Tea for you and me

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


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Quaker Centre Cafe

Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ   (View on map)

Tiffin and tea in the Quaker Centre Cafe

I was meeting a friend near Euston Station and got to Euston too early, so went off in search of tea. I spotted Friends House and a sign saying ‘All welcome’ so I went in. It was a warm friendly cafe with natural wood fittings and a bookshop next to it. It felt peaceful and relaxed.

There was a choice of teas and coffees and a variety of cakes, biscuits, traybakes, sandwiches etc. Also a soup meal deal I think. I had an excellent tea break after the hustle and bustle of the tube.

When I met SW and told her where I’d been she said that she goes there a lot, and that they have a restaurant as well as the cafe that does very good main meals. I’ll definitely try going to the cafe again next time I’m around this area of London.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No, but it was all Clipper and mostly fairtrade.
Milk jug? Yes, big one you helped yourself to.
Price? The seriously bargin price of £1 for a mug of tea. £1! Tiffin was £1.30.
Cake? Yes and traybakes, muffins, biscuits, sandwiches, soup.
Go again? Yes.

 


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tea

1 Paternoster Square, St Paul’s Churchyard, Paternoster Square, London, EC4M 7DX   (View on map)

View of St Paul's Cathedral from just outside tea.

This place has been on my wish list for a while, but before then it was torn out of a copy of the Metro and given to me by my friend HR. I’ve been carrying it around in my tatty map of London ever since. I mentioned this to A and we hatched a plan to go visit the next time we met up in London. So, on a brisk Saturday we headed along the Thames and found our way to tea.

On our way to find this place we’d been past a market stall full of lovely cakes, but had decided to put off the cake eating until we reached our destination. This may have affected how disappointed we were with the selection of cakes on offer at ‘tea’. There were the usual suspects, nothing out of the ordinary really. I have been asked by A to mention that she felt the cakes didn’t match the tea – that with such specialist and sometimes delicate tea there should have been specialist and delicate cakes. We had some chocolate shortbread with our tea, it was okay but not that exciting.

A insisted my tea photography needs more excitement, so here is her answer - a tea pouring action shot.

The Darjeeling 2nd Flush I had was light and smooth and airy, and A enjoyed her Yellow Gold Oolong. For central London they were a very cheap purchase, definitely somewhere to stop if you’re round and about that way.

On the whole, ‘tea’ was like a Starbucks but with lots of tea choices instead of coffee choices. I think this is a good thing – trying to take the mystery out of drinking good tea has to be a bonus. It was just unfortunate that we were in the mood for something with a bit of mystery to it, something with ceremony and intriguing cakes.

Darjeeling 2nd Flush at the bottom, Yellow Gold Oolong at the top and chocolate shortbread to the left.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? Yes and a really wide choice of leaf tea with simple and clear explanations of what each was like.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? An amazingly cheap £1.85 for Darjeeling 2nd Flush, £2.50 for Yellow Gold Oolong. They also do afternoon tea for £10. Not sure how much the cakes were but I remember thinking they were very reasonably priced.
Cake? Yes, but the usual muffins, chocolate shortbread, victoria sponge etc.
Go again? Yes, the tea itself was very good, but not when we’re looking for something a bit more special.


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Jam and Tea

The Vintage Marketplace, Vintage by Hemingway festival 2011, Southbank, London.

Cupcakes and bunting.

This is a little different from other reviews on here because you can’t go visit this one. It’s been and gone. Over. No link to viewing it on the map because it was a ‘pop-up’ tearoom just for the festival, in a tent in the vintage marketplace section. It was provided by Jam and Tea and had a limited range of menu options – cupcake and tea, cream tea, petit fours and tea, or afternoon tea. LB and I plumped for the cupcake and tea as we could see rows of them on cake stands at the back of the tent.

It was a very hot, very busy day and the tent was also very hot and very busy but everyone inside was having a good time and enjoying the tea. Once we’d ordered a stand with cupcakes on was brought to us and we chose the ones we wanted – both of us picked the cream coloured ones (no difference in flavour, just difference in colour).

I think the best thing about this place was the set dressing – all the bunting, photos, postcards, tablecloths and crockery. For example, another lady on our table ordered the cream tea and her jam and cream came in tiny teacups. As this was a vintage festival there were a few people dressed in vintage clothing and this added to the fun feel of the tent.

Tea and cupcakes for two, along with a bunch of sweet peas.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £5 for tea and cupcake, £7 for tea and petit fours, £8 for a cream tea, £15 for afternoon tea.
Cake? Only those mentioned above.
Go again? Yes, but to the main cafe, not to the kiosk.


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The Steward’s Room

Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, London, NW3 7JR.   (View on map)

The pond for birds rather than the one for ladies, but it gives an idea of the calm beauty of the ponds on Hampstead Heath.

The Steward’s Room is not the main cafe at Kenwood House, but the small kiosk style one by the side that serves ice cream. A and I had spent a very pleasant day swimming at the Ladies’ Pond, but it was a very cold pond so after our second swim we went in search of hot tea. The lifeguard informed us that Kenwood House was the place to go, so we wandered past the greenery and marvelled at the view of Hampstead Heath before arriving at the house.

The main cafe (The Brew House) was very busy and I felt like an ice cream anyway, so the kiosk seemed the best option. If I went again I’d go to the main cafe as they had proper teapots, cups and milk jugs – whereas we only had paper cups.

Tea and ice cream at The Steward's Room.

hot chocolate and I had an Earl Grey tea along with a double scoop of ice cream (strawberry and mint choc-chip). A said her hot chocolate was too sweet and sickly, and when she got to the bottom of the cup there was a big mound of chocolate sludge, so that was a bit odd. My tea would have benefited from being in a pot, but other than that was quite good considering. The photo doesn’t really do the house justice, it’s a much nicer venue than the picture implies – but, hey, it’s difficult to take a photo with one hand.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? A big one that you helped yourself to.
Price? £1.30 for the tea, £3.20 for the ice cream (double scoop).
Cake? Yes, and fruit, crisps, yoghurts, juice, sandwiches, salads etc.
Go again? Yes, but to the main cafe, not to the kiosk.


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Tate Modern Members’ Room

Tate Modern, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG   (View on map)

My tea at the Tate Modern Members' Room

Thanks to JEM’s magic Tate membership (one plus guest and this time guest was me, hurrah) we could go and get a pot of tea from the tranquil Tate Modern Members’ Room. We’d gone to see the Miro exhibition and the cafes were very busy but thanks to the membership we could slip into the Members’ Room instead. The room is high up in Tate Modern with big windows and squishy sofas on one side and big windows and tables and chairs on the other side. There was also a terrace but it was too hot to sit outside when we went. It was peaceful and we stayed there for hours, much longer than we’d been in the exhibition for.

Cake so good we'd started eating it before I took a photo at the Tate Modern Members' Room

There was a wide range of tea on the menu and huge stack of teapots behind the counter, in a variety of colours. I was looking forward to the tea. I wasn’t let down with my Darjeeling and JEM said her English Breakfast was tasty as well. We shared a carrot cake and it had succulent raisins in it with just the right amount of spice. Yum.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? Yes, loose leaf Jing tea.
Milk jug? Yes, a selection of different sized empty milk jugs with a carafe of milk so you could take as much as you wanted.

View of the bar/counter at the Tate Modern Members' Room (note the demolished cake bottom left)

Price? £1.95 for English Breakfast, Earl Grey or Darjeeling (£2 plus if wanted something more interesting, you could choose from green teas, oolong and more though, impressive). £2.95 for carrot cake. Also a big jug of water with glasses and slices of lemon and a bowl of ice that you could help yourself to, a bonus on such a warm day.
Cake? Yes, tarts and pastries and cakes.
Go again? Yes.

 


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The Chandos

29 St Martins Lane, London, WC2N 4ER   (View on map) 020 7836 1401

Tea with a doily at The Chandos.

The Chandos is a pub in Covent Garden that we went to when it was bitterly cold and a there was a tube strike on. We’d walked from St Pancras and were in need of some hot tea. Pubs can be tricky little things when it comes to tea, sometimes they’re great and sometimes they are rubbish. We went to the upstairs bar as there were no seats downstairs, lots of wood panelling and striped furniture. A good rule of thumb regarding the quality of pub tea is whether or not they serve food. The Chandos does serve food but had stopped serving by the time we got there, so we were taking a risk, but decided it was a risk worth taking.

The risk paid off. Tea for two came on a tray with a doily, milk jug, teapot, cups and saucers, teaspoons and all.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No, but nice teabags.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £2.50 for tea for two.
Cake? No.
Go again? Yes.


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s&m

48 Brushfield Street, London, E1 6AG.

Checked tablecloth, tea, beer and juice at s&m.

Before we go any further, I’ll clarify that the ‘s’ and the ‘m’ here stand for sausage and mash respectively. s&m is a cafe opposite Spitalfields Market that sells, surprisingly, sausage and mash. Considering it names itself after sausage and mash I thought there was not a lot of choice of aforementioned sausages and mash, but never mind. The sausages were very tasty, but the mash was cold by the time we got it which was a bit of a shame.

The tea was okay, it was just a tea bag in a mug but they did give us a saucer for our dead teabags and a jug of milk as well, so not that bad. It did seem a tad pricey for just a mug of tea though: £1.80. It was a cafe that was made to look like an old fashioned ‘caff’, but it wasn’t really, so a bit odd from that point of view.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No, a pyramid shaped teabag.
Milk jug? Yes, the menu also offered soya milk if you wanted it but they didn’t have any left when JF asked for some.
Price? £1.80 for the tea, £8.95 for three sausages and mash, £4.95 for a pudding.
Cake? No, but pudding.
Go again? No.


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Ponti’s

Unit 14, Liverpool Street Station, London, EC2M 7QH

Tea and a cappuccino in Ponti's

Ponti’s is a chain of ‘counter service’ restaurants that you normally see in train stations, shopping centres etc and I hadn’t been to one for ages but L and I wanted somewhere to wait as we were early. We bought a tea and a cappuccino and got two stamps on our loyalty card (which we were given without asking for it – impressive). As we were meeting a number of other people we came up with the cunning plan (so we thought) of getting everyone to use the same card and seeing if we could get a free drink by the end of the visit. It wasn’t to be, as when DM turned up and bought tea he was told he couldn’t get a stamp as it wasn’t coffee. This puzzled us as we’d already used it for tea once, but never mind, the coffee loyalty card is a mystical entity – sometimes you can use it for tea and coffee, sometimes you can’t; sometimes you can get anything for free when you’ve filled it, sometimes you’re not allowed hot chocolate or anything more exciting than a filter coffee or regular tea; sometimes you need five stamps, sometimes nine and sometimes seven.

Back to the point – the tea. The tea was okay. It had the diabolical tiny plastic pots of milk but it did come in a pot and it was hot. It had a Twinings Everyday teabag but I couldn’t taste that, it just tasted metallic, but it wasn’t awful. And only £1.30 which gave it many points in a cafe in a big train station.

Proud assertion of the filming of Mission Impossible inside Ponti's cafe.

I headed to the toilet after my pot of tea and had to go through the function room to get to it. There on the wall to my left a shiny brass plaque caught my eye: ‘The film MISSON IMPOSSIBLE starring Tom Cruise was filmed here on 29th July 1995’. This reads initially as if the whole film was filmed here and I’m pretty sure, though I admit to not seeing the film since it first came out, that it involved more locations than a train station cafe. I’m also not sure the bit with Tom Cruise in was the bit in this cafe, but perhaps I’m wrong. Anyone seen Mission Impossible recently and can remember this? Let me know. It did give me a buzz of star quality though and goes on my mental list of other celebrity tea encounters such as seeing David Walliams at Ladurée and drinking tea in Cafe Delicious while Kirsty and Phil were filming ‘Location, Location, Location’ a few shops down. Okay, so it goes on the bottom of my mental list, but it’s still on there.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No, but Twinings Everyday teabag.
Milk jug? No, tiny plastic pots.
Price? £1.30 for the tea, £2.10 for the cappuccino.
Cake? Not when we went, but then it was in the morning. Danish pastries and muffins etc.
Go again? Yes, nice and cheap and spacious for a train station.

 

 


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The Muffin Man Tea Shop

12 Wrights Lane, Kensington, London, W8 6TA

Tea, teacake and Queen Mother's cake at The Muffin Man Tea Shop.

Kensington can be an expensive place but A had been to a good tea shop that was affordable and thought we should try it. She couldn’t quite remember where it was but we did find it first time and so I was impressed (you have the luxury of the name and address, you lucky things).

The Muffin Man Tea Shop is a good solid tea rooms with proper food for not too much money. A had cauliflower soup (which she said was excellent) and I had ‘The Muffin Man’ which was a sandwich with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo. We had a pot of tea for two that gave us a number of cups each and then finished the whole meal off with some cake. A had a toasted tea cake which she liked and I had the regal ‘Queen Mother’s cake’ – chocolate, dates and walnuts. Very rich and heavy, and probably not the most sensible choice after a big cookie and a large sandwich, but it was worth it.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? Yes – The Muffin Man own blend – good and strong.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £5.60 for tea for two, sandwich was £3.70 and cake £2.80.
Cake? Yes and muffins and teacakes and sandwiches and soup and all sorts.
Go again? Yes – a little retreat from the hustle bustle of the main bit of Kensington.


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Ben’s Cookies

12 Kensington Arcade, Kensington High Street, London, W8 5SF

Dark chocolate and ginger cookie with tea at Ben's Cookies

I was 40 minutes early to meet A at the station so I needed somewhere nearby to have a cup of tea and I spotted a branch of Ben’s Cookies. I’ve seen these around but never had time to go in so I pounced on it, even though the only seating available was those high stool things that I always fall off. I ordered a regular tea and a dark chocolate and ginger cookie. The cookies are all different flavours, shapes and sizes and sold by weight which struck me as a very fair way of doing things.

The tea was fine – cardboard cup and teabag (nice to see a Fairtrade teabag) and proper milk rather than the evil mini plastic pots. The cookie was divine – huge chunks of chocolate and ginger and a gooey outside. Yum.

I also loved the Quentin Blake illustration of the boy – Ben? – eating a cookie. Another reason to go buy more cookies.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Big jug.
Price? £1.20 for the tea, £1.40 for the cookie (0.0098g at £14.25 per kg)
Cake? A myriad of cookies, sold by weight.
Go again? Would buy the cookies but probably not worth going again just for the tea. Maybe if they had chairs and I could be sure of not falling over.