Tea for you and me

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


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Contact Theatre Lounge Bar

Contact, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6JA.

Tea and cake at the Contact Theatre

Tea and cake at the Contact Theatre

We went to the Contact Theatre to see the play Medea, which was very good. Afterwards we headed to the bar for tea and cake. H works near to the theatre so she knew they had good cake on display in a glass cabinet. We arrived in the cafe bar and to our horror the glass cabinet was empty!

Not to be deterred, H asked if there was any cake left. Sure enough the bartender found a chocolate brownie and a slice of chocolate cake in the fridge and we happily agreed to share.

They had a variety of different tea bags, but only a choice between Breakfast and Earl Grey or many different varieties of fruit tea.

The Contact Theatre Lounge Bar was comfy, friendly and relaxed. I liked it.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Big milk jug.
Price? £1 for tea, £6.50 for 3 teas and two bits of cake.
Cake? Yes, larger range in the daytime.
Go again? Yes.


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Shoemakers

The Arcade, Market Place, Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 5AD.

Tea, bread and soup at Shoemakers Cafe

Tea, bread and soup at Shoemakers Cafe

I’ve walked past this cafe many many times and never seen a spare table, so never had a chance to try it. This time it was raining and I was cold and someone left the cafe just as I walked past, I quickly doubled back and dived in. Shoemakers is a small but perfectly formed cafe in a Christian bookshop, tucked away in a tiny arcade in Newbury. It’s the only cafe I’ve ever been in that had a prayer box on the table, with a note inviting me to suggest a topic to be prayed for.

I ordered mushroom and thyme soup which came with homemade bread and of course a pot of tea. This cafe gets extra bonus points for being tiny and yet still providing me with a teapot, milk jug and a jug of hot water, without me having to ask for any of it. And the soup! Very good soup.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £1.30 for pot of tea, £2.95 for soup and bread.
Cake? Small amount.
Go again? Yes.


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Condor Cafe, Condor Express

Condor Express, Weymouth Ferry Terminal, The Quay, Weymouth, Dorset, DT4 8DX

Tea and bacon rolls on the Condor Express

Tea and bacon rolls on the Condor Express

Bit of an odd one, this. The Condor ferry we were on was heading to Jersey, but we had tea as soon as we got on so technically it was in Weymouth, hence the Weymouth address above. I suppose it makes where to put it on the map easier.

The most notable thing about the cafe was the refillable cup idea. You could buy a refillable cup which was refillable for the whole journey, as many times as you wanted. It would have been a great plan if the journey wasn’t so rough we were ill and didn’t manage more than 2 cups each. Still, it was needed and it provided that classic cup of tea hit we were looking for after getting up at 4.30am.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? Tetley teabag.
Milk jug? No, those darn plastic pots again!
Price? £1.65 for a single, £3.30 for a bottomless one.
Cake? Plastic muffins.
Go again? No.


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Regal Picturehouse

Regal Picturehouse, 2 Boroma Way, Henley-on-Thames, RG9 2BZ

Tea at the Regal Picturehouse

Tea at the Regal Picturehouse

The Regal Picturehouse is a cinema that serves drinks and tea and coffee in the upstairs bar. The large bay window and comfy seats are a nice way to say say goodbye to the sunshine before heading inside the darkened cinemas. The daffodils help too. The cinema’s pretty good as well!

The tea is okay, I just like the fact this cinema serves me tea.

Teapot? No.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Yes, a big one on the counter and you help yourself.
Price? £1.50.
Cake? Sadly no, but it does have the best popcorn ever.
Go again? Yes, next time I go to see a film.


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The Ritz

The Ritz London, 150 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9BR

It’s the big one. When people think of a traditional afternoon tea then it’s often the Ritz that springs to mind (though interestingly in the movies I’ve seen when people have afternoon tea, it’s the Dorchester they’re sitting in). The four of us had booked this months ago and we were anticipating great things. Previously in London I’ve been to the Dorchester and the Lanesborough for afternoon tea and I was interested to see how this would compare.

The Palm Court at The Ritz

The Palm Court at The Ritz

The key to the Ritz is the splendour. You aren’t allowed in for afternoon tea unless you’re smartly dressed. No jeans or sports shoes and a jacket and tie for the men. There are liveried doormen and every surface is guilded.

We were shown to our table and our waiter introduced himself. There is no tea menu but what we asked for they had: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Assam and Darjeeling. No notepads or labels here – he remembered who ordered what and could tell all the teas apart by smell. The tea was loose leaf (naturally) and a bit stronger than I normally take it, but there was always a  jug of hot water so it wasn’t a problem. Our waiter was wonderful and was nothing but helpful when we explained there were three vegetarians and only one meat eater in our party. Later, when we asked for extra sandwiches from a different waiter he vanished before we could add the veggie request and we had to explain carefully when he came back exactly what we wanted. This was the only wrinkle in the whole experience.

We had a variety of sandwiches between us. As the only omnivore I had chicken, smoked salmon, ham, cucumber, cheese and egg with cress. The veggies had cucumber, cheese, egg with cress, humus and tomato salad. The sandwiches were unlimited and very moreish.

Afternoon tea at The Ritz

Afternoon tea at The Ritz

Then were the scones, they were apple or raisin and small and perfectly formed, with the obligatory clotted cream and strawberry jam (and I had to introduce controversy here but yes, the cream should go on first). The scones were also unlimited but as we’d got a bit over excited with the sandwiches we couldn’t manage any extras. The scone plate also had some slices of fruitcake which H and N declined as they were feeling full. E and I went ahead. The fruitcake was lighter than most and very moist, but it pushed us over the edge and E and I were full as well.

This posed a dilemma – we had six beautiful patisserie cakes on the top of our stand, literally the pinnacle of the meal. We couldn’t face them and yet to leave them went against all our afternoon tea beliefs. We bravely soldiered on. H chose the fruit tartlet with pistachio and berries. N took the macaroon as he hadn’t bought any from Ladurée. E had a boat with fruit in and I chose the chocolate cake. Top marks for all four. E and I shared the penultimate cake, a mound of – well, let’s be honest, it looked like a breast. We couldn’t work out what it was or what it was made of. There was sharp lemon cream stuff over a cake base with a middle of pink something, mousse perhaps. Tasted nice though. Answers on a postcard please (or just comment on this post).

There is a time limit of one hour and thirty minutes for tea at the Ritz as they have so many sittings. This didn’t prove the problem we thought it might as we were so full we couldn’t face another morsel.

I’m glad we tried it. I would recommend it if you only get one chance to go for afternoon tea, as long as you pace yourself! There’s not much time to pace yourself though, so I’m still going to carry on searching for somewhere that lets you sit for longer.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? Yes.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? An eye watering £37 each (not including tip).
Cake? Yes, and scones.
Go again? Yes, but not for a while.