Hendricks Gin with Jubilee Tea Cup

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The Doll’s house on the hill – Harrow-on-the-Hill

A little while ago I became very distressed at the lack of a good teashop near me in leafy Surrey. It seems so odd; surely Surrey should be teaming, simply over-running with the kinds of folk who have time to while away in the civilized and cultured practice of taking tea.

But all of the nice teashops I’ve seen appear to be specifically tourist traps at country houses. Well, that would involve me paying an extortionate entrance fee before I could even get to the blasted tea. And of course, once I am there, I will pay hugely inflated prices.

So I looked a little further afield and I found The Dollhouse in Harrow-on-the-Hill (these hyphens are essential).

Harrow-on-the-Hill is a beautiful part of the country, full of lovely architecture and winding lanes. It really doesn’t feel much like London at all. It’s the location of one of England’s poshest and most expensive boarding schools, and as a result has hardly changed in over a hundred years. If you’re visiting London and want to see somewhere quirky and old fashioned I can highly recommend its charm.

In this setting the tiny proportions of The Dollhouse on the Hill are perfect. I arrived near the end of service and was justly warned of the closing time. As we were only there for tea and cake, we had timed it just right. The place was packed with teenagers and families and couples. The usual teacups decorated the rooms and the freshly made cakes were out for anyone to have a good look at. A really nice touch is the painting of the “Harrow-on-the-Hill” poem by Betjeman on the wall. It really is a beautiful poem, and is a nice way of setting the mood. You should have a read.

I selected the Jasmine tea from the sizable tea menu, and the idiot with me had coke. I couldn’t see whose tea I was buying, which was a pity.

There was no written cake menu, because the cakes change daily, but it’s a shame. I think they could do something to help people decide. The waitress listed all the cakes, and even left me her handwritten notes, but I really wanted a menu. I suppose I’m just needy.

I opted for a cupcake because I’m not too into cake and I thought it would look nice in the photo.  My pal had the lemon drizzle cake. I am an idiot. The cupcake was nice, it was really nice, it had soft sponge and full flavour, but that lemon drizzle cake…It was indescribably delicious; so much lemon, so much sugar, such a soft sponge. Absolutely lovely. We still speak of that cake sometimes…

The tea was nice, delicate and refreshing, but my suspicions of teabaggery were well founded. There was no label, so I was going to ask “WHOSE TEA?”, but we left at closing time so in my haste I forgot. The website doesn’t give any details of the tea provenance as far as I could see. But it was good tea, in a teabag, yes, but still a nice blend.

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Pinterest Tea Time

Hello Tea lovers

I’ve just joined Pinterest, and if you’d like to see me, I’m here

It’s all rather jolly, like a grown-up Tumblr. Far less teen angst and Harry Potter, and far more shoes and teacups. Well, I like teacups, so I posted a few.

I’ve only put up some of my ‘archive’ so far, but I’ll pin some new ones soon.

Getting an invite is easy, so if you’re interested in the ‘new big thing’ then take a look.

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Lapsang Souchong – acquired taste or just vile?

I love tea. I love tea in the way that most British people love tea: from a bag, in a mug, with milk and sugar. I know that will garner involuntary sneers from some quarters. I love all the ‘proper’ tea too, I love the gentle infusions and the beautiful flowering teas. I love the quality tea. But none of that will stop me loving tea the way I first had it. The way I fell in love with it.

I try all the varieties I can, and I find something to love about each one. Maybe not at first, sometimes you need to try a few combinations or brands. In order to truly appreciate tea, you must experience them all yourself. It was with this in mind that I previously drank teapots full of Lapsang Spouchong. Not because I love it, but to be absolutely sure that there was no hidden beauty. Smoky tea? Who did this? Was it some kind of accident? Revenge? Because this is not natural, this is by design.

Here is a theory…

A long time ago in a land just round the corner from where you grew up, there were two young lovers. Like all lovers in stories they were entirely and irrationally besotted with each other. The young man even found his lover’s heavy smoking adorable. They would sip delicious teas in cafes and gaze into each others eyes as they planned their future between kisses.

But then, tragedy struck. As tragedy is wont to do. The lady love fell down a well and died. Oh no! Her paramour was beside himself. He would do anything to have her back again. But of course it was impossible.

He spent his days in cafes trying to recreate the magic they had once shared with a tea in one hand and a cigarette in the other. At first it was enough just to have it smoking in the ash tray beside him, but soon he was taking long drags of it. Before he knew it he was stirring in great heaped spoonfuls of ash, searching for that dry ashtray quality.

After a concerned family member staged an intervention he was finally stopped, but he was still yearning for her tea and ash kisses. He locked himself away in a lab until he had recreated that vile combination.

He called his tea lapsang souchong and took it with him everywhere. Soon strangers were gazing at his blissful face and asking him what he was drinking that was so delicious. Being a private man he left out the tragedy and told them simply that it was tea of his own creation. Intriguing salesmanship! They were desperate to buy some, buy his price was high. Undeterred they bought it and tried it themselves. It was rancid; absolutely vile. They immediately needed a cup of proper tea because it was so dehydrating. But they’d paid a lot of money, so they kept drinking, and they told everyone who asked (and some who didn’t) that it was quite the most delicious thing in the world. And so the cycle continued.

I think it’s time we were honest about this racket, don’t you?

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Breakfast Tea Tray – Traymendous?

Because I spend an awful lot of my time cooing and squealing at tea based miscellanea I managed to get some tea based gifts this Christmas. Oh, and I asked for them. That helped too.

I was very lucky to get some Mrs Bridges tea stuff from my mister’s dad. I know he wouldn’t have picked it himself, because he’s an old school bloke who doesn’t ‘do’ shopping, but it’s the thought that counts. No, it’s the gift that counts, that’s what I mean.

So I got this lovely tray set which doubtless came from Debenhams.

The biscuits alone are absolutely delicious. I’ve finished the English breakfast tea and I’m afraid I wasn’t particularly impressed. The bags were a bit tricky to squeeze an actually decent cup out of, too weak for my tastes, but the biscuits, oh the biscuits were divine! I’m sure the jam is lovely, but I’m not really into jam. Sorry jam fans, you’ve come to the wrong place. The mugs are quite cute, in a homely sort of way. The kind of mugs I can imagine they would have used in Victorian times if they hadn’t had lovely teacups everywhere. You can’t really see the tray here, but it’s a very light wood, maybe balsawood. There are useful handles on the side that I’ve tried to explain the use of to the mister. This is a BREAKFAST tray. He’s not listening. He’s put his stupid face on….
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Warming tea for winter

Over here in London it’s starting to get very chilly. I’ve had to buy earmuffs and new gloves. Even a snood. They are all very useful in the cold and blustery weather. What I really want though, is a lovely warm cup of tea to sustain me on my travels.
I have a brilliant flask but it is massive and heavy. Far more suited to a picnic than a commute.

So I need to find something wonderful to cheer my ragged soul at this time of year. I need something that will keep my tea toasty and help me raise a smile on London underground. No easy task!
Does such a delight exist? Just large enough for one cup would be perfect.

So what does the market have for me?

Here are few considerations:

The Bodum Travel Mug

This little beauty comes in a whole host of colours and is available at lots of high street stores, but isn’t it basically a thermos flask?

ANOTHER Bodum travel mug – this time with a handle! Both claim to be spillproof, and this one looks a little more stylish to my eye, but I’m still not convinced they’re up to the task of actually making me want to drink tea on the tube.
This one isn’t spillproof; a porcelain version of the paper coffee cup. I’m not sure why this is considered a design classic, it doesn’t really grab me. Kudos for the funky patterns though.
This one describes itself as the perfect travel mug ever, and surely it would know? The Brugo is different from the others in that it has a ‘sip chamber’. It also claims to be spillproof.
It would be unforgivably remiss of me not to include Thermos themselves. Of course, they produce all manner of options.
If anything this little exercise has left me even more confused. I think I basically want a cup and saucer, and that’s frankly ridiculous. What would I look like? Some kind of Lady Gaga wannabe? And there’d be tea and porcelain everywhere. I’d get all sorts of tuts and tsks. Someone might even huff at me. Well we can’t have that. So no, I won’t go for a cup and saucer, it’s too risky.
So what to do? What to do? Why aren’t there amazing wonderful, jump-out-at-you-brilliant mugs?
Does anyone have the answer?

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Christmas tea anticipation

It’s still November and I am officially sick of Christamas. Too much anticipation, too much pressure to buy fantastic gifts, and far too much need to comprise a list of ‘proper presents’ for family to buy from. Yes, I have THAT kind of Christmas. A Christmas that, despite being most definitely an adult, I must draw up a list of reasonably priced items for others to buy me.

I hate this for a number of reasons, firstly I don’t see the ‘christmas spirit’ in treating your friends and family like personal shoppers. Secondly, I can buy these things myself. If I haven’t it’s usually for a good reason. So I will either have to wait an extra couple of months for something I really want, or receive something that I kind of wanted, but not enough to actually buy it.

But absolutely the worst part of all this, is that it makes me go out into the world and seek out things that I didn’t even know I wanted. Then I have to sit and wait for them, hopefully, like the child I used to be. Grrrr.

So, why don’t I share a little of that pain with you good folk? Oh yes, a great deal of the gifts were of the teatastic variety, don’t you worry about that.

Let’s have a look:

First up, the most excellent-looking Tovolo loose tea infuser for those busy peeps like me to use on the move:

Doesn’t it look wonderful? It’s like a teabag without the potential quality sacrifice. What luck! I hope it’s not stupidly fiddly and messy to use, because bags are oh-so convenient. This needs to be brilliant or it will become one of may famous Dust Gatherers.
Next up the ridiculously delicious sounding Chocolatea
Oh yes, I said delicious, because this isn’t some common or garden tea stuck to some dairy milk, which would be disgusting. Oh no, no stomach churning sickly cloying here. Or at least there’d better not be. This is Japanese Sencha and cacao nibs. Oh so sophisticated and only 2 calories! (I lied about the calories)

I also want all of the gorgeous tea-sets that are on the market at the moment. Every last one of them. But they are not on my list, because I am a grown up and I have realised that I have no space! 😦 Oh Santa, won’t you bring me a lovely big house in my stocking this year? I’ve been ever so good.
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