Monday, 11 December 2017

Afternoon Tea Lovers Gift Guide - Part One


It's the most wonderful time of the year, which means that you officially have permission to throw caution to the wind and indulge in ALL the treats, and what better way to celebrate than with a whole host of afternoon tea goodies?

Whether you're a generous gifter or hopeful receiver, take a moment or two to indulge in our Tea Lovers Gift Guide, before picking out your faves and sending on to Santa, with the subject heading: "All I want for Christmas is a brew"


1. Bettys Christmas Coffee and Biscuits Set | RRP £10.50 (Currently out of stock online, but alternatives available here)

Whilst perhaps best known for their tea, it's fair to say that Bettys also make a great cup of coffee. This limited edition Christmas blend with all-butter ginger shortbread proves just that, with a full bodied yet smooth texture teamed with just a hint of chocolate to get you in the festive spirit!

2. Oliver Bonas Saskia Cat Mug | RRP £12.00 available to buy online here

Oliver Bonas is a sure fire winner when it comes to cups - and everything else for that matter - but the Saskia Cat Mug has to be one of our all time faves. Styled as the most kawaii feline you'll come across this side of Christmas, this is one for tea and cat lovers alike. (PS: They also have a matching candle, if you're into coordination!)


3. Clippers English Breakfast Gift Caddy | RRP £10.00 available to buy online here

There are so many different tea varieties out there, but sometimes all you want is a good old fashioned cup of Breakfast tea - and when it's presented in a beautiful pink and purple tin, there's really just no saying no. Still need convincing? All of Clippers' products are also 100% Organic and Fair Trade, so it's really a gift that keeps on giving. Available in three varieties (breakfast, green and sleep) these will make the perfect stocking fillers for the tea lover in your life.

4. The Tea Leaf Company Four Tins in a Gift Box | RRP £29.99 available to buy online here

You really can't beat a tin of loose leaf tea and with the Tea Leaf Company's Gift Box you get four! Available to mix and match until your heart's content, you can choose a quartet of any of the following flavours: Hide and Seek, Hush Hush, Smugglers Spice, Royals and Rogues, No 5 Blood Orange, No 6 Simply Green, No 10 Apple & Cinnamon, No 16 Green & Mint, No 24 Lemon & Ginger; No 25 Chamomile; No 28 Simply Mint, and No 66 Jasmine & Lychee - there's literally something for everyone!


5. Tea Tourist Subscription Box | RRP from £12 per month, available to buy online here

Imagine having tea delivered to your door every month for a year? Well with Tea Tourist, you don't have to. Available as a one off purchase or an ongoing subscription, this letter box sized delivery will arrive at your door on around the 20th of each month, with enough tea to keep you going for the next four weeks. Each box comes with six packs of loose leaf tea from a variety of suppliers, along with tasting cards and discounts on full product purchases. We tried out the December box and were really impressed with the Christmassy flavours that they had going on - be sure to try the mulled wine infusion by the Rutland Tea company, it's delish.


6.  Find me a Gift, Cat Face Filter Cup | RRP £8.99, available to buy online here

As you've probably guessed by now, we like cats, in fact we LOVE them and even though we're both a little too old to be filtering away on Snapchat all day, tea cup filters are an entirely different kettle of fish - coincidently, a kettle of fish is EXACTLY what the cats would order if they went for tea, don't you think? Anyway, we love this teacup and think you will too!

What will you be asking Santa for this Christmas? Tell us your dream Afternoon Tea gift in the comments below and look out for the second instalment of our gift guide coming this weekend!


Words & Photography: Caroline

SHARE:

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Afternoon Tea at Sculpture Hall Cafe, Manchester Town Hall


If you’re in Manchester around Christmas time, its famous Christmas markets are compulsory visiting - the smells, the lights, the push and shove, are all part of the annual experience. But not to be all bah humbug, this year the crowds seem to have gone into overdrive and you’re a more worthy fan of pulled pork than us if you manage to fight your way to the hog roast station without an umbrella to at least one eye.


Luckily for Christmas market veterans like ourselves, there is an oasis away from the madness that rests just behind the wooden huts and below where the giant illuminated Santa perches from November to December. Inside Manchester Town Hall nests the beautiful Sculpture Hall Cafe and our choice of afternoon tea venue this past weekend.


For starters, little tip, if you plan on visiting the Sculpture Hall, go AROUND the markets and use the Lloyd Street entrance - we didn’t and felt like we had well and truly earned our champagne by the time we battled our way through. It’s an elegant setting surrounded by stunning architecture, but a casual affair which was honestly quite a pleasant change. Guests are allowed to choose their own table and we would recommend a window seat so you can still take in the markets from a safe distance.


From now until December, the cafe is serving up a festive twist on its traditional afternoon tea served on a simple stand where you’ll find a checklist of all of the season’s well-known flavours. For starters there was a selection of savouries including prawn and marie rose sauce finger sandwiches, turkey and stuffing wrap, brie and cranberry on ciabatta, and roast chestnut and blue cheese tart. Unfortunately neither of us are fans of seafood, so the four prawn sandwiches were a little disappointing, and for two non-cheese connoisseurs, the blue cheese was mighty strong in the tart, overpowering the wintry chestnut. However, the wrap was good and overall the selection was a nice nod to some typical Christmas fare.


Next the scones were small but super tasty - packed with cinnamon and cranberry flavour and served with clotted cream and jam or butter. We lobbed on the jam and cream and honestly I could have eaten three more, they were lovely. Finally the festive theme continued throughout the sweet selection the with a Christmas sponge cake, mini macaroons, rich chocolate and orange mousse and bitesize mince pies. I loved all of them, particularly the sponge cake, a really good mix and just the right size too. 


This afternoon tea comes as either standard or with champagne for an extra £5 and we must say, it was a generous pouring of fizz so worth splashing out - Christmas comes but once a year afterall. Plus you have your standard choice of tea or coffee, of which we had one each, a latte and breakfast tea. We visited quite late in the day so can’t confirm if this was refillable but I would assume, given the price, it is not.


If we were bigger fans of prawns and cheese, perhaps we would have enjoyed this tea more - still it is rather unusual to get four sandwiches with the same filling during afternoon tea. Nonetheless, the sweeter side was great and the environment itself wins back some serious points - how often do you get to slump back in a studded leather armchair surrounded by sculpted busts and Christmas trees pretending you are the Lord or Lady of the manor? 

I would definitely like to go back in the new year to try the Sculpture Hall’s traditional tea menu - at £14.95pp (£19.95 with champagne) you really can’t argue with the price. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for somewhere to experience the quieter side of Christmas in Manchester, the Sculpture Hall Cafe is a good place to start. 

Words - Laura
Photography - Caroline 
SHARE:

Friday, 1 December 2017

Christmas competition!


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

It's the 1st of December, the first doors of our advent calendars are open and that means we are officially allowed to start feeling festive!

To celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, we are giving you the chance to win some Christmas tea goodies.

One lucky winner will bag themselves a Cath Kidston Christmas mug and Whittard Christmas Tea -  perfect for cosying up with on those gold winter nights. 

To enter, all you have to do is follow us over on Twitter at @TeacupReview and retweet the competition to be in with a chance of winning.

The competition will close on 10th December so get your entries in quick! (T&Cs below).

Good luck! 
Laura & Caroline x

Open to UK residents only. Only one entry per person. Competition will close at midnight (BST) on 10/12/2017. The winner will be chosen and announced on 11/12/2017. The Afternoon Tea Club's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. The Afternoon Tea Club is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied by third party connected to this competition. There will be no cash alternative. Winner will be notified via Twitter. By entering the competition the winner agrees to participate in such promotional activity on our website and Twitter. No responsibility can be taken for any entries which are not received for any reason.
SHARE:

Friday, 3 November 2017

Afternoon Tea at The Chester Grosvenor



London tends to steal the limelight in a conversation about the best places for a classic afternoon tea experience. But we would argue, we’re quite lucky here in the North West to have some distinguished venues that offer a traditional tea experience, such as Crewe Hall or The Midland in Manchester, that don’t require a two-hour Pendolino trip down south. One that seemed to fit the bill and had been on our list for a while upon recommendation from friends (aren’t we supposed to be the tea experts around here?), was The Chester Grosvenor, so we decided to check it out last month. 



You can’t get much more central Chester than this hotel, situated right in the middle of town amongst the flurry of shoppers on Eastgate Street and practically on my doorstep, it wins at the location game. Afternoon tea is served in the The Arkle Bar, a sophisticated lounge seeped in deep greens and mahogany, offering a similar atmosphere to that of our favourite London tea venue, The Milestone. Good start. 

There are three types of tea to choose from: Traditional, Gentleman’s and Indulgent. We went for the Indulgent (because why not?), which comes with a glass of champagne and strawberries with clotted cream. As regular afternoon tea-goers, those kinds of touches always stand out for us and the fresh strawberries were delicious. 



Soon after, tea arrived on a three-tier silver stand, a pretty selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes but nothing too thrilling. We tucked into the sandwiches, flavours included, beef and horseradish, ham and tomato, salmon, and cheese and onion. A good choice of flavours and once finished, we were offered a refill so eagerly topped up on the salmon.

Then on to the scones of which there were two each; one fruit, one plain. The scones were quite small but in my opinion - and as someone who's eyes are usually bigger than their stomach - this is a good thing because you never want to overload on scones and leave no room for cake. 



Finally the cake selection, which while absolutely beautiful, did feel a little lacking. We noticed a few tables around us seemed to have a slightly different variation of cakes to ours but that said, the ones we did have were very good and faultlessly decorated. This included a strawberry cheesecake topped with white chocolate and fruit, a raspberry pie, chocolate and lemon on a biscuit base, and polenta cake with pistachio. It’s quite common with afternoon tea to not get two of everything, and that’s fine unless you both end up fighting over the chocolate cake, but I think for an ‘indulgent’ afternoon tea, two cakes each just didn’t feel enough and perhaps a couple more would have done the job. As a side note, we did spot a table next to us were offered a refill, whether this is usual for this afternoon tea or because we were the last sitting of the day, we can’t say for definite but unfortunately we were not offered a cake top up. 



To drink we went for Earl Grey and coffee which came served in one of the most beautiful tea sets we have seen. The coffee pot in particular had an almost steampunk vibe to it which gave the setting a little quirky kick.



This is undoubtedly a ‘traditional’ afternoon tea from the venue right down to the sandwich fillings and while that can be a good thing, it can also mean it misses the wow factor. This is often why ‘traditional’ or ‘classic’ is a tricky game to play. Not everyone needs punk fries or brioche with dipping chocolate to stand out from the crowd but there still needs to be something that makes it special. At £45pp the Indulgent Champagne Afternoon Tea is not the cheapest and therefore I would have expected a little more, particularly when you compare to some London venues which are on parr with the price and offer a lot more for your money. But if classic is your style and you’re looking for a luxury tea setting up North, then this could be right up your street.

Words - Laura
Photography - Caroline

SHARE:

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Royal Afternoon Tea at The Midland Hotel, Manchester



Birthdays always call for afternoon tea, and what better way to celebrate than with a trip to the Midland's recently opened Tea Room in Manchester.

This is one that's been on mine and Laura's radar for some time, particularly because of their fresh approach to dietary requirements (not only do they have champagne and traditional afternoon tea, but they also offer vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and children's options as standard - a massive plus when one of your group is a veggie) so when my friend Caroline suggested that we visit for her birthday, the answer was a resounding yes.




Although relatively new to the afternoon tea scene, their reputation is already strong across Manchester, with bookings for our weekend filling up six weeks ahead of time - a clear sign business must be booming. It was so busy in fact, that we couldn't even manage to sneak in ten minutes earlier on the day and had to wait for our reservation time in the lounge.

Once we managed to sit down, the tea experience began. As I mentioned, the main USP of the Midland is its focus on catering for dietary requirements (I've heard that the Tea Room's manager has tried out every tea in the city, with the aim of creating the best that Manchester has to offer) and as a group who have often struggled to find restaurants and tea venues that are 100% clued up when it comes to vegan, vegetarian and pescetarian menus, I have to say that this makes for a most welcome change.




As standard, you are presented with a "Traditional" and "Royal" afternoon tea menu, with dietary requirements listed in a separate listing. As much as possible, the Midland have tried to make all of the teas as reflective as possible across the board, substituting ingredients well to create similar experiences for diners to enjoy together, regardless of their dietary needs.

For the traditional afternoon tea, the menu currently consists of the following: 

Sandwiches
Goosnargh chicken & BBQ sweet corn on a brioche bun, goats cheese with beetroot chutney on walnut bread, honey baked gammon with garden pea mousse on granary, smoked salmon on dark malt bread, duck egg & mustard cress on white bread

Scones
Plain and sultana scones served with devon clotted cream and Mrs Darlington's Jams - as an FYI whilst you get a dish of clotted cream for the table, the jams are silver served directly onto your plate by the waiting staff, which I found to be a little unusual, but I suppose cuts down on wastage.

Cakes
Dark chocolate delice, passion fruit & white chocolate tart with Italian meringue, pistachio & olive oil cake with orange curd and Scottish strawberry, champagne mousse and Victoria sponge.




My favourites on the day were the chicken on brioche and the chocolate delice. For the sandwiches, it was very pleasing to see such a good variety of bread types (including walnut bread!) as all too often you find that finger sandwiches are neglected when it comes tea planning. The cakes were similarly well balanced in flavour, if erring slightly more towards the mousse direction - which wasn't to the taste of my friends - but that's more of a preference thing. If I'm being critical, I think that there could've been another interest point in the desserts, perhaps a macaron or something of a crunchier nature, to balance out the mousse based treats a little more.



Overall, I was pretty impressed with the Tea Room at the Midland, but would say that they still have a little way to go before they can be crowned as the best afternoon tea in Manchester. This isn't for any particular reason, but I believe that there are a few elements that can be refined and polished even further to create the perfect experience.

It's early days, so I have no doubt that they'll get there, and whilst they do, they are still more than worth a visit - a booked out calendar of reservations can't be wrong!

For more information and booking, please visit:

- Caroline

SHARE:
© The Afternoon Tea Club. All rights reserved.
Blogger Templates by pipdig