Tea for you and me

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

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Le Valentin

30-32 Passage Jouffroy, 75009, Paris, France

Visited on: Thursday 22nd October 2015

2015-10-22b Le Valentin cakes

A view of the cake counter at Le Valentin.

Another Lonely Planet recommendation, I’d been looking forward to going to a proper French patisserie the whole time we’d been in Paris. Le Valentin, which is situated in a covered shopping arcade, did not disappoint.

2015-10-22b Le Valentin table

Chocolate eclair, chocolate cake, fancy sugar sticks and pots of tea.

The waitress seated us and then came to take our order. R only wanted tea, but the waitress and I managed to persuade him to try a chocolate eclair as well. I asked for something that was chocolate and the waitress pointed out a particular cake in the cabinet. It had a special name, but I’m afraid I couldn’t quite catch it.

The tea was loose leaf and came in metal teapots. R had chosen a sencha green tea and I had chosen rooibos, neither came with milk and I didn’t ask for milk as I felt I should try it without. In the end, that turned out to be a good idea as the cake was very rich and the tea was more refreshing without milk.


2015-10-22b Le Valentin tea

My glowing rooibos tea.

Each of us were served a fancy sugar stick with the tea – a wooden stick with crystallised sugar on it. Neither of us take sugar with our tea but as they were so fancy I folded a napkin around them and took them home with me to give to someone who did take sugar in their tea. R found this highly amusing.

R’s chocolate eclair was light and not too heavy on the cream. My chocolate thing was rich but not cloying and I especially appreciated the little piece of silver on the top of it. The tea was good too.


2015-10-22b Le Valentin cake

My chocolate cake thing in all its shiny glory.

2015-10-22b Le Valentin eaten cake

The cake and mousse interior of my chocolate cake thing.

We were sat next to the cake counter, so could see what everyone else was ordering and I enjoyed watching everyone come and go. Good tea, great cake and a nice experience overall.

  • Teapot? Yes.
  • Leaf tea? Yes. Not only that, there was a very wide choice of tea on their tea menu.
  • Milk jug? No, but neither needed milk.
  • Price? €5.10 for the rooibos tea, €5.50 (I think) for R’s sencha tea, €4.40 for the eclair (eat in price) and around €6 for the chocolate deliciousness that I had (eat in price).
  • Cake? Yes! And lots of it. Plus pastries, breads, savoury tarts and pies.
  • 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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Cocoa Central, Commercial Road, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 1DF   (View on map)

The bright colours of the bench I sat on, this was all along one wall and had many more colours on it.

We drove to Swanage via the chain link ferry from Poole and there was a striking brightly coloured advert for a chocolate shop and cafe on the ferry that caught my eye. I thought I would need to check it out. When we got to Swanage the first sign I saw was the sign directing us to the cafe and we made our way there before going anywhere else, but as it doesn’t do meals as such (and R was on his quest for a prawn mayo baguette) we ended up in Earthlights instead. So, after Earthlights and a wander round looking at the sea, I suggested we go back to Chococo.

The shop and cafe appealed to me for a number of reasons and you may be surprised to find that the chocolate wasn’t the main reason it appealed so much. It was the colour that made me want to go in. The road which Chococo is in had bright bunting in the shop colours, and inside was seating painted in stripes in the shop colours and so on. I liked the joyful brightness of the place. The second reason was of course the chocolate.

A close up of R's Deluxe hot chocolate.

There may not be any main meals on the menu and in fact I don’t remember anything savoury being on the menu at all, but there was still a lot to choose from. I asked for advice from the waitress, who said that it was all very good but did recommend a couple of things. I went for one of her suggestions: a cranberry and white chocolate brownie. R went for the Deluxe hot chocolate. My tea of choice was an Earl Grey.

When it arrived, R’s hot chocolate was very impressive. It had whipped Dorset cream, mini marshmallows and mini chocolate malt balls and came in a cereal bowl. All the crockery we got served was Emma Bridgewater, another reason I liked this cafe. My tea came on it’s own little tray (with a chocolate) and my chocolate brownie was very good and very strong. The chocolate that came with my tea was amazing. I definitely recommend their chocolate. They even have their own recipe book with all the good things in (including the brownie that I tried).

Tea, brownie and Deluxe hot chocolate at Chococo. Note the dotty crockery and that R has already demolished quite a bit of his hot chocolate despite it only being on our table for half a minute (good thing I took the close up photo as soon as it arrived).

I tried to get R to go back again the next day, but he’s just not that into chocolate. I’d happily go back now.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No, but all the teas were Clipper teabags.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £1.50 for the tea, £3.55 for the Deluxe hot chocolate, not sure how much the brownie was – perhaps £2 something?
Cake? Muffins, brownies, cookies, cake biscuits, chocolates, ice cream, fondue (with the widest range of things to dip in it I’ve ever seen on a menu – they even had trifle fingers listed), hot chocolate that came with bits of orange covered in chocolate, milkshakes and chocolate chip scones (if I had spotted them before I ordered my brownie I would have tried one of those).
Go again? Yes, yes, yes.


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Gorvett and Stone

21 Duke Street, Henley-on-Thames, South Oxfordshire, RG9 1UR   (View on map)

'Breakfast' drinking chocolate and a rose hip truffle at Gorvett and Stone.

Don’t all shout at once, but this isn’t a review of tea. I know, I know, this is a tea blog, but it wasn’t my fault, honest. I saw the listing of different types of tea in the window and so went into Gorvett and Stone to drink some tea. I should point out here that they make chocolate and the whole place smelt so invitingly of chocolate that I found myself asking what kind of drinking chocolate they would recommend. The lovely gentleman behind the counter explained the different types and I plumped for the ‘Breakfast’ blend. Oh, it was good. So good I’m throwing caution to the wind and sticking it on here – rules were made to be broken. And if that shocks you then cover your eyes now – before I can tell you that I take my Earl Grey with milk.

It was frothy and smooth with just a hint of the kick that comes with 70% cocoa, but none of the bitterness that you sometimes find in cheap dark chocolate. If you order a hot drink to drink in you also get to pick one of their lovely chocolates to have with it. I picked the rose hip truffle. It was a tiny mouthful of pleasure. And such a pretty tea cup. I will go back one day when I have more time and order the tea and then order the drinking chocolate afterwards (I was going to say I would just order the tea, but in my new confessional spirit I admit I will not be strong enough to resist the chocolate, best to have both).

Teapot? No, but then it wasn’t tea.
Leaf tea? Er, no.
Milk jug? Not applicable.
Price? £2.65 for the drinking chocolate. The tea was around £2 for a cup for one and £5/6 for a pot for two.
Cake? No, but lots of chocolate!
Go again? Yes.


The Chocolate Teapot

4 Station Road, Esher, Surrey, KT10 8DY   (View on map)   020 8398 8866

The view from our table at The Chocolate Teapot (the window tables were taken when we arrived or we would naturally have nabbed one of those).

The Chocolate Teapot was recommended by a reader of the blog in September and it’s taken me a while to go visit but I have managed it.

The cafe is tucked away next to Esher train station and if you’re driving there you’ll need to park in one of the roads coming off Station Road. We headed over there on a Sunday for an early lunch and when we got there they were still serving breakfast (lunch doesn’t start until 1pm) which suited us fine.

The tables and chairs are nice and solid, with pretty tablecloths and flowers in vases. The china is patterned and a mix of different styles and colours and we all enjoyed seeing which teapot we got given. There were shelves high up on the wall with many different teapots on and while we were eating a couple brought in an unusual teapot for the owners to add to the collection on display in the tearoom.

A feast of tea and breakfast at The Chocolate Teapot.

There were a range of different teas available and a range of different breakfasts. Dad and S went for the full English and Mum and I went for the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. I haven’t made a note of which tea we chose but I seem to remember S and I had Lady Grey with Mum going for Darjeeling and Dad for English Breakfast. Apologies if I’m wrong.

The food was good and the tea was hot and kept on coming. We polished off all the breakfasts and then considered the cake. The Chocolate Teapot has one of my favourite things to see in any cafe or tearooms: a cake filled sideboard. It’s always a good sign as it gives you a range of cake and implies they are busy enough to get through all the cake on display without any trouble. There was a huge selection but we went for bakewell tart, chocolate fudge cake and apple cake (I think, obviously I was too excited by the eating and drinking at this cafe as I haven’t got my normal level of notes to refer to). All the cake was excellent, we were very happy.

Cake and tea at The Chocolate Teapot.

Teapot? Yes, lots of different pretty patterned ones.
Leaf tea? No, but good quality teabags.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £1.40 for speciality tea, £4.50 for smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, £5.95 for full English.
Cake? Yes, on the magical cake sideboard.
Go again? Yes, especially as they offer a basic afternoon tea for £5.95 and a larger version for £7.50.

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Thorntons Cafe, Altrincham

61 George Street, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA14 1RN

Tea and rich chocolate gateaux at Thorntons Cafe

Tea and rich chocolate gateaux at Thorntons Cafe

As you probably know, Thorntons is a chain of chocolate shops. I had heard tell that there were some shops that had cafes in, but I’d never seen one, until now. M and I were in Altrincham by mistake: we got lost and decided to stop for a cup of tea and a wander before trying to set off again. We also checked a map in Waterstones to find out where to go. Anyway, we were looking for somewhere for a cup of tea and when I saw this Thortons cafe I jumped at the chance to try it out. We ordered a pot of tea for two and a piece of rich chocolate gateaux.

Thorntons don’t give you a biscuit with your tea or coffee, they give you a a chocolate, which seems a much better idea to me. The cake we had was stunningly rich and that was just what we needed.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? Tea bags.
Milk jug? A little jug each.
Price? £1.65 each for tea.
Cake? Any kind, as long as it’s chocolate.
Go again? Yes.