Category Archives: Tea Room


I found myself in Midtown New York last year.  It didn’t seem like a promising tea-town, until we stumbled into subtletea, who took the topic seriously.

They had a comprehensive tea-menu, divided into morning, afternoon and evening teas…

and their website lists a whole load more…

I have to admit being a little intimidated by choice, and consulted Tom for his advice.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Midtown and after a cuppa, head over here.  There’s nice tea, and as well as wifi for the macbookers, they have a range of magazines.  When I was there I found this in one of them:



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The Unfortunate Earl Grey

Some tea art here, in this photograph by Bianca Stewart.

Quite suitable for any tea-room, don’t you think?



Filed under Tea Design, Tea Room

Why coffee shop tea is a sorry affair

Elaborate coffee shops have shaped city streets, yet it seems that it’s increasingly hard to find a decent cup of tea when you’re out and about.  Despite the larger chains’ elaborate, snarling coffee machines, they take precious little care over the tea they serve.  Often dispensed as what looks like a bowl of hot water accompanied by a papered tea-bag, a cup of coffee shop tea is a disappointing affair.  These coffee shops market both the mechanised machismo of the gargantuan gaggias and coffee’s conspicuous consumption.

The magic of these coffees is in the boastful bashing of granules, the swirling steam, the oozing milky froth and the visual effect of carrying around an enormous pseudo-personalised, sugared, syruped, synthetic concoction for all to see.  And so, in contrast, tea is constructed as something humble, something unassuming; something sometimes twee or nostalgic, something mundane and austere.  Yet for its simplicity there is an art to making a cup of tea.

A cup of tea is a cliché, a cup of tea is the stiff upper lip.  Chain coffees are milky, infantalising as they ape our first tastes.  Tea is grown-up comfort.  Making a cup of tea for someone is a personal act, not a mechanical one.  Tea cannot be made to another’s taste from an order over the counter.  A cup of tea doesn’t come from some regulated, branded, faux-authentic name and artificial flavours.  Milk and two sugars is about as complex a request as you’re likely to get, so you make tea the way you learned to, rather than how you were taught.  Making tea for someone can be very personal.  Sometimes a cup of tea is all you can do to help, be it a bad day in the office or something much worse.

In a documentary shown after his death, Roald Dahl said that one of the hardest things about his wife’s illness, was the knowledge that there was nobody at home to offer him a cup of tea at the day’s end.

Of course coffee shops can’t get it right.  Tea needs care and thought, not practice and explosive machines.



Filed under Tea Chatter, Tea Room

Attic (Bristol)

We had snow overnight in Bristol. While it wasn’t the 40cm the Met Office was panicking about, it was sufficient to prevent me being able to drive to work; with the trains and buses not running either, there was nothing for it but to stay in Bristol. Which gave me the perfect opportunity to get to Attic, a Bristol tea house I’ve been meaning to go explore for some time.

It is a cosy little shop, that today resembled more of an alpine cafe given the number of parents and children all kitted up in the snow gear for a day of sledging, snowball fights and snowman building. Nevertheless, Anne, the proprietor, was an absolute delight finding time between making endless hot chocolates to fill me in on the store and their teas.

Attic have a cracking selection of teas sourced  directly from China via a friend of Anne’s there. Which means big leafy tea and big flavoursome teas. Being Chinese the teas weren’t blended but typically pure, which means there was no house blend to go for (my usual tactic) and something I had half an eye on with a view to sourcing another tea for the blind tea tasting. So rather than be dull and have a black tea, I plumped for a White “Silver Needles” tea, one of their best sellers.

The brewing experience is a fun one too. You’re given an egg (tea?) timer to count down the three minutes until your tea has brewed. And this is the best bit: you pour the tea pot out of its bottom, so to speak, by holding it onto the top of the cup and let the tea gush down. I found it strangely satisfying.

The problem I generally have with non-black teas (by which I mean green, herbal and fruit teas) is that while they often smell fantastic, they frequently taste of not a lot, or worse, slightly suddy dishwater. I admit, that’s probably more my palette, but bear with me. However, this was a marvellous tea – while light as expected, it was also pleasantly sweet with a reassuring tea-ish taste. A subtle hint of, um, an undertone of, well, and a definite light after taste on the tongue that reminds me of…. er… Well, Oz Clarke I am not; but it was lovely. So that will have to do you for now! For being a “serious” tea place with “serious” tea, you can’t go wrong. [I apologise for the shocking photos! Misty lenses due to the icy cold outside and the steamy warmth inside!]

Attic, 115 Coldharbour Road, Redland, Bristol, UK
Their website has details of their online shop, as well as twitter, facebook and blog. Go look.


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