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20th April 2010
Three terrific tea places were presented with Top Tea awards from The Tea Guild last week. Now, let's find out more about what goes into making Britain's Top Tea!
The Tea Guild’s Top Tea Awards offer unique recognition for the best in British afternoon tea. From traditional tea rooms (these compete for Top Tea Place), grand London hotels (Top London Tea) and chic hotels outside the capital (the brand new Top City and Country Hotel Tea category) The Guild review them all in minute detail, marking venues on everything from the variety of teas available to the china it’s served on – and even the cleanliness of the loos.
Finally, one member in each section is rewarded with the prestigious Top Tea prize – which has been compared to the Michelin stars of the tea world!
Both city and rural hotels are eligible to win this category but Manor House Hotel’s English country charm won the day. Nicolas Roulier, Food and Beverage manager of Manor House Hotel, told Tea.co.uk that being the inaugural winner of the new Top City and Country Hotel Tea prize was “a massive achievement” and believes the hotel won because of the consistent quality in their afternoon tea service.
Joining The Tea Guild has incredible benefits, as Nicolas points out, “I think that recognition from The Tea Guild is as good as that of the Michelin Guide. For me, one of the benefits is the exposure.” Indeed, the coverage The Tea Guild can provide for it’s members – and particularly Top Tea winners - is unparalleled and has resulted in visitors from around the world desperate to take tea in Top Tea venues along with huge boosts in bookings.
During their incognito inspections of Manor House Hotels, the judges praised the “very efficient” service and VIP treatment of every guest while the “knowledgeable” tea service was presented perfectly. Compliments were also heaped on the scones which were “light, crusty yet moist and full of flavour!”
Nicolas, who is originally from France , loves green tea and finds that organic English breakfast is the most popular although rare Chinese Silver Needles, Ebony Flowers Assam, White Lotus, Darjeeling and Organic Earl Grey are all on the detailed menu which includes 18 different blends.
Now the hotel has won a coveted Top Tea award, what’s next for Manor House Hotel? It’s simple. Nicholas aims to continue to keep his guests happy and bring in new ideas “to make the afternoon tea experience even better.” But at Manor House Hotel, we wonder if this is possible!
Manor House Hotel, Castle Combe, Wiltshire SN14 7HR / 01249 782 206 / www.exclusivehotels.co.uk
Scooping The Tea Guild’s Top Tea Place award is “a dream come true” for Alison Souter, Manager of The Black Swan Tearoom and Patisserie in the charming market town of Helmsley. And Alison made sure that everyone could share in her delight and pride too, after informing her team, “I told the whole of Yorkshire!” she revealed to Tea.co.uk
And who could blame her? Alison, who previously had a career in banking, opened the tea room in December 2007 and since then it has flourished under her management. During this year’s anonymous judging process it was praised as “one of the best tea rooms ever visited” by one of the incognito inspectors.
The dedicated tea menu was awarded bonus points by The Tea Guild’s expert judges and from the choice of 20 blends, Alison would choose an oolong as her perfect cup. “We serve an oolong from the Phoenix Mountains in China that has wonderful peachy notes which just get better with each infusion,” she enthuses. Alison believes it’s perfect with her “favourite” carrot and orange cake, which she confesses is “an indulgence I can never refuse!”
It’s Alison’s intense passion for tea (and cake) that seems to have won The Black Swan Tearoom and Patisserie 2010’s top spot. “We love our tea,” Alison told Tea.co.uk, “and we hope that shows in the care and attention to detail we provide.” She continues, “I think we won because we pride ourselves on quality food and service and work with talented staff who are passionate about giving customers nothing but the highest standards”. So it’s great tea combined with team work? “Yes, the success of the tea room is a real team effort with all staff putting in an immense amount of work.”
The future looks bright for The Black Swan Tearoom and Patisserie. A new addition to the tea room’s busy schedule is the Tea Club which meets every three months, “to discuss, drink and eat everything associated with tea.” Alison regularly offers a special Tea of the Week and is planning to put on different themed afternoon teas each month. If you can’t visit the tea room a new retail brochure with online and postal orders means you can still try the tea room’s tasty teas, while a brand new website has just gone live. To cope with the increased business the award always generates Alison is also on the lookout for new Summer staff, “it would be a wonderful job for enthusiastic youngsters!”
Black Swan Tearoom and patisserie, Market Place, Helmsley, Yorkshire YO62 5BJ / 01439 770446 / www.blackswan-helmsley.com
The Palm Court at The Langham joined The Tea Guild less than a year ago but it’s already risen to the top of the tea world by winning the fiercely fought Top London Tea award. Previous winners include Brown's Hotel, The Lanesborough, Claridges, The Ritz and The Dorchester – all hotels synonymous with the elegance of afternoon tea – and now The Langham joins these illustrious names.
In fact, The Langham lays claim to being the first London hotel to serve afternoon tea – it’s a tradition they’ve been perfecting since 1865 – and today the luxurious hotel environment makes an ideal venue to take tea. With relaxing piano music, plush seating and dazzling crystal chandeliers you’d never guess that the landmark London hotel recently underwent an intense and extensive refurbishment programme, reopening in 2009.
On their anonymous visits to determine the winner of Top London Tea 2010, The Tea Guild’s expert inspectors were wowed by the “beautiful furnishings… exceptional service… and welcoming staff.” Petra Theart, Manager of the Palm Court, was charged with creating the tea room’s unique identity and did everything from sourcing the tea stands and finding the cutlery, right down to commissioning the tassels on the tablecloths! Petra also initiated the uber-high standard of tea service so when she found out her hard work had paid off, she was “thrilled” at fulfilling her personal goal.
There are more than 30 teas on the Palm Court’s tea menu with blends originating in China, India and the UK. Currently guests are clamouring for Assam, although Petra’s favourite Yunnan Gold Black tea (“it has a very kind tannic grip, but is still stronger than a normal Black Tea”), Riyal Loose cooked Pu’erh, Huo Mountain yellow bud tea or Lychee Red black tea would all be mouthwatering choices.
The Palm Court picked up bonus points in their inspection for encouraging guests to try different teas with their food with the judges remarking that, “Tea is obviously taken extremely seriously here and considerable care and attention is given over the ordering and serving.”
Guests can continue to look forward to exciting developments in 2010 as the Palm Court continuously updates their afternoon tea treats with “new and exciting flavours.” Whatever their plans, the Palm Court at The Langham can expect visitors from around the world to flock to the hotel, eager to experience London 's top afternoon tea.
The Palm Court at The Langham, 1c Portland Place, Regent Street, London W1B 1JA / 020 7965 0195 / www.palm-court.co.uk/#/afternoon-tea
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