Visited on: Saturday 5th September 2015

Inside Manhattan Coffee Club

The interior of the Manhattan Coffee Club, I liked how the big glass windows let in as much light as possible.

Another new cafe in the Oracle shopping centre, the Manhattan Coffee Club has been open for a couple of months now. It’s not that big, and in keeping with all the cafes inside the Oracle, has no natural light, but it still feels relatively light and airy inside. This light feeling is partly created by the green plants on every table and by the door, but unfortunately all of them are plastic.

The chairs were far more comfortable than they looked – with a solid seat that I didn’t mind sitting for an hour in. The table tops were rough planks of wood and while these look nice I imagine they’re a complete pain to keep clean. Certainly my table had crumbs stuck in between the gaps.

No loose leaf tea here, but they did have rooibos – Chilli Chocolate flavour. The barista let me sniff the teabag before purchasing as I wasn’t sure about it and I appreciated that. It didn’t smell of chocolate at all and indeed it didn’t taste of chocolate either, but the chilli gave it a warm zing when I drank it. No teapot, but at least the mug came with a saucer so I had somewhere to deposit my used teabag.

I seem to have developed a habit of ordering the chocolate brownie wherever I go, so I stuck to form and ordered another one here. This time the brownie was slightly chilled and had a fudge-like texture. I enjoyed it and would order it again.

There are some nice touches here, like the wooden tray my items were brought on and the community book swap area in the corner. The salads, sandwiches and toasted sandwich looked really good too. Overall though, it’s not somewhere I think I will go again. Partly it’s things like the plastic plants and the bumpy table that put me off, mainly it’s that there wasn’t a teapot and that I didn’t particularly like that flavour of rooibos tea. I imagine that if coffee is your hot beverage of choice that this is the place to go though, so if it is give it a try and let me know.

Tea and brownie at Manhattan Coffee Club.

Chilli chocolate rooibos and a very nice chocolate brownie at Manhattan Coffee Club.

I do think that Manhattan Coffee Club should be congratulated on opening in the Oracle shopping centre. An independent ethical coffee shop in a shopping centre is not a usual thing and I hope they are very successful.

  • Teapot? No.
  • Leaf tea? No. The London Tea Company ‘Rooibos Chilli Chocolate’ tea bag. Looked like all their tea was tea bag tea.
  • Teapot? No.
  • Milk jug? I don’t know. This particular tea didn’t need milk and everyone else I could see was drinking coffee. Feel I’ve failed a little as I didn’t find this out.
  • Price? £1.90 for speciality tea, £2.30 for the brownie.
  • Cake? Yes, plus brownie, millionaire’s shortbread etc. Also sells salads, sandwiches and American chocolate and snacks such as Hershey’s.
  • Go again? Probably not -there are other cafes nearby that I would prefer to go to.


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Cafe W, Reading

Waterstones, 12 Holy Brook Mall, The Oracle, Reading, RG1 2AQ.

Visited on: Saturday 29th August 2015

View of Costa at Waterstones Oracle

A fuzzy photo (sorry) of what the Costa Coffee in this Waterstones used to look like.

View of the inside of Cafe W

View of what the new Cafe W looks like. The plant pots on the tables are a nice touch.

So, here we are. Cafe W. So new it’s not listed on the Cafe W page on the Waterstones website yet. It was advertised as opening yesterday, but when I turned up yesterday afternoon there were no tables or chairs – instead people were running round unpacking things and being trained on how to use the coffee machine. I came again today and low and behold: a new cafe.

Not everything was up and running yet. There were paper cups because there were problems with the dishwasher (apparently it ‘blew up’), but as it’s the first day and things aren’t yet ship shape, all the hot drinks were discounted to £1. Fair enough.

Most impressively, they have a selection of loose leaf tea that includes rooibos. I tasted some of the chocolate cake that was in tasting chunks on a plate on the counter and it was a good strong flavour. I ordered some (instead of a chocolate brownie) on the strength of the taste and the recommendation of the lady behind the counter. It was nice, but very soggy – one of those cakes that are designed to be gooey and pudding like. I wasn’t that keen. I’ll try the chocolate brownie next time.

Tea and cake at Cafe W

Rooibos tea, milk in a paper cup and a generous slice of chocolate cake at Cafe W.

There are less tables in here than there used to be when it was Costa. Other changes include the walls now being Waterstones green and the tables being a lighter wood. Overall it feels much brighter. The staff were friendly and chatty and I’d be interested to come back again when they’re more established.

  • Teapot? No. But perhaps there will be teapots once the dishwasher is up and running?
  • Leaf tea? Yes, Suki loose leaf tea.
  • Milk jug? No, but milk was provided in another paper cup so I could add my own and the lady serving me apologised for the lack of jug, so I’m guessing there will be a jug when the dishwasher is sorted.
  • Price? £1 for the rooibos tea (reduced from £1.80) and £2.50 for the chocolate cake.
  • Cake? Yes, chocolate cake, carrot cake, croissants, chocolate brownie and some sort of square traybake with jam.
  • Go again? Yes. This isn’t my favourite cafe in Reading, mainly because though there are windows the windows look out into the corridor of the Oracle shopping centre and so there’s no natural light, but I will come back again because I like the feel of the place and because they have loose leaf tea. Also, if it’s the same as the Costa before it, it’s a useful cafe if you need to get some work/tea drinking done after 6pm (as the Oracle stays open to 8pm every weekday).


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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.


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Shed

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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The Breakfast Club, Spitalfields

12 – 16 Artillery Lane, Spitalfields, London, E1 7LS.   (View on map)

The cup is not really this small, it’s just that the pancakes are big.

Outside was grey but inside The Breakfast Club it was a bright, shiny morning. Even the toilets were cheerful – the ladies toilet is decorated with ‘My Little Pony’ wallpaper. The cafes are a homage to breakfast and the 1980s and this works well.

I plumped for the pancakes with berries, maple syrup and vanilla cream; along with some English Breakfast tea. I was a bit disappointed that the tea came in a cup, but at least the cup was big and the tea bag was teapigs.

The only American style pancakes I’ve ever had for breakfast prior to this were from McDonald’s and so I wasn’t expecting much. These were amazing – light yet filling, sweet yet savoury. I don’t know what vanilla cream is exactly (maybe just vanilla flavoured whipped cream?) but I’m now a big fan.

Teapot? No, a cup and saucer with a tea bag.
Leaf tea? No, though it was a tasty tea bag.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £2 for the tea, £6.50 for the pancakes with berries.
Cake? Not when I went, it was too early in the morning. They did have some cake listed on their lunch and dinner menu.
Go again? Yes. I would like to go again and try the ‘All American’ pancakes – pancakes with bacon, eggs, sausage, potatoes and maple syrup. I’ve always been sceptical about this combination, but I think I trust The Breakfast Club enough to give it a go. I’d also like to try going in the evening. After I’d been EM told me that the fridge I was sitting next to opens up in the evening and you can walk through it into a club. I’d like to be able to say I’ve walked through a fridge.


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EATIN

Birchanger Green Motorway Services (Welcome Break Group Ltd), Junction 8, M11, Old Dunmow Road, Essex, CM23 5QZ.   (View on map)

The tea at EATIN was expensive and made with a teabag, but at least the milk didn’t come in a plastic pot. The really interesting thing about this tea stop was the triangular Toblerone pastry. I like Toblerone and although it didn’t look that great I thought I should try it for blog research purposes.

R ignored the pasty in favour of a fry up.

It’s triangular. I like triangles.

The inside of the mysterious triangle.

Unfortunately it didn’t taste that great. The pastry was very heavy and solid – as if it hadn’t been cooked properly – and there was a lump of Toblerone-style filling in the centre. It may have tasted better if it was warm. I wouldn’t recommend it but I applaud the attempt to create something new.

It is apparently the ‘UK’s first branded pastry treat’ and the photos on the supplier website look very different to the one I had – far lighter. If I see one that looks puffier I’m willing to try it again and let you know.

Teapot? No, a mug with a tea bag in.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? You helped yourself to milk from a big urn thing, presumably designed so people could add milk to cereal as well.
Price? £3.15 for the tea and the pastry (as I had the tea-and-any-pastry-for-£3.15 deal). £2.15 for tea and £1.99 for the pastry if you don’t get the deal.
Cake? Yes, normal muffins and pastries.
Go again? Not by choice, but then service stations are more about location that provision and so I may end up here again at some point.