Shrove Tuesday: Pancake Day

Today, 9 February 2016 is Shrove Tuesday – see yesterday’s blog – also known as Pancake Day for the tradition of making and serving pancakes on this day. For many tea rooms, pancakes can be found regularly on the menu, both savoury and sweet, and Pancake Day is a reason to delight customers with this traditional fayre. Here’s a few you might try today:

The Opera Rooms, Retford, Nottinghamshire is hotting up the pancake pan ready to serve you pancakes today – and you’re sure of a good pot of tea too.


Thaymar Tea Room, Bothamstall, Nottinghamshire is making the most of their own ice creams for their sweet selection of pancakes, though are also serving savoury options – from Cheddar, Mushroom and Spinach, to Banana, Toffee Sauce and Caramel Honeycombe Ripple Ice Cream if sweet is your fancy:

I will shortly be visiting some of the Tiptree Tea Rooms, in Essex that I have not yet visited or reviewed but, meantime, why not head to their website for some pancake recipe ideas to make at home? You can then choose your own preferred tea blend to enjoy with the different pancakes.

Here’s to a fun day whether you visit a tea room and let someone else tangle with the tossing of the pancakes, or whether you make your own at home. Either way, a nice pot of loose leaf tea is the perfect companion to any pancake, savoury or sweet.


Forty days of tea, tea rooms, tea paraphernalia …

Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day. This is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, leading up to the Christian festival of Easter. In the past, Shrove Tuesday was a day in which to use up food that wouldn’t be eaten over Lent, when people were fasting. Making pancakes to use up surplus eggs and butter was, therefore, something people did traditionally and the tradition lives on though fewer people now fast through Lent. So how does this link to tea, tea rooms and tea paraphernalia?

An obvious connection is that many tea rooms in the UK re-open for the season around Easter, especially in seaside and tourist areas of the country. They may struggle to remain open in the quieter months of the Winter or may simply be taking time off for refurbishments, their own holidays and so on. In a sense there has been a tea room ‘fast’ for the Winter months and now it is time to fling open their doors and welcome their many customers who are beginning to travel the country and come out of their Winter hibernation.

My only other excuse for forty days of tea, tea rooms and tea paraphernalia, is that it gives me an opportunity to use the Lent period to share information on my favourite subject. There is so much to say about ‘all things tea’ and why not grab the chance to do that? Keep watching this space in the lead up to Easter for lots of lovely tea factoids and fripperies, from the history of ‘all things tea’, to a bit of wit here and there.

I am looking forward to tripping along a lovely path of tea and, hopefully, entertaining as I go. I am currently visiting many tea rooms across the UK so look forward to sharing more with you once the tea room season is fully up and running …..




Tea appy

Mighty Timer iPhone 2

What am I doing writing a review of an app, I hear you ask? What has that got to do with tea? Read on and you will find out  . .

Using Twitter means I come across all sorts of information about tea (among other things); some useful, some quirky, some weird, some wonderful. One of the many ‘finds’ recently was the Mighty Timer app. This lists all different types of teas, from black to blooming, from flavoured green to flavoured white, to oolong, to pu’erh, and so on. You can use the customise features to add your own blends if you wish; I added Rose Congou as it is a tea I often drink. Alongside each tea type is a suggested time for brewing, the amount of tea to use and the temperature to which the water should be boiled. Teas are made at different temperatures? Yes; that’s one for another blog. You may wish to brew your tea for a longer or shorter time but, no worries, there is a custom feature, which is simple to use, in order to adjust your brews to suit your preference. After all, brew times for tea are a matter of taste as much as what anyone else may recommend to you. I like my black tea brewed for 4-5 minutes in a teapot but you may brew your leaves directly in the cup with an internal cup strainer and only require 2 minutes.

App Icon 1024x1024

However you like your tea, all you need do is to boil the kettle, add the water to your tea leaves, set the timer to your chosen tea, press the icon, and wait. As you wait, the image of a teacup slowly fills as the clock ticks down. Once it has reached the correct time it chimes and does a little dance for you. Well, ok, maybe it’s not exactly a dance but the cup jiggles about so you know your tea is ready. By the way, don’t be fooled by the ‘tea bag’ hanging from the cup; this timer is aimed at loose leaf tea users – it even suggests the amount of spoons to add to the pot.


Why would I use that, you ask? Well, I found the perfect opportunity only the other day. I was on my tea room travels, had ordered a pot of loose leaf English Breakfast Tea and, as it was served to the table, remembered I had my trusty Mighty Timer app on my phone. Ah ha, thought I, now is the chance to put this little app to the test. As I’ve said, I like my black tea brewed for 4 minutes but I had already used the custom feature to set to 4 minutes so it was ready to go. I watched with glee as the cup filled up and then chimed and ‘danced’; bingo, tea ready and a lovely cup it was too. You are also able to customise the alert sound, which can be handy when using in a public place such as a tea room; you can even just have the ‘vibrate’ alert to avoid disturbing anyone else – though I am sure this ingenious little app would be a great talking point!

iPhone 5 4

I find this to be a delightfully simple and useful app, handy when you are away from home without your usual timer (if, like me you have one at home) or for use for every pot you brew home and away. What’s more, it could encourage your workmates, partners, or children to get brewing for you while you sit and put your feet up; perfect.


Mighty Timer is @MightyTimer on Twitter or follow the link to download the app at

Bringing in the New Year: Day 36

Day 36

Thornham Deli, High Street, Thornham, Norfolk PE36 6LX
Tel: 01485 512 194
Opening times: Daily 8am-5pm
Access: Flat access. Car parking on site

“All our food is cooked fresh to order – we therefore thank you for your patience during busy times – it’s worth the wait”. That is the philosophy that underpins the way Thornham Deli works. I didn’t have to wait long but I can concur that the food is certainly worth the wait. The tea room has heavy pine tables and chairs, which can accommodate one person or large parties. It attracts both tourists and locals for just a cup of tea or a full meal. It is table service. It serves loose leaf tea. I am glad I went there in the morning because their breakfast menu is very good. I chose the Boiled Eggs and Soldiers; it’s not often you get that on the menu but they do also serve kippers; another rarity. I had the breakfast tea from Butterworths; I had not tried theirs before and it was really good. Although busy, you do not have the feeling of being rushed. This is a tea room that has been recommended to me by a number of people on Twitter. I am glad I took up their suggestion because this is a deservedly popular place and worth going the extra mile for. The next time I go I will make sure that I am in time for the delicious cakes.


Bringing in the New Year: Day 35

Day 35

Lios Beag Cafe, Lismore Gaelic heritage Centre, Isle of Lismore by Oban, PA34 5UL
Tel: 01631 760 020
Opening times: 11am to 4pm daily, April to October
Access: Flat access. Full disabled person’s facilities

This is a tea room to remember when planning your summer holidays because it doesn’t open until April. I know not many people will be travelling to the Isle of Lismore but it is important to recognise that there are these small and specialised tea rooms that offer a great service. If you are on Lismore, and I do recommend it as a very beautiful place, full of history, then you must call in at the only tea room on the island, which is based in the Gaelic Heritage Centre. It may be the only tea room but I wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t worth going the extra mile to. It is an easy trip to Lismore from Port Appin, just outside Oban, taking 10 minutes. Donald Black says “Lismore is an island where each ruin, each knoll carries some tale, some secret tradition unique to that spot”. That’s what makes Lismore special. The cafe serves loose leaf tea, which makes it even more special; if you can do that in the middle of nowhere you can do it anywhere! If you plan your day right the Calmac ferry allows you up to 7 hours walking time (gives you time for a cup of tea). The tea room has an extensive menu of home cooked food from breakfats through to lunch, all day meals and some delicious homemade cakes, all baked on the premises. Order at the counter and you will be served to the table where picture windows overlook the amazing scenery. In good weather, or if you just have a hardy constitution, there is a veranda to sit on. Obviously, this is a place that attracts tourists but it is also frequented by locals and used for events. This is am amazing place to visit – both the island and the tea room; it is certainly worth the boat ride and walk to eat here.


Bringing in the New Year: Day 34

Day 34
Dolly’s (in Selfridges), 400 Oxford Street, London W1A 1AB
Tel: 0207 318 3616
Opening times: 11.30 am to ??? NEED TO ADD
Access: Flat access. Full disabled person’s facilities. Oxford Street is only open to buses and taxis

There are a number of places to eat in Selfridges, let alone along Oxford Street. If you want a truly great tea room with added luxury then Dolly’s is the place for you. It is on the Lower Ground Floor. Dolly’s is named after the Dolly sisters, a pair of glamorous identical twins who entranced 1920’s audiences, and particularly the founder of Selfridges, Henry Gordon Selfridge, with enchanting performances. To reflect this, Dolly’s is in an art-deco inspired cafe in the centre of a shopping area with black wrought iron surrounds. Certainly a place to people-watch. It is the perfect place to enjoy traditional afternoon tea outside of the London hotel scene. Table service, loose leaf tea, fine bone china, pristine silverware, three tiered cake stands make it a dream place for Afternoon Tea. To enter you have to queue, not for long, standing alongside the counter with the most amazing pastries and cakes. It was here that I saw individual Victoria Sponge Sandwich cakes with the most beautiful thin spiral of jam swirl on top of a delicate smatter of icing, alongside Belle Époque pastries. I chose Earl Grey tea with my open sandwich of salt beef, mustard mayonnaise and dill pickle on caraway bread. Fantastic but I have to say the chicken cesaer salad on the next table looked really good. Their chocolate brownies are gluten-free. However, they do a great formal Afternoon Tea – the Classic Afternoon Tea is made up of scones, cake and tea but Dolly’s Afternoon Tea has a bridge roll with lobster and crab, pastries and cake. Dolly’s offers luxury in a non-exclusive setting, which is great and I am glad I did not miss it.

Bringing in the New Year: Day 33

Day 33
Truly Scrumptious, 50 Stramongate, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 4BD
Tel: 01539 733 201
Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am to 4.30
Access: Flat access. Parking nearby

This tea room describes itself as ‘modern with a retro take’. I think it is just delightful, full of interesting artefacts – a large 3-tiered cake stand in the window, very retro black and white lampshades. The chairs are faded pink velvet and very comfortable. Table service, friendly staff and loose leaf teas are the finishing touches for me. The menu is interesting with some lovely cakes and interesting ‘specials’. I was delighted to see rose petal tea on the menu, which is so refreshing. I was interested to read in the menu that during the day Truly Scrumptious is a tea room and in the evening becomes a bistro. Somehow this is a small business that knows how to diversify without trying to be all things to all people at the same time. A clever idea. I wouldn’t have missed visiting this tea room – it was a real pleasure but I was disappointed not to have enough time to visit the bistro in the evening.

Bringing in the New Year: Day 32

Day 32

Thaymar Tea Room, Haughton Park farm, West Drayton Avenue, Bothamstall, Nottinghamshire DN22 8DB
Tel: 01623 862 632
Opening times: Monday to Sunday 10am to 5.30pm
Access: Flat access. Parking on site. Full disabled person’s facilities.

I remember going to Thaymar Tea Rooms in 2002, discovering it by accident, in what seemed like the cosy back rooms of a farmhouse. I can still remember the excellent breakfast I had there and the beautiful home produced ice cream I bought to take home. They still produce 30 varieties of ice cream and sorbet. I’d been back a couple of time but not for a while. I knew the ice cream was still being produced because it is now widely available. When I decided to visit the tea rooms again it was a great surprise; I suspected there might be some changes but I certainly didn’t expect as many changes. The new tea room is on the same site, in the same delightful setting with chickens running around but it is in a completely different building. The shop has expanded to selling more than just ice cream; it is almost like a deli. The tea room has expanded with new tables and chairs and a completely different atmosphere but somehow it still feels like sitting in a farmhouse kitchen. It is more comfortable, a lot busier with a bigger menu. When I visited the tea room was full with a great atmosphere. They have maintained table service. I tried a toasted tea cake and a cup of Earl Grey tea. It was really good. I used to like this tea room but now I like it even more. It feels vibrant and not one to be missed.

Bringing in the New Year: Day 31

Day 31

P Cafe, 1464 Pershore Road, Birmingham, B30 2NT
Tel: 07952 556 926
Opening times: Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm
Access: Flat access. Parking on side streets

Stirchley is an area of Birmingham that is gradually getting a new lease of life. The main street through it is being brightened up. There is a relatively new artisan bakery that also offers bread-making workshops. With a small shop front, it could be easy to miss the P Cafe, but don’t because it’s great. Inside there are small tables as well as a sofa and armchair. P Cafe is a favourite with parents and children but also runs writing groups and displays local art work. There is a sense that P Cafe is embedded in the local community. There is table service although you can order at the counter. Loose leaf tea is served and the sandwiches are excellent because they are using bread from the artisan bakery. There are some excellent homemade cakes and traybakes. P cafe is the sort of tea room everyone needs at the bottom of their street – good service, friendly staff, excellent quality food and the feeling you are part of, and contributing to, the community. Do not pass by P Cafe; in fact, go out of your way to try it.

Bringing in the New Year: Day 30

Day 30
St Martins Tea and Coffee Merchants, 2-6 St Martins Walk, Leicester LE1 5DG
Tel: 0116 251 2879
Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm (although there are some evening events)
Access: Flat access. Disabled Person’s toilet. There is also a mezzanine area. St Martins is in the midst of a pedestrianised area but there is some on-street parking nearby for Blue Badge holders.

I remember when St Martins Coffee House was a tiny shop selling tea and coffee, with two tables serving drinks and a few traybakes. Several years ago it moved into much larger premises, not far away, with two floors so that the business expanded into a full coffee house/ tea room but still retaining a thriving tea and coffee selling business. I love it. There is a mismatch of furniture. From oak to metal tables, from armchairs to metal garden furniture and everything in between. St Martins is an expert in knowing what they do best and keeping things simple. All prices are rounded to multiples of a pound. There is a selection of sandwiches, which can be on granary, white, ciabatta and all come served on small wooden boards. There are some interesting vegetarian dishes. The menu changes on a regular basis. I loved their smoked salmon and creamed cheese ciabatta. They, not surprisingly, have a separate tea menu. My favourite is Ceylon Dimbula. It is not often you get a Ceylon tea from a specified region; the tea regions in Sri Lanka give each a distinctive flavour, depending on their growing conditions hence Dimbula tea is very distinctive. St Martins is always busy but you order at the counter and your food is served to the table. Once you have ordered you do not have to wait long for your meal and, because of the open kitchen, you can watch it being freshly prepared. St Martins is another of those tea rooms with an eclectic customer base – a lot of people come from work for their breaks, parents with children, young people and older people who prefer St Martins to the restaurants in the nearby department stores. I love St Martins and will always go back when I am in that area.