Posts Tagged 'tea'

Bea’s of Bloomsbury

So the weekend is quickly arriving and what is a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than having a tea and scone in the heart of Bloomsbury.  (Also be sure to check out our other post on afternoon tea including some of favourite tea spots in London.)  Bea’s of Bloomsbury is situated right off where Rosebery Avenue turns into Theobald’s Road before you reach Holborn if your traveling from Clerkenwell.  You won’t miss this cute little bakery because there is an immaculate wedding dress cake creation in the window calling you in promising delicious scones, cupcakes, cakes and other fun snacks.  They have a few outside tables which will suit any sun lover and I would suggest their tea and scone deal for just 5 pounds.  It even comes with a miniature size jar of jam which you may even be tempted to each straight out of the jar with the tiny tea spoon also provided.  These are probably some of the best scones I’ve had in London as well and for the price you are definitely getting more than value.  So go enjoy your tea and scone this Saturday!

Bea_s_of_Bloomsbury_1Bea’s of Bloomsbury

44 Theobalds Road WC1X 8NW


Camden Insider

We love the Camden markets and high street, and have been going there off and on for some time, but we met up with our Venezuelan friend yesterday who showed us two really great spots near the lock market that definitely deserve a blog entry.

Camden high street and its series of markets is an overwhelming and unforgettable experience, and you can go again and again and experience something new each time. The biggest thing you absolutely must be prepared for is crowds – lots and lots of people, but to be honest, if you let go and flow with it, the sheer volume of people and noise really adds to the experience. Though much more sanitised than it used to be two decades ago as it emerged as the centre of the punk scene in London, Camden has retained a grittyness and a weirdness and has refused to be shifted upmarket, like Spitalfields or Borough (not that I’m complaining about these two as they currently are!) May be a future post about navigating through it all, but in the meantime, go check out:

There are several main areas serving food in the Camden market area, and our new favorite food stall, located in the food stall area nearest the canal lock,  is Arepa, serving up the best Venezuelan food (and what yummy food it is!) in town, as verified by our personal friend and bonified Venezuelan native. An arepa is a type of cornmeal-based pita pocket tortilla bread thing that is TASTY. You order and they take a ball of the arepa dough, pat it into a circle about the size of your hand, and then grill it. Then, they slice a pocket into it and fill it with whatever combination you fancy – you chose from black beans, shredded beef, chicken avocado, grilled vegetables, grated cheese, and grilled plantains. There were four of us that went and between us we sampled combinations of all of the above and oh my lord it was all incredible – MAKE SURE you get the plantains though, whatever you do. Filling and fun, each arepa thing only sets you back 4 pounds. Warning: it will leave you craving that cornmeal base something awful! I’m going to have to go back asap…

So, there is lots of food to choose from in Camden, some of it good, and some of it well dodgy. Be a smart market visitor and avoid the gross food they sell in the permanent little booths that line the most crowded part of the market – whether it’s chewy pizza, scary Indian, or msg-ed Chinese – and find one of the two more temporary looking clusters of freshly made food, where in one of which you’ll find Arepa. To get there, go to Camden tube. Exit the station and turn right. Go straight down the high street weaving your way through the crowds until you get to the bridge over the canal and the lock market starts. Cross the street and turn left before the bridge (the big one, which cars can take) at the Starbucks. Go past the Starbucks to the footbridge over the canal ( you can’t miss it) – take that bridge and you’ll be overlooking the food area with the Arepa stall.

Then, for a perfect complement, check out what is officially our new favorite tea place in London (and damn, that is a hard place in our hearts to win!): Yumchaa. Yumchaa have been selling their amazing tea blends at various markets for awhile, and have recently opened up this place in Camden and it’s rumored on in Soho too? We’ll have to get back on that. At any rate, this tea place is perfection and I wish so much I was a student so I could go chill there during week days when Camden is much less crowded. It’s in the same place as the Arepa stall, just on the upper level. The best way to get there is again to cross the footbridge over the canal river and you’ll be on the second level. Go past the Lockhead pub (I think it’s called) and past the vintage store and then you can’t miss yumchaa. Beautifully decorated, there is an amazing and unique amount of special tea blends on offer, broadly sorted by black, green, red, and white teas. You get a full pot for 2 pounds! I had a blend called Courtesan, which was rooibos (red) tea flavored with raisins, spices and a bunch of other good stuff, while A had berry berry nice, a roobios flavored with you guessed it, a mix of berries, which we highly recommend, and our Venezuelan friend had a really cool rooibos blend called chili chili bang bang which had fruit, peppercorns, and chilis in it! The atmosphere is wonderful, the cakes are moist and tasty, and you get a great view overlooking busy Camden market below with its constant stream of people.

Enjoy – maybe we’ll see you there soon – cuz we’ll certainly be there a lot 🙂

Candid Arts Cafe

As we’re writing this, we are actually waiting to get sandwiches and tea that we ordered 30 minutes ago but that they lost our order. Usually, if that happens, we’d never go back to that place, but we love this place, the Candid Arts Cafe, so much we’re pretty content to wait patiently in the eclectic atmosphere in happy anticipation of how yummy the food is while writing an enthusiastic recommendation.  We’re also pretty okay with it because it’s very locally run by only a few people and of course the place is packed on a Saturday because it’s so well-loved.

If you’ve been searching for a proper coffee shop/café decorated with love, a hidden away spot you can spend hours writing, thinking, and chatting with friends to nice music (Simon and Garfunkel was the album for the past 30 minutes), this is it. It’s decorated like your Grandma’s living room if your grandmother was incredibly artsy and into vintage and her living room doubled as a theatre’s prop room with Grecian columns, enormous Shakespearean candlesticks, cast-off lamps and giant paintings. Three floors up over a warehouse that hosts regular art exhibits, there are windows all along one wall that bathe the room in sunlight on pretty days. The menu is also incredible, with fresh and tasty baguettes and hot dishes. A’s favorite sandwich is avo, brie, and ham sandwich (4.50) while C gets the vegetarian curry (6.50) when she can. C is partial to the ginger tea (1.50) while A likes their lattes.

It’s a stone’s throw away from Angel tube station off the busy Upper Street. Turn left out of the station and then take your first left onto Pentonville Road and then first left again down the side street/alley – there’s a big sign for the Candid arts warehouse and the café entrance is just next door.  Opening hours are Monday to Saturday 12pm – 10pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm.  Map

Update: we indeed got our sandwiches and oh my goodness they were amazing

Afternoon Tea: The Great British Pastime

teaLife in Britain revolves around tea. It’s a national stereotype, but one that’s pretty accurate – just as ‘a coke’ for Americans is a widely understood and often used phrase, ‘a tea’ or even a ‘cuppa’ is certainly the British equivalent national drink – also generic. Just as we say ‘a coke’ to mean a cola type soda/pop beverage that we expect almost all homes, offices, sports facilities, etc. to have on ready supply, British people expect to be able to order ‘a tea’ anywhere and receive afternoon/everyday tea (relatively strong brewed black tea) of some brand or another, from the brand Tetley’s on up (or down, depending on your point of view about Tetley’s tea). ‘A tea’ usually implies with milk, with sugar added upon request, but often if you order a tea in public you’ll be asked whether you want it white or black – white, with milk; black, without. Same for coffee too—note to coffee goers who may frequent the ever supply of coffee café chains.

This type of tea drinking which life in England revolves around, however, is a world apart from specialised, ceremonial tea drinking – a set event unto itself known as ‘afternoon tea’ or ‘high tea’. This is the stereotypical elaborate china spread with dainty sandwiches that many tourists come seeking (All Hail the Cucumber Sandwich!), and which many tourist traps across London are happy to offer naff versions of. Hint: if the place you’re passing loudly advertises AFTERNOON TEA, it’s probably going to be overpriced and inauthentic. (Same goes for pubs, actually: a good rule of thumb to avoid crappy, tourist-trap pubs is to avoid any that blatantly advertise TRADITIONAL PUB. This is like a large blinking neon sign saying: only tourists come here, I have been themed to look like the Disney-version of pub you expect and am nothing like the real experience).

That said, a nice afternoon tea is a wonderful experience, and one of my favorite things to do if I have an afternoon free. It’s called afternoon or high tea because it happens, usually, at ‘tea time’ – roughly between 3pm and 5pm. Many places will only serve their ‘afternoon teas’ between these times (another good sign that the place is authentic). There are multiple levels of types of ‘afternoon teas’. Here’s a quick guide:

Tea and scone – the basic. You should get a china cup and saucer and separate individual little pot of tea – often there are several choices of types of tea – with a fresh-baked scone (kind of like a cross between a muffin and an American biscuit and fruit bread – they come in all kinds of flavors and are really yummy). The scone should come with both jam and clotted/Devonshire cream (this is thick, slightly sweet cream – think of cream cheese consistency, but light and sweet). If you get whipped cream with your scone you’re not getting the real deal!

Cream tea – similar to the above, with tea (china, separate individual tea pot) and scone (clotted/Devonshire cream and jam). The cream in the name comes from the clotted cream that comes with the scone. Cream teas sometimes have little variations, such as a small sandwich or some fruit, and will be ordered off a set menu, as opposed to the tea and scone version which you just order a la carte.

Afternoon tea – the main deal, the most common and widespread version. Proper afternoon tea includes china cup and saucer, separate tea pot and individual milk, and usually a tiered tray with bite-sized sandwiches (common ones are cucumber, salmon, and egg salad), several types of scones (with cream and jam of course) and usually a slice of some sort of cake.

Champagne tea
– same as the afternoon tea, but with a glass of champagne as well. I’m not sure what hotel or restaurant first thought of adding champagne to a tea service, but it has proved so popular as a means to charge about 1.5 times more for a regular afternoon tea that it is now widespread as an option. Not to knock it though – who doesn’t want a glass of champagne with, well, anything? See picture of champagne tea! It is as fabulous as it looks.Champagne tea

High tea – can be used as a synonym for afternoon tea, but traditionally it refers to the super-duper version of afternoon tea served a bit later and much more like a meal, with perhaps some meat dishes or a meat and cheese spread. All sorts of versions abound today in the truly fancy places.

That said, here’s the low-down on the best way to do afternoon tea

The Famous:

Afternoon tea at The Ritz: The real deal, dress-up required and everything, this is the big famous one to go to. However, you have to book 12 weeks in advance or more, and it’ll set you back £37 – £58 per person! It’s also pretty likely that during the summer months, you’ll be having afternoon tea only with other tourists.

On a side note I A (speaking here) has done the champagne tea at the Ritz. My friend and I only got in last minute because they had a cancellation and it was in the early spring very late at night and during the week. It is what you expect from the Ritz, fancy in all its glory with a never ending supply of sandwiches. HOWEVER, only go if you really are okay with spending that much on an afternoon tea experience. It was lovely (and probably the best ‘loo’ I have ever seen) but I do prefer the ambiance of the Orangery and the quality of the tea and food can stand up and even beyond most of the higher-end tea services.

loo at the Ritz

Our recommendation:

Afternoon tea at The Orangery of Kensington Palace: A little known gem (well, to tourists anyway), the Orangery is a true delight. The venue is a lovely old brick building with floor to ceiling windows and great views of Kensington Gardens just off the palace – it used to be a greenhouse for storing the Palace’s citrus trees during the winter months. A full (and delicious) afternoon tea here will only set you back £12 – 13, you can stroll around the gardens afterwards (they’re my favorite green space in London) and though you may have to queue for a few minutes during peak times, they serve you quickly, you’ll be surrounded by posh locals taking a bit of refreshment from walking their dogs or children in the park, and best of all you can sit there and chat and enjoy as long as you want to, minus the haughty Ritz factor. Take the tube to Queensway station (Central line), enter the park at Queensway gate (literally one minute from the station) and the Orangery is the small building on your right just before the palace proper. If you reach the giant statue of Queen Victoria, you’ve gone too far. A’s favourite is the cinnamon black tea—a great change from your standard English Breakfast or Earl Grey.

from the orangery website

from the orangery website

C & A

last cucumber sandwich

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