Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Catching up...

It's been over a year since my last post.

Chronic illness and personal turmoil have had me at a disadvantage for some time.

But now I'm moving house, taking stock, and catching up on things that have been too long neglected.

I'll be back with more tea and tea room reviews very soon.

First up I'll be visiting Perk, in Watford, Hertfordshire: a lovely little coffee shop that is a big hit locally.

Then I'll be cosying up with a kettle and company to bring you reviews of more delicious teas.

Thanks for sticking with me.

Tea you soon!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Brewery Tearooms

The Brewery Tearooms are located in Walkern, Hertfordshire, between Stevenage and Hertford.

We had them on our list to visit on our very first Tea Tour, but - delayed by bottomless teapots! - we realised we wouldn't make it before they closed. And then - unforgivably - we forgot about them for two years!

Then this week J pointed us to their website and the evening preview event they were holding for their range of Christmas goods.  A handful of us were free, so: brief, impromptu Tea Tour!

As the name suggests, the tearoom is located in part of the old brewery, which easily sets the stage for a real vintage feel. We weren't there for very long, and it was rather busy, so I only managed to snap a few quick pictures. But if you take a look at the gallery on their website you'll see that it's just as cute inside as it is out.

 They have an excellent range of loose-leaf teas and tisanes, which come served in a pot with a large infuser (very important, as otherwise you may as well use a teabag!). The cups are pretty and delicate, which for me always enhances the tea experience. I went for a Ginger and Peach tisane which was very enjoyable. The first cup, lightly brewed, was delicately peach-flavoured, but the second cup, brewed for much longer, had a good ginger kick to it, with peach undertones. I also ordered a cheese scone, which was served deliciously hot with cream cheese and cucumber.

As this was a special event, the tearoom was serving complimentary canapes and mulled wine, and I was pleasantly surprised to be offered vegetarian options on every plate, as well as the option of hot spiced apple juice instead of mulled wine.

The staff were smiling and friendly, and could answer our questions about their food and drink without hesitation. The event was fun (I bought a couple of Christmas presents) but the tearoom itself was splendid, and I can't wait to go back once we have the whole group of Tea Ladies together.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Tea Tour - Berkhamsted

For some time now, Tea-Rex has wanted to take me to Dar Papillon - a vegan cafe and tea room in the centre of Berkhamsted.

Located within a complex that includes activity and treatment rooms (yoga, massage etc), a florist, and a small health-food shop, the cafe itself has that relaxed attitude towards space and organisation reminiscent of many a vegetarian eatery, with some window seating here, a shelf of books to browse there, a little bit of this and a splash of that. The decor has a Moroccan flavour, and indeed we were immediately served complimentary glasses of Moroccan apple tea with fresh mint.

Our primary reason for visiting was their impressive tea selection, which, whilst mostly teabags, is served in small teapots with mismatched cups (minus the saucers!). However, as we had arrived at lunchtime we decided to eat there. As a long-time vegetarian I love finding a restaurant or cafe where I can eat anything on the menu, and I was interested to see what was on offer.

Sadly, it turned out, the answer was 'not much'. The menu board carried just two options, both of which were mostly vegetables, without the requisite protein to make them well-balanced meals. And at £13.50 per meal, for what amounted to a few bits of sometimes-charred veg, a piece of flatbread, and a dip, we weren't at all impressed. I know that Dar Papillon prides itself on being Fairtrade and organic, and maybe the veg is locally sourced and the staff paid a living wage (I'm surmising here) but £13.50 seemed a tad excessive. There was the option of adding a burger to the meal for an extra £2.50, but frankly, if I'm going to pay £16 for one course I expect it to be full of flavour and cooked to perfection. Most of my group ordered the same veg meal, none of them were impressed, and all of them came away hungry.

Next to the teas I had seen a board advertising an all-day breakfast for £9.50, and since this came with sausages for protein, and included tea in the price, a couple of us went for this option. It was, on comparing notes, deemed to be somewhat more filling than the veg meal, because of the addition of the sausages, and of a bean-stew. It was actually a rather enjoyable meal, and seemed to be much better value than the other veg meals on offer. However, I couldn't help but notice the stinginess of serving it with just half a slice of toast. Were they keeping the other half in the kitchen for the next person who ordered?

The tea that came with the meal was, to their credit, a choice of any tea on offer. But I decided to get an extra pot afterwards, and ordered a flowering tea, which I had seen served to someone else - appropriately - in a glass pot. However, when mine turned up it was in a plain white teapot, rather defeating the point of ordering a flowering tea. I had to fish it out and leave it in my cup to unfurl its blossoms.

On the whole, this wasn't a great experience. The best of intentions come to nothing if the service and food quality don't match the cost. I so wanted to like this place, and didn't want to give it a negative review, which is why I held off publishing this for so long (and merely backdated it to reflect the date that we visited). As I was checking their website today (5th November 2015) I saw that Dar Papillon is in the process of closing down. Which, I suppose, makes this review of only historical interest to myself and a few others.

Our next stop was Cafe In the Attic on Berkhamsted High Street.
Located on the top floor of an antique centre, it's a bit of a slog up several flights of fairly steep stairs, whilst making sure that you don't brush against any antiques and send them flying in the process!

Once we got to the top we found a large, airy space and a buzzing atmosphere. Still hungry from our previous stop, almost everyone ordered food: toasted sandwiches served with salad, cream teas served on pretty cake stands. And of course tea, from their selection of loose-leafs, served in pots and with cup and saucer. A pleasant place, and one that I would visit again but for the long climb.

Rather a mixed day really. I leave you with a photo of the pretty flowers on the table.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Mad Hatter's Tea Party 2014

A random and jumbled assortment of photos from our 9th Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

Many thanks to Rob Draper, Shaun Rodger, and Sam Goddard,
for permission to use their photos.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Dragonfly Tea

Dragonfly Tea is a 'family-owned, British tea company with a hundred year heritage'. They source 'artisanal and often rare teas', to create a range of teas and infusions, many of which are certified as being organically produced. Their bagged teas - the bulk of the range - are very reasonably priced at around £2 for 20 individually wrapped teabags, and they also stock a smaller range of quality loose leaf teas. Dragonfly sent me six of their bagged teas to try. I followed the specific recommended steeping time for each one, and used a smallish mug that holds around 300ml of liquid. Here are my thoughts as I brewed and sipped...

Golden Himalaya - Organic Darjeeling
This is an incredibly light and floral Darjeeling, soft, sweet, and extremely fragrant. One bag easily makes 2 mugs of tea, and I think it would probably stretch to a pot for 3 people. The tea bag swells as the leaves expand, revealing that these are chopped leaves and not a bad size, and they brew up pretty well. Actually one of the best Darjeelings I've had in tea-bag form.

Green Gaucho - Organic Mate Tea
A blend of mate, green tea, and lemongrass. A highly enjoyable blend, refreshing yet without any harshness. The green tea works well with the earthiness of the mate, giving it a fuller taste, and the lemongrass lifts it to sweetness. Another generous tea-bag, stretching to 3 mugs if you follow the recommended brewing time. I would recommend this as a first-time teabag for anyone who is a bit nervous about trying mate!

Swirling Mist - Organic White Tea
A very light tea with a subtle nutty flavour, perfect as a mild afternoon brew. The recommendation is to steep again for a second cup in order to enjoy all the nuances of the flavour, and although it easily makes two cups it was just too subtle for my taste-buds to pick up any difference.

Moroccan Mint - Organic Green Tea with Spearmint
Fresh and super-sweet, a perfect after-dinner tea.

Moonlight Jasmine - Organic Green Tea
This brews up a pretty yellow tea, heavily jasmine scented, and you'll want to keep breathing it in!

Cape Malay Chai - Organic Spiced Rooibos
Brewed up, this smells like spiced fruitcake - heavenly! The flavours are well-balanced, creating a very smooth-tasting chai, without a hint of harshness. Possibly a little too mild for my taste, (I like my spiced chai to have a bit of a kick) but perfect for someone who wants a lightly-flavoured and naturally caffeine-free tea. Pleasant with or without milk.

Overall thoughts:
I like this company and I like their teas. I love my loose leaf, but I also like to have a selection of quality bagged teas in stock for convenience and speed. I'm not going to like every tea that I drink, but I would happily buy some of the Dragonfly range, as it satisfies in terms of quality and price. They also have the cutest quotes I've ever seen on a teabag tag. Made me smile every time...

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Little Gallery Tearoom at Watford Museum

I've wanted to visit the Little Gallery Tearoom for ages, but I kept missing it...

I'd have missed it this time too but for my sister - who knows how much of a tea geek I am - reminding me the night before and offering to accompany me. And so it was that we made a detour to check it out, on the way to catching a bus elsewhere. And I'm so glad that we did.

The Little Gallery Tearoom is hosted by Watford Museum, popping up on the 4th Saturday of each month just inside the museum entrance. 

With an antique shop counter and till forming part of the museum's permanent display, this is an ideal setting for a vintage-style tearoom. 

It's currently run by two very friendly ladies, and is clearly a labour of love for them. They tell me that the tearoom is a work in progress, that they are continually looking for ways to improve the tearoom experience. They are on the hunt for the best cake recipes, prettier tablecloths, ways to create the perfect atmosphere. They are happy to chat and they are open to ideas.

The tearoom already has pretty tablecloths and doilies; vases of seasonal fresh flowers and foliage picked from the museum gardens; delicate vintage china; and sugar cubes and silver tongs in enamelled bowls. It has a pleasant atmosphere: truly relaxed and friendly. It serves filtered Fairtrade coffee. And it has an enticing range of delicious home-baked cakes with different flavours and fillings available each month. 

Where it is really lacking at the moment is with the tea itself. All that is currently on offer is a standard bagged black tea, served in a large mug. When I asked if any other teas were available I was offered a Clipper white tea, and a Twinings fruit tea, both of which I like, but which were more an afterthought than a menu staple, and which are commonly available in shops and cafes. I had been hoping for at least a small range of loose-leaf black or flavoured teas, served in pots with a cup and saucer. I don't mind paying more for a pot of quality tea, served in pretty china, and I'll go out of my way to find somewhere that provides this. However, after a chat with the tearoom ladies I discovered that this is the direction in which they are considering taking their tea menu and service, so hopefully I won't be disappointed on my next visit!

The Little Gallery Tearoom also functions as an exhibition space for local artists and crafters to display and sell their work, with something different on display each month. Sometimes arts events are run at the tearoom itself, which recently featured a needlefelting workshop, and performances of music and poetry. I'm told it's also a popular venue for crafters to meet up informally, with regular attendees including a local knitting club.

This is a really great space in which to eat, drink, and be creative. Head on over next time you're in the area! 


The Little Gallery Tearoom is usually open on the 4th Saturday of each month. Watford Museum is situated at the bottom of Watford High Street, right next to the train station and within easy reach of car parking facilities. Entry to the museum is free.