Welcome to our blog....here we will share all our afternoon tea adventures with you...the good, the bad and the wonderful!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Time for Tea....Claridges

Hello there,

Welcome back to another afternoon tea post from Tea With Me and Friends....today we are really excited to share with you a recent afternoon tea adventure to Claridges in London. Claridges has been on our wish list for a long time now, and recently Lorna received a really wonderful gift of afternoon tea for two at Claridges (I am really pleased that she decided to take me along with her!).

We were so excited about this particular afternoon tea adventure that we have decided to talk about it in two different vlog posts! Firstly, Lorna talks about the anticipation of waiting for your next afternoon tea adventure and how the build up can be just as exciting as the tea itself (especially if it involves posh post!). We have also added a before, during and after vlog....so you can join us on this adventure! Take a peek at both vlogs and let us know what you think!

Afternoon tea has been enjoyed at Claridges for nearly 150 years, with that much experience they must be good at it.....

Afternoon tea bone china - Claridges

Everything about the afternoon tea is well thought out, from the iconic bone-china and beautiful menu (yes I just complimented their menu!), to the tea selection and amount of filling in their sandwiches. The adventure begins as you are whisked into the 1930s inspired foyer area and shown to your seats, a menu is thrust into your hands and you are asked to pick your tea. Our tea included a glass of rose champagne, which we sipped as we picked from the 22 teas on offer.

Once our teas were picked, the sandwich plate was brought out to us and each filling described. Claridges are very particular about the amount of filling in each sandwich (it should match the bread size) and also the cut of the bread - this makes for an aesthetically pleasing sandwich plate....

Afternoon tea sandwiches at Claridges

The fillings included:
Smoked salmon scone, Aquitaine caviar
Clarence court duck egg mayonnaise on white bread
English cucumber, cream cheese, rocket on white bread
Corn fed chicken, lemon thyme, walnut on malt bread
Poached Var salmon, garden herb mayonnaise on rye bread
Dorrington ham, smoked tomato chutney, watercress on onion bread

This was a very traditional sandwich plate, and the sandwiches were all very uniform in appearance. The flavours were delicate and the bread soft and fresh. I'm not the biggest ham fan - but I gobbled down this ham sandwich rather quickly! We were offered more of the sandwiches once we had finished the first plate.

Once we had polished off the sandwiches, we were brought out a plate of scones and the pastries.

Afternoon tea scones at Claridges

The scones were pleasingly warm when they arrived at the table, and we had one plain and one fruit scone each. They were served with clotted cream and Marco Polo gelee (aka the most amazing jam!). Lorna commented on how handmade the scones looked - not at all uniform. 

They were a good size - not too big, not too small, and had a good texture.

Scones dressed the Claridges way!

The gelee is strawberry with a touch of vanilla and Bergamot, making it sweet and light - perfect with the clotted cream. I thought that maybe the scones were a tiny bit claggy...but Lorna informed me that I simply didn't have enough cream on them!

Warning - the next sentence might upset some of our readers........
We were delighted to note in the menu that Claridges suggest that you enjoy their scones with cream first, topped with a teaspoon of the gelee! We obviously followed this great advice!

Finally we moved onto the pastries....now you might drool a little now if you haven't already.....

Afternoon tea pastries at Claridges

I did warn you!

These were slightly bigger than we expected, but each one looked beautiful. The choice changes weekly, according to the availability of the ingredients. Most importantly they are made fresh each day. 

Our selection included a chocolate and caramel financier, a passion fruit macaroon, a citrus cake and a raspberry and lemon tart. Again, the flavours were all very delicate and not at all artificial - each pastry was well balanced and not too sweet.

If you have seen the vlog post you'll know that the chocolate and caramel financier was Lorna's favourite.....

This was rich in flavour and texture, but also delicate - it melted in your mouth!

I really liked the citrus cake, which surprised me as it had grapefruit on the top, along with some micro-basil.....

The Madeira cake at the bottom was rich and dense, this complimented the Sharp grapefruit well.

Once we had finished we were pleasantly full, but not too full that we couldn't move. This was of course all consumed with rather a lot of tea - although it's worth remembering that your waiter will be in charge of your tea pouring, each cup is brewed individually for you.

The service throughout our experience was faultless, nothing was too much trouble and everyone we encountered at the hotel was friendly and helpful. This is most definitely service done the right way - we felt well looked after without the experience being overly fussy.

Our experience ended with a little treat courtesy of Hope and Greenwood to take home with us....

Sweet treats from Hope and Greenwood

Claridges offers a variety of different afternoon teas ranging from the classic which is £55 per person to the rose champagne afternoon tea which is £80 per person. For more information and to see the current seasonal afternoon tea please visit the Claridges website.

This afternoon tea is definitely a treat rather than an everyday experience, but in our opinion if you want a special afternoon tea adventure you can't go far wrong with Claridges. Please note that you need to book in advance.

Tea With Me and Friends at Claridges!

We'd like to thank the person who gave us this rather wonderful gift.

Don't forget to take a peek at the vlog post for more details about this afternoon tea adventure - we'd love to know what you think (please excuse the awful sound and picture quality!)

So, over to you.....you've heard about our new favourite afternoon tea adventure.....now it's your turn to tell us about yours! Leave us a comment below, or on the Facebook Page!

Thank you for popping by today,
Rachel & Lorna

Square Meal

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Time for Tea.....The Greedy Frog Tearooms

Hello there,

Welcome back to another afternoon tea post from Tea With Me and Friends.

Recently Alex and I ventured to the Greedy Frog Tearooms in Oakhanger, Hampshire. The Chocolate Frog Company is a unique shopping experience in Oakhanger, which is made up of shopping galleries, a food hall and the Greedy Frog Tearooms. Alex and I had a lovely wander around the shops looking at the gifts and food items before settling down for a spot of afternoon tea.

The tearoom itself is quaint but comfortable, full of wooden tables and chairs. The china used when we visited was of the plain white variety, modern but elegant.

We opted for an afternoon tea for two, which comes with your choice of a pot of tea or a cup of coffee. The coffee is served with a piece of the most wonderful, creamy fudge.....

The afternoon tea was freshly prepared while we waited and served on a pretty cake stand.....

The sandwiches were cut into fingers, but were quite large. We had just two varieties - cucumber and egg mayonnaise, served on both white and brown bread.

We found the sandwiches very fresh and filling, they looked very rustic....

The bread was soft - I liked the egg mayonnaise a lot (being one of my favourite fillings), but was pleasantly surprised by the cucumber which had been peeled.

Once we had finished the pile sandwiches we moved onto the scones - we had one each....but one was more than enough as they were GIANT....

As well as the scones we had a pot of clotted cream between us and two little jars of strawberry jam....

To be honest I think the scones could have been a little smaller, as they were on the verge of being a bit claggy. However, they tasted wonderful and had plenty of raisins in them.

Finally we made it to the sweets on the plate, which included a piece of super rich chocolate brownie and a huge slab of Victoria sponge cake.

The Victoria sponge was light and flavoursome. I liked the fact that it had been cut into three as it meant there was more cream and jam!

Now, we visited the tearooms a couple of weeks ago now and my memory is failing me now and so I cannot remember the exact amount we paid for the tea but I remember it being less than £20 for both of us. Considering the amount of food and the quality we thought the price was really good.

 Although it wasn't the most elegant afternoon tea experience, everything was fresh and well prepared. If you are in the area and fancy a filling, rustic style afternoon tea experience then you won't be disappointed.

For more information about the Greedy Frog Tearooms visit their website. 

Now over to you - do you have a favourite tearoom that you think we should know about, leave us a comment and let us know!

Thank you for popping by today,

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Friday Review....exclusivitea

Hello there,

Welcome back to Tea With Me and Friends....it's Friday so that means only one thing....time to find out what tea we have been supping this week.

Recently a company called exclusivitea got in touch with us to introduce the teas they source from Sri Lanka. Keen to try new teas they kindly sent us some Ceylon black tea from Halpewatte Tea, a tea factory in Sri Lanka. We were sent a couple of different grades to try....but we had to start with this one in it's rather cute packaging....

The packaging is made from dried Reed leaves, which makes it eco-friendly and really rather cute....not something that you want to hide away in your cupboard. In fact the tea bags themselves are also rather special as they are manually woven envelopes .....

Inside the tea bags there is FBOP1 graded Ceylon black tea leaves - otherwise known as Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe tea. This tea is high grown and medium grown in the hills on the estate, the high elevation at which it is picked gives the tea a bright colour and full flavor.

We found the tea to be bold in colour and flavour, not quite as mellow as we expected but very refreshing. All in all a lovely tea to be enjoyed in the afternoon with a slice of cake!

Exclusivitea have wanted to bring high quality Sri Lankan tea to European tea drinkers for a while now, they will be gradually introducing new ranges and individual teas from various parts of Sri Lanka. 

A little bit about Halpewatte Tea - they have been producing Ceylon tea leaves for over 35 years on their tea estate in Sri Lanka, exporting all over the world. They do not store teas in warehouses for long periods of time to keep the freshness and flavour in their teas. They offer a single origin pure Ceylon tea from their own plantations, and they do not blend their teas with other leaves.

Halpewatte tea is a bearer of the Lion logo, a symbol of quality granted by the Ceylon Tea Board, the body regulating the tea industry in Sri Lanka. 

You can buy this refreshing tea directly from exclusivitea for £9.99 for ten bags. This seems quite expensive....but we feel this is no ordinary tea experience. From the handmade box to the beautiful tea envelopes - this feels like a decadent tea experience to be savoured rather than a rushed cup of tea first thing in the morning as you are getting ready for work. For more information visit the exclusivitea website.

Thank you exclusivitea for sending us a selection of your teas, we look forward to trying the other blends. Please note that although we have received this product from the tea company, all opinions expressed in this post are our own.

So over to you...what do you think about this cute tea packaging.....does the packaging affect your tea purchases at all?

Thank you for popping by today,
Rachel & Lorna

Monday, 23 March 2015

Time for ....a little introduction!

Hello there,

Welcome back to Tea With Me and Friends!

Lorna and I have some really exciting news....we have launched a YouTube channel to go along with this blog! As well as reading about our afternoon tea adventures and drooling over our photos you'll now also be able to listen to us ramble on about all things afternoon tea!

We launched the channel this weekend and so far just have an introduction post live, but we have lots planned for future posts and can't wait to start filming more! We will aim to post something new every week on a Saturday morning, so watch this space!

If you'd like to take a peek at our introduction vlog you can find it here - take a peek and leave us a comment to say hi! We'd love it if you hit the "thumbs up" button too!

We can't wait to share more afternoon tea adventures with you all, and thank you for your continued support!

Thanks for popping by today,

Rachel & Lorna

PS - the vlogs will get better - we promise!!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Time for Tea....Cafe Abantu, Cambridgeshire

Hello there,

Welcome back to another lovely guest post at Tea With Me and Friends, this time we are joined by Pina from One Two Culinary Stew as she shares her recent afternoon tea adventure at Cafe Abantu in Bourn, Cambridgeshire.

Pina went to Cafe Abantu on Mother's Day, let's find out more about her afternoon tea.....

I’m lucky enough to live in the South Cambridgeshire countryside where I have access to many charming tearooms located in lovely villages. Cafe Abantu is one of those tearooms. It’s truly a hidden gem with a strong emphasis on running the place ethically.

The cake table at Cafe Abantu

They’re not usually open on Sundays but they (wisely) decided that Mothering Sunday is the time to spoil all mums so they hosted an afternoon tea featuring finger sandwiches, cakes, pastries, scones with jam and cream as well as a good cup of tea, of course. The best part is that it was laid back and informal so people could concentrate on interacting with family and not worry about too much fuss.

We could also bring our own wine so we did a “BYOP – bring your own Prosecco”! 

Afternoon tea - Cafe Abantu

Because we wanted to sip our Prosecco with our sandwiches, we asked for our tea to be brought at the end, when we ate our scones. I realise that we probably broke every etiquette rule in the “afternoon tea” book but the informality is precisely what we liked about our experience. 

There was plenty of food too! The middle tier included four different types of crustless finger sandwiches, all very fresh with yummy fillings, such as ham with mustard and egg salad with watercress. I spotted a sandwich with green filling and was pleased to taste curry and raisins… very delicious! An added bonus was the mini quiche. There were two of every single type so no fighting with hubby on Mothers’ Day! 

Afternoon tea sandwiches & scones
Cafe Abantu

The remaining two tiers had a combination of scones, cakes and pastries. 

I particularly liked the custard tart topped with fresh fruit. There were two scones, one raisin and one plain. I had the plain one with clotted cream and strawberry jam in those cute Tiptree mini jars. 

Afternoon tea sweets - Cafe Abantu

Our tea was served in vintage cups, with a mismatched teapot and milk jug to reflect Cafe Abantu’s charming decor. I loved that this wasn’t a formal afternoon tea experience but rather a relaxing time with family where the focus wasn’t on the dress code, order of food on the tiered cake stand, cream or jam first and other afternoon tea do’s and don’ts. Casual and stress-free… just what I needed on this day!

Vintage china - Cafe Abantu

Pina enjoying a spot of afternoon tea!

Well I don't know about you, but I love the bring your own prosecco idea, and what a scrummy looking afternoon tea! I have read a little more about Cafe Abantu and their Fairtrade policies. They believe in dealing with community based and local suppliers, sourcing gifts and produces responsibly, making sure of each suppliers policies and ethical issues. For more information visit their website.

A big thank you to Pina for sharing her experience with us, if you would like to share an afternoon tea adventure please get in touch!

Thank you for popping by today,
Rachel & Lorna

Friday, 20 March 2015

The Friday Review....Piacha

Hello there,

Welcome back to Tea With Me and Friends - you are just in time for another lovely Friday Review.

This week we are featuring another lovely blend from Piacha who we first discovered last week when we tried two of their rooiboos teas. This time we are featuring their Moroccan Mint tea, which one of our lovely readers called Simon mentioned to us after our last post. He told us he had tried the Moroccan Mint and it was "Really well balanced, full mint flavour, no artificial sweetness just totally refreshing."

Inspired by this I took a look at Piacha's website for some more information....I found that their Moroccan Mint tea is gunpowder green tea blended with cooling peppermint, tangy spearmint and fragrant rose petals.....

A very pretty looking blend! 

Now, I'm not much of a mint tea drinker if I am honest and so I asked my colleague Rosie to try this one as she loves a cup of mint tea.

Rosie brewed the tea at home and reported back to us....

Moroccan Mint Tea from Piacha

Rosie commented that she thought it was a very light blend, not as intense in flavour as she had expected. It was pleasant to drink though and as Simon had said not at all artificial in flavour - light and refreshing.

Moroccan Mint Tea from Piacha

This tea is available from the Piacha Tea Bar in London, or via their website. 

The tea costs £5.20 for 70g and its recommended that you two-three teaspoons of leaves per cup. Brew the tea for three minutes, but remember not to pour boiling water directly onto the tea leaves as this can make the green tea taste bitter. For more information on this tea please visit the Piacha website.

Thank you to Simon for his recent comments on the blog, and also Rosie our taste tester for this week! So, over to you....have you tried this Moroccan Mint tea? What did you think? Or is there another Moroccan Mint that you would recommend? We look forward to hearing from you!

Thank you for popping by today,

Monday, 16 March 2015

Time for Tea...The Langham

Hello there,

Welcome back to another afternoon tea post from Tea With Me and Friends, now it was Mother's Day in the UK this weekend and as some of you may know that is where our love affair with afternoon tea first began. We have been taking mum for afternoon tea on Mothering Sunday for years and years now...enjoying some time together in beautiful surroundings, while sipping tea and eating cake. It's a tradition that we all love and look forward to each year.

This year we visited somewhere that I have wanted to try for a while now, The Palm Court at The Langham, in London. The Palm Court has been serving afternoon tea since the Victorian era and offers guests a beautiful lounge to enjoy tea in. As soon as you are ushered into the room you leave the hustle and bustle of Regents Street far behind, the air is sweet with roses and everyone smiles at you and makes you feel very welcome.

Everything about The Palm Court is elegant and under-stated, from the beautiful china to the fresh red roses on each table....

A beautiful setting awaits you at
Palm Court, The Langham

As it was Mother's Day we enjoyed The Mother's Day Langham Afternoon Tea With Wedgewood, which was served with a glass of Laurent Perrier Champagne.

There were thirty different tea blends to choose from, which included something for everyone. I decided to play it safe with the Langham Blend, which was a light black tea perfect with the cakes scones we were about to enjoy.

Lorna enjoyed the Exotic Blend which smelt like grannies (aka roses) and Mum tried both The Langham Blend and also the Peach tea, which was a black tea lightly flavoured with peaches (a very subtle blend). 

As we enjoyed our champagne (which was lovely!) we were served a wonderfully light lemon posset to begin our afternoon tea adventure...

Lemon Posset - the perfect start to
afternoon tea at The Langham

Once we had finished the posset, the sandwiches were brought out on silver trays. The waiters described each sandwich in turn and we could choose which ones we wanted to try....as you can imagine we opted to try all of them (well we had to make sure all the flavours were good - all in the name of research!). 

The sandwiches are served onto individual plates for guests to enjoy.....

Afternoon tea sandwiches
The Langham, London

These were perfect examples of finger sandwiches, small and crustless and made with the freshest bread. The two small rolls were also very fresh and easy to eat (although the ham was a little messy). 

The fillings in the sandwiches were as follows:
London cured smoked salmon with whipped brie and rocket
Corn-fed chicken with tarragon mustard and plum tomato
Cucumber with cream cheese and chives

And in the rolls we enjoyed:
Burford Brown free range egg and mustard cress
Smoked mountain ham with Comté cheese and white truffle oil

I enjoyed each of the sandwiches, although my favourite was the egg roll. 

Once we were finished we were offered more sandwiches, which on this occasion we declined as we wanted plenty of room for the delights that lay ahead. At this point we were told that scones and pastries can be taken home, but sandwiches cannot.

Next the sweets were brought to the table....let's start with the scones which were served warm, wrapped in a napkin....

Scones at The Langham

We had both plain and fruit scones to enjoy, with clotted cream and strawberry preserve. 

The scones were perfect (yes I just said perfect!)....probably the best scones I have enjoyed. They were small, fresh and light as air. The clotted cream was rich and the preserve sweet and full of flavour - the perfect scone experience. 

Scones dressed the Tea With Me and Friends way
 at Palm Court, The Langham

Lorna and I might have enjoyed extra scones....just to make sure they were as good as we first thought!

After we enjoyed the scones we moved onto the sweet plates....

Sweet afternoon tea treats
The Langham

Now, first of all I am pleased to confirm that each guest received one of these plates - so no fighting over these beautiful treats! Secondly.....they all tasted as good as they look.

Our waiter explained each item to us, then suggested an order to try them in:

First off it was the English rose and lychee log at the front - which had a light biscuit base and a beautiful rose and lychee filling, wrapped in thin white chocolate. Again, it was light as air, fragrant and delicious - the lychees burst in your mouth as you took a bite. 

Next we moved onto the beautiful miniature Victoria sponge which was flavoured with strawberries and white balsamic. The sponge was surprisingly light and the icing encasing the sponge, thin and sweet....

A tiny, but perfect Victoria Sponge
Afternoon Tea at The Langham

After the sponge we moved onto the cinnamon teapot cookie and then the raspberry and lime macaroon....

Raspberry & Lime macaroon
Palm Court at The Langham

The macaroon had a small square of raspberry jelly in the middle, while the lime came from the cream surrounding it. The macaroon itself was light and crisp - all in all a lovely treat.

Next we moved onto the lime pana cotta in the shot glass which acted as a palate cleanser before the final sweet....

Chocolate, raspberries and pistachios
at The Langham

This treat featured 64% chocolate, raspberry and toasted pistachio - making for a rich and indulgent end to this afternoon tea feast! Those tiny little hearts were made from creamy white chocolate.

This is definitely one afternoon tea adventure that you enjoy with your eyes as much as your taste buds, everything looked so pretty! But Pastry Chef Cherish Finden has ensured that as well as looking good, every element tasted wonderful too....

Afternoon tea
Palm Court - The Langham

At £59.00 per person, this is definitely a treat rather than an every day afternoon tea experience. 

However, every part of the tea is well thought out and well delivered. The service was friendly and attentive - our tea cups never ran dry - the surroundings comfortable and beautiful, and the food of a very high standard. It's no wonder that Cherish was named pastry chef of the year 2012 by the Craft Guild of Chefs.

I thought I would leave you with one last look at that beautiful sweet plate...

Afternoon tea sweet plate
The Langham, London

More information about the current afternoon tea on offer at The Langham can be found on their website. 

So, over to you - where has been your most favourite afternoon tea experience...we'd love to hear from you....

Thank you for popping by today,
Rachel & Lorna

Saturday, 14 March 2015

It's time to talk about teacups!

Hello there, welcome back to Tea With Me and Friends.....

Well, more accurately I am making time to talk about teacups as my lovely husband has just returned from a cycling trip to South Africa.  Without me.  Yes, you do sense an edge to my punctuation.  On the one hand, it is a cycling holiday and you could not pay me enough money to compensate for the torture of going on a "so called" cycling holiday.  On the other hand, well, just look at the photos!  It was beautiful! And hot!
However, I digress.  My husband knows that when he goes away on his cycling trips that I will never stop him.  I will not complain about the bike parts strewn over my dining table, bar tape stuck to the back of chairs and grease on my laminate floors.  Too much.  Until 48 hours prior to departure when all hell breaks loose.  He also knows on pain of death not to return unless he has a gift for me.

I am pleased to report that my lovely husband is still alive and he outdid himself this time!  He found me a beautiful, vibrant cup and saucer which was handmade and decorated locally in Franschhoek.  It is bright blue with a dainty little floral pattern and will fit right in with my collection.
The newest addition to my collection
I am sure you will not be surprised to discover that I do indeed have a collection of china.  Some of it chintzy, some elegant, some modern and some not.  I am proud to say that I can host a tea for ten people and serve them all a different trio of plate, cup and saucer.  I can probably host more guests than that but would never admit to it in such a public setting for fear of my husband finding out just how many teacups I hide in my kitchen cupboards!

My first tea set was a charity shop find, many moons ago.  I had no china or silverware to my name, this blog was not even a twinkle in Rachel's eye and I may have only been to a handful of afternoon teas.  However the pretty yellow flowers and gold trim called out to me from the dusty shelves.  I was drawn to it.  I did not know why but I did know that at £10 for the complete set of four trios, milk jug, sugar bowl and serving plate, I simply could not leave it behind.

The pretty pattern that started my collection
Another favourite of mine was found in a dark corner of my Mum's garage.  As my Mum brought boxes out into the garden she stopped to peruse the contents and decide on its fate.  I was delighted when a box of my Nan's nicknacks made its way out.  I had always enjoyed staring through the glass of my Nan's cabinets at all of the wonderful little trinkets, each with a story to accompany it.  I was even more thrilled to see this little trio appear, with its large pink flowers and slightly squared plate.  I did not remember it from my childhood - that probably being the main reason it had survived said period, as it had most likely been kept away from my clumsy little fingers!  I loved discovering this new side to my Nan and I think this is what makes this pretty set so dear to me.
The trio that had once belonged to my Nan

Now, you will have noticed that I am not at all concerned about the quality of my china, its age, number of chips or indeed the value.  I choose my pieces based on what speaks to me, what makes me feel special when I use it and what makes my heart sing.  Well, this last trio which I am sharing with you does all of the above!  This is my only teacup with any age, purportedly being nearly 100 years old.  It has a beautiful green edge and such variety of exquisite little flowers of purple, pink, yellow and blue.  It is so delicate that my husband refuses to even look at it, for fear of it cracking beneath the weight of his gaze.  It lives in its own special place in a cupboard away from the rest of my china.  I do use it, as I believe an unused teacup is an unfulfilled teacup, but I use it rarely.  On days when I need a little lift.  On days when I need to feel special.
So now I have told you (in length, I know, and for which I can only apologise!) about some of my favourite teacups I would love to hear about some of yours.  Or better yet, see some photos!  So please do get in touch and tell us your stories about your most beloved teacups!

So over to you....do you have a favourite teacup? Leave us a comment here or Tweet us a photo on Twitter!

Thank you for popping by today,