Friday, 31 December 2010

American tea

Wow.  It's been a while- the festive season has kept me busy and away from tea and cake.  We went to America in early December.  I love going to America, especially at christmas time.  We saw a lot of the east coast, spending time in Boston, Maine and then taking the Amtrak train all the way down to Washington DC.  At no point on my trip did I have a nice cup of tea.  The issue I had was the milk.  I just don't understand american milk.  Skim, half and half- it all tastes ok as milk but once you put it in tea it is worse than UHT! 

The other strange thing about the tea was that in Boston I wanted to visit the Boston Tea Party ship.  When I think of Boston I think of the tea party and assumed there would be all manor of tourist attractions relating to this.  Nada.  The ship, which incidentally, was on my map, was just not there.  All just proves that America is not the land for tea.  It is, however, the land of cocoa!!!!  We accidentally stumbled across the tree lighting ceremony aboard the USS Constitution.  After the ceremony there was free cocoa and cookies for everyone, happily served by members of the US Navy.  One of the most festive things I've ever done, can you imagine this happening in London????

Monday, 22 November 2010

Afternoon tea in Mayfair don't you know...

It's been a wee while since my last tea and cake.  I need to cut down on cake, sadly.  As it was my lovely friend Liyu's special birthday I was happy to break my cake-fasting for one night only.  We met at the Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair for a traditional afternoon tea.  Now, as a supposed tea and cake lover, I have to admit I have only been to one traditional tea before and am not au fait with the protocol that surrounds these events.  It can feel a bit intimidating but there were lots of families around so it didn't feel overly snooty.  The staff were friendly and I didn't feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (you know, when she goes to the posh shops and they look down on her, I was wearing a dress from Peacocks and was convinced they'd know).  This place had a lot to live up to, as for the last three years it has won an "Award for Excellence " from the Tea Guild (Tea Guild??  How does one get to work for them?).  The setting was lovely, in a conservatory at the back of the hotel.  It was all set-up to be the creme de la creme of afternoon teas, but sadly in practice they didn't quite live up to my expectations (or should I say my wallet's expectations?). 

We were given a menu of teas and rather unimaginatively recommended the "afternoon" blend.  I wanted to be adventurous, and despite my day dreams of taking the toy train up to Darjeeling I've never been, or had its tea, so this would be my opportunity.  Sadly I didn't like it and had to put a sugar cube in, I can't blame the tea only my poor palette.  The sandwiches and cakes came on a darling tray and were of the highest quality.  The issue I had was that only two trays and two tea pots were brought over for 6 people.  The staff only came to offer refills once we'd eaten our two sandwich bites and the cakes.  You can't go back to sandwiches after cake!  Perhaps we should've been more proactive in asking for more, but without knowing whether this was actually included I feared an Oliver Twist style riposte.  So all in all I paid £25 (including service charge) for 2 sandwich bites, 2 mini scones, half a mini lemon tart, half an eclair and perhaps 4 small cups of tea.  I mean, to be fair, I couldn't have eaten much more but I felt that if I had come alone I probably would've been given the whole tray to myself as the charge was per person not per tray.  I do have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about getting what I'm entitled to, maybe I am being harsh to criticise.  But all in all it was a lovely afternoon, and you can't put a price on good company :-)

I didn't take a photo of the tea because I was so amazed with Simon's hot chocolate teapot, sooo going to make myself one of those.

Tea and Cake rating: 3
Atmosphere: 5

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Belle Amie with belle amie


Today's trip was to Belle Amie in Earlsfield, there were no pictures of Simon Cowell in the window so we don't think it is at all related the the X Factor group.  I had to dig into my inner yummy mummy as buggies with Cath Kidston nappy bags set up camp around us but still really enjoyed the shabby chic feel.  The chocolate cake was the largest cake I've ever seen in my life.  It took three of my friends to finish a piece, it was delicious- moist and fudgey.  As Halloween is my second favourite time of year I chose a simple pumpkin gingerbread- it looked cute and tasted nice.  The tea came in what looked like a high-end bag but the water wasn't quite hot enough and was poured straight into the cup rather than a tea pot.  The milk didn't quite mix in properly and it wasn't hot enough for my liking.  Or big enough.  But I am a fussy tea drinker.  There were leaflets for craft evenings where you can, for example, knit a christmas scarf.  Gutted to learn I'll be away that evening.

Tea and cake rating 4 (excellent cakes, tea slightly disappointing)
Atmosphere 4

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Arsenal 2 Tea 0

So no time for quaint teashops this weekend, was at the Emirates to see Arsenal beat Birmingham (just).  My stepmum had sent up some homemade tiffin so I purchased some Arsenal branded PG Tips with UHT for nearly 2 quid.  Reminded me of the time I was in the outback and had tea with powdered milk, maybe if I'd given it 20 more cups I would've adjusted- just as I did in Alice Springs.  Any kind of milk tastes amazing after you've just emptied the waste water from a campervan.

Tea and Cake rating: 2.5 (max for the cake, 0 for tea)
Atmosphere: 5

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

And so it begins....

I made a decision to excuse my tea and cake eating by writing about my adventures in tea shops across London and beyond.  Excuse to visit the first one came in the form of meeting up with my oldest friend, back in the UK temporarily after relocating to Australia.  When I say oldest friend, I don't mean she's 80, we met way back in infants school.  To give her a taste of real autumnal Mother England we decided to meet in Hampstead, fill up on tea and cake and then head to the Heath for the conker championships.  Finding a place in Hampstead would be a doddle, we thought.  Home of the yummy mummy there should've been cupcakes on every corner.  And there were a number of lovely looking cafes, but the unusually wonderful weather had brought everyone out onto the cobbled streets for their lattes and babycinos.  After almost giving up we found Louis Coffee and Tea Room.  It looked like something from the 50s, but not on purpose, no pretension here- I think it is genuinely stuck in a time warp.  We asked for a menu but were instead brought a tray stuffed with cream cakes.  We picked and a fresh one was brought over the table.  My tea came in a charming silver teapot with extra hot water, the heat made it a little hard to pour but it sure did look pretty.  A little old lady sat by a manual till by the door, her make-up and styling perfectly matching the surroundings.  One last treat before we left, the toilets are actually next door, up some stairs.  We felt like we'd snuck into a strangers house.  Rebels.
Tea and cake rating:  6
Atmosphere:  7