Thursday, July 29, 2010
Taking Tea in England
I have just come home from two weeks of vacation in England. Say what you will about the quality of English food (and I'll be saying more in future posts), but this is a country that Does. Tea. Very. Well!
I had a few lousy cups of tea while in England. But I encountered far more, absolutely lovely teas. And scones. And jams. And I snarfed them all up, yessiree!
Here are some of my favorite tea "moments," from teapots, and cups-and-saucers, to all the wonderful fixings that come with a cuppa.
In a little town called Grassmere in the Lakes District, I spotted (heh, heh) this polka-dot teapot. What could be more perfect?!
The polka-dot background in this window display in Bath first caught my eye. But then I noticed the "polka dots" on the teapot were actually pictures of buttons. Smart!:
This cupcake-bedecked pot was in the window of an art gallery in Cambridge:
As I was taking its picture, the gallery owner came rushing up to the window, shaking his finger at me and making "no, no!" motions with his mouth. Seriously, dude? It's in the window; if you don't want people noticing your wares, don't put them in the window!
This tea set caught my eye in London's Covent Garden, because Lovely Daughter #2 gifted me with almost the same, teapot, cup, and saucer at home. The only difference is my version has a fleur-de-lis where this set has a crown:
This silver beauty is in Rydal Mount, William Wordsworth's last home, where he lived for 30-plus years. I love the little fruit finial on top:
This humble white china was in our room at Lindeth Howe, a lovely country house once owned by Beatrix Potter (of "Peter Rabbit" fame). It wasn't very fancy stuff, but the teabags, tiny pots of real milk, and delicious cookies were replenished daily by the hotel's staff.
At the end of a long day of sightseeing and walking, it was heaven to brew myself a pot of tea, put my feet up, and nibble cookies:
Speaking of cookies, the English still call them "biscuits," or "bikkies," if you're talking child-talk. But language is a living, changing thing, and now it's possible to find biscuits in packages like this:
"Cookies?" Seems a shame, somehow.
Another tea thing that England does well is provide gorgeous places to sit and enjoy your tea. Like this appealing corner of a little pub:
Or this sweet blue bench, with sun-warmed stones at your back:
Wouldn't it be lovely balancing a teacup and saucer on the arms of this chair?
Or sitting at this little desk, gazing out the window for inspiration:
Again, a happy intersection of teapot and polkadots:
And this is the view I had, while consuming this tea:
This is the main square of Bath, famous for its reconstructed Roman baths and its healing waters (still soothing people after 2,000 years).
Wherever I could, I had afternoon tea. And scones. And cookies. I enjoyed amazing, flat gingerbread cookies at Wordsworth's house in the Lakes District:
I basked in tea and scones at Harrod's department store in London while watching the uber-wealthy shopping for overpriced goodies:
But my favorite tea, hands down, was a rather humble one taken outdoors at this magical place:
This is The Orchard, which Lovely Daughter #2 has written about on this blog already. But it is so wonderful, it deserves a second writeup!
The Orchard is a tea room set in the middle of a somewhat ramshackle apple orchard. It has been much beloved of Cambridge students for years. The Orchard is a pleasant, 45-minute amble from the university alongside the River Cam. You walk on a little footpath past cows in meadows, swans in the river, and clouds of butterflies in the flowering bushes as huge, mature trees rustle in the breezes overhead.
At the end of the path, there's a pot of tea and a wonderful scone awaiting you:
And some comfy chairs scattered under the apple trees:
The scones are tasty, the Devon Cream fabulous, and the jam is my favorite brand:
Tea in England doesn't get much better than this: