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28th July 2009
It's the prestigious association every tea room and hotel strives to be part of and, for 2009, The Tea Guild welcomes nine new members into their elite club. From grand hotels to cosy country tearooms The Tea Guild represents the cream of the afternoon tea-serving crop.
And, because every establishment has been visited by expert inspectors, you can be sure that the tea you're about to enjoy meets stringently high standards for service, cleanliness, ambience, food and, of course, the tea. Alex Fullerton welcomes in the class of 2009...
Combining history with modern comforts will make any diner's dreams complete. This is what happens at The Palm Court - one of the most elegant places to take tea in the UK. As one of the first hotels to introduce the ritual of taking afternoon tea to it's guests in 1865, The Langham is one of London's grandest hotels. It's recent £80million renovation has already attracted a slew of stars from stage, screen and sport: Bill Nighy, Bruce Forsyth and HRH The Countess of Wessex have all visited the hotel since it's June relaunch.
Caroline-Jane Houston, Director of Food and Beverage, told Tea.co.uk that the recent refurbishment has allowed "the magic and history of The Palm Court's early days to be recaptured" and joining The Tea Guild means they are recognized as part of the tea-time "elite".
Tea is served in the classically styled Palm Court, where cast iron gates and silk wall panelling indicates that guests have entered a tea-time wonderland. Indeed, one of the set teas is The Wonderland Tea with sandwiches including smoked Scottish salmon and horseradish and Angus beef and Savora mustard with watercress. A selection of warm scones are served with clotted cream and strawberry preserve followed by scrumptious mini cakes and French pastries (pistachio and raspberry fruit delice, mini passion fruit pavlova and Sachertorte).
If you are feeling flashy, the hotel's Bijoux Tea steps up the game, with pastries inspired by fine jewellery such as Asprey diamonds and Chanel's signature pearls... Even the scones hold a sensational surprise, the raisins are all champagne-soaked!
The hotel also employs a tea sommelier to help guests choose a cup that's right for them from the menu of 30+ loose leaf blends and tisanes - although the menu contains extensive and helpful descriptions of each brew. Indulge and enjoy.
1c Portland Place, Regent Street, London, W1B 1JA. 020 7965 0195
Michelle Heard has run Cheristow Lavender farm for the past five years, opening the eponymous tea room in April 2006 and joining The Tea Guild this month. "We decided to join The Tea Guild as we wanted to let fellow tea lovers know we provided a lovely tea in a wonderful tranquil setting." The tea rooms are unique, set amongst luscious fields of lavender in the rolling Devon countryside. According to Michelle, "being a member of The Tea Guild has given a boost to our confidence as we meet the high standards expected of such a prestigious body. It has also given the team pride in what we are doing." Admirably, the business employs all the Heard family - including Octogenarian Nanny Heard who grows lettuce and other seasonal produce for the kitchens! If it's not grown on the premises all other ingredients are locally sourced.
The mouth-watering menu is a cornucopia of award-winning tea-time treats including lemon and lavender cake, gluten- and dairy-free carrot cake, coffee and walnut and chocolate and lavender brownies. Speciality lavender scones are served with strawberry and lavender conserve and Cornish clotted cream - and of course there are a range of top teas on the menu too.
Cheristow Lavender Tea Rooms, Cheristow Lavender, Higher Cheristow, Hartland, Bideford, Devon, EX39 6DA. 01237 440101
Offering guests a celebration of all things British - including the excellent tradition of taking tea - By Jove joined The Tea Guild this month. Situated in a smartly refurbished and redecorated old school house, the tea room's decor is styled with quirky touches (such as Union Jack tea cosies), vintage-looking floral china and charming cake stands topped with scrumptious looking cakes. More than 25 loose teas are on their menu.
By Jove! The Old School, 30a, High Street, Burwell Cambridgeshire, CB25 0HD. 01638 602086
Affectionately nicknamed RTR by owner Suzy Dell, The River Tea Rooms has had several owners over the past few years. Suzy bought the premises in December 2006 and although it had been previously run as a tea room, she set about extensive renovations to get RTR into the pristine condition it's in today. Now the space contains it's original Grade II* listed atmosphere, mixed with perennially popular and pretty 'shabby chic' touches.
But with an enviable river-side location and plenty of regular customers, why join The Tea Guild? Suzy reveals that she was keen to promote the tea room in it's new guise. "The Tea Guild is the obvious organisation to aspire to belong to. I was also aware that only Tea Rooms offering a very high standard of product and service were accepted, along with a number of long established venues." Being accepted as a member "provides recognition that we are striving for high standards. Existing and new customers can be assured that our service is of a high standard and the national press coverage and inclusion on The Tea Guild website will increase our exposure to a much wider audience."
Home made scones, cakes and sandwiches - along with a range of loose leaf teas - are all on the menu at River Tea Rooms. We recommend you order the St Ives High tea (which includes sandwiches, cake and tea) and, if it's fine, grab a seat on the riverside terrace and watching the comings and goings on the Great Ouse river.
River Tea Rooms, 1 & 2 Manor Mews, Bridge Street, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, PE27 5UW. 01480 464 921
Created by design guru Anouska Hempel, Blakes' signature style of oriental minimalism has been copied around the world, becoming a byword for urbane glamour. Slick, sleek and incredibly chic, the Hotel offers guests a seminal design experience - from the elegant architecture to the carefully constructed afternoon tea menu. Marco Cilia, Blakes' Resident Manager explains why the hotel decided to join The Tea Guild, "Like all good hotels Blakes offers a wonderful afternoon tea but we wanted to join The Tea Guild to have our efforts at creating a unique experience recognised and to let more people know about the best kept food secret of London – Blakes." Marco also admits that it's "very gratifying to belong to an organisation that takes pride in the very British institution that is Afternoon Tea." Guests can indulge in freshly hand-made sandwiches which are elegantly served in a monogrammed glass box. Fillings including classic egg and cress (on white bread), cucumber (on white), smoked salmon (on brown) before moving on to home-roasted beef with horseradish and roast chicken with pickled ginger. Light-as-air scones are served with Chantilly cream and strawberry jam and there are a selection of divine home made cakes. Currently rich chocolate fudge or Madeira cake are both on the menu. Of course there are a wide selection of tempting teas to try too. Blakes cleverly offer set afternoon teas but you can also order individual items a la carte.
We say, book now! Once the secret is out about Blakes' exquisite afternoon tea, we predict a stampede...
Blakes Hotel London, 33 Roland Gardens, London SW7 3PF. 020 7370 6701
Nostalgia fans should visit the Rocke Cottage Tearooms in Shropshire as afternoon tea takes place in a heavily beamed building, while 1930s music plays in the background. Guests can enjoy a variety of freshly prepared, local produce with most items' provenance listed online. Milk, for example, comes from Bartonsham Farm in Hereford. Owner Karin Clarke offers a range of delicious foodie treats, accompanied by an impressive selection of teas. Lady Grey, Spice Imperial (Ceylon and China teas with quince and crab apple), Nuwara Eliya (a light, clean Ceylon blend) and Lucky Green Dragon green tea are all on the menu.
Rocke Cottage Tearooms, Abcott, Clungunford, Craven Arms, Shropshire SY7 0PX. 01588 660 631
Mark Edwards, the chef and owner of Food for Thought, bought the venue with his wife seven years but are new members of the Tea Guild. "Being a member has put us on the map as currently our customers are mainly local" Mark revealed to Tea.co.uk. The versatile space houses day-long eating opportunities, providing delicious meals from breakfast through to supper but of course it's afternoon tea we're interested in! Hungry visitors should order Food for Thought's High Tea, which comprises a sandwich and two home baked scones (served with clotted cream and jam) plus a pot of loose leaf tea. If you're not as peckish, the signature Cream Tea is the perfect choice and includes a pot of tea and two scones (plus cream and jam). Once you're full take a stroll round the town of Westerham - it's chocolate box-charming with lots of intriguing shops. Visitors to the area should also pop into the prior residences of Winston Churchill, Lewis Caroll and General Wolfe.
Food for Thought, 19 - 20 The Green, Westerham, Kent TN16 1AX. 01959 569 888 / www.foodforthought.eu
Pennyhill's sister hotels in the Exclusive Hotels group (The Manor House in Wiltshire and Lainston House in Hampshire) were already members of The Tea Guild and now The Ascot Bar at Pennyhill completes the trinity. Guests visiting for afternoon tea will be able to experience the classic country house hotel atmosphere, especially if they order the Traditional Ascot Afternoon Tea, which includes fresh finger sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve, a range of cakes and pastries and a pot of tea. We love the fact that all the blends are well-described on the tea menu. If you catch a sunny day, we recommend you take tea on the terrace overlooking 123-acres of immaculate gardens and rolling parkland.
Pennyhill Park Hotel & Spa, London Road, Bagshot, Surrey, GU19 5EU. 01276 471774
Situated in the delightful Cotswold town of Stow-on-the-Wold and with an appealing display of cakes in the window, owner Alison Johnson offers guests at Cream Tea Room a modern, chic and minimalist spot in which to take afternoon tea. Smart brown leather leather and glass-topped tables cover crisp white tablecloths and Cream Tea Room is a bright new member of The Tea Guild. Visitors receive a warm welcome and enjoy delicious food including The Gardeners Tea, The Hearthside Tea, The Stow Tea and The Savoury Tea in addition to The Full Afternoon Tea. Guests with gluten intolerance are catered for too with wheat-free cakes - along with a wide variety of teas available.
Cream Tea Room, Sheep Street, Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire GL54 1AA
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