Tea for you and me

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

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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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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 Grand Café

84 The High Street, Oxford, OX1 4BG

The ceiling of The Grand Café

This café looks as grand as it’s name, with pillars and gold outside and more pillars and gold inside. The Grand Café is on the site of the first coffee house in England and so I was a bit nervous about whether or not the tea would be any good, but I needn’t have worried.

I’m really sorry about the blurred quality of the photos, I hadn’t had any tea since before breakfast and obviously it was getting to me. There was a choice of black teas on the menu, including Earl Grey (which I had) and Lapsang Souchong (which R had). The tea pots came with no strainer but did have a mesh ball inside with the loose leaves in it. It was excellent Earl Grey and R says his Lapsang was also very good.

Tea and cake at The Grand Cafe

R also had a slice of Victoria Sponge cake and then decreed that I wasn’t allowed any, but in the interests of this blog I stole some with my teaspoon. It was good, not the best I’ve ever had, but better than most. It also came with some squiggles on the plate – either fruit coulis or syrup of some sort. Although he ate it, he could not tell me which it was, so this just proves the need for me to eat the cake when we go visiting places.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? Yes.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £2.50 per pot, £3.50 for the cake.
Cake? Yes, and a whole separate menu for patisserie items. Impressive.
Go again? Yes.

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Maison Blanc, Henley on Thames

1 – 3 Duke Street, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 1UR

Peppermint tea and Earl Grey tea at Maison Blanc

Maison Blanc is a relatively new addition to Henley and we hadn’t tried it yet so we headed there after lunch for some tea. I’d unfortunately had too much for lunch so decided to have peppermint tea (to aid digestion, don’t you know) and R had Earl Grey. They had the most amazing cakes and gateaux and it looked delicious but I was too full to try any and R isn’t that bothered about cake. I can’t understand how anyone can not be bothered about cake, but each to their own.

The tea was very nice and came in a teapot so we were happy. I’ll definitely be going back sometime soon to try some of the cake. There’s a good yarn shop a few doors down as well, if knitting’s your thing.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No, but Clipper tea bags which are my favourite.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £1.85 per pot.
Cake? Yes, and main meals.
Go again? Yes, I really want to try the cake.

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Henley Leisure Centre

Gillotts Lane, Henley-on-Thames, RG9 1PA.

Tea at Henley Leisure Centre

Tea at Henley Leisure Centre

Henley Leisure Centre looks very new and shiny. It has a 25 metre swimming pool and has lane swimming on a Sunday morning, which is why I was there. I got to it through single track country roads past horses and churches and over a hump back bridge. Suddenly, in the midst of all this greenery and stereotypical countryside was a driveway and a car park with a new concrete building next to it. It actually fits in with it’s surroundings remarkably well. It also didn’t have a sign that I could see so I drove past it before realising it must be what I was looking for.

The cafe counter is the other half of the reception desk and is some sort of Starbucks concession. There is a choice of sofas, armchairs and tables and chairs. Overall the centre feels light and fresh and airy and it was a pleasant place to sit and drink tea in, even if the tea itself wasn’t so spectacular.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Big one that they hadn’t put out until I asked for it.
Price? £1.40.
Cake? A few muffins and breakfast cereals.
Go again? Yes.