Wyndham Tea

The Waterloo Tea sign, hanging outside Wyndham Tea, Waterloo Tea's branch in Cardiff's Wyndham Arcade.Wyndham Tea is the third of Cardiff’s well-respected Waterloo Tea chain. Most unexpectedly for the Coffee Spot, I’ve actually visited them all in the order that they opened, starting with the original out in Pen Y Lan and continuing with Washington Tea in Penarth. Wyndham Tea is Waterloo Tea’s first foray into the city centre and, pleasing enough, is on the Wyndham Arcade, one arcade down from Uncommon Ground and two down from The Plan.

What you get with Wyndham Tea is everything you’ve come to expect from Waterloo Tea: a fantastic range of over 60 excellent loose-leaf teas, superb coffee (espresso and pour-over) from an ever-changing cast of roasters, fabulous food, all prepared on-site and a range of delicious cakes (now all baked on-site in the kitchen upstairs). All of this is in Waterloo Tea’s classiest setting yet, spread over two floors and spilling out into the arcade itself, where the pink and gold sofas make it hard to miss.

Best of all is that Waterloo Tea has now moved to full table service, reinforcing its notion of a “slow setting”, somewhere where you’re encourage to sit and linger; comfort, with a touch of class.

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Harlequin Coffee and Tea House

Thumbnail - Harlequin Coffee and Tea House (DSC_9354)York is a city very close to my heart. I went to university there and have always had a soft spot for its tea rooms and coffee houses. Gentle, delicate and refined, they are wonderful places in many ways. In fact, some of my favourite spots are tea rooms. They’re just not necessarily places where you’d expect find top-notch coffee. Enter Harlequin, to challenge all your (my?) preconceptions and to bring speciality coffee to the good folks of York by stealth.

At first sight, everything about Harlequin is reassuring to the average tea room visitor (and slightly off-putting to the dedicated hunter of speciality coffee). The carefully arranged tables, the neat, white tablecloths, the net curtains at the windows and the gentle chink of tea pots. Even the coffee comes in cafetieres (although there is an espresso machine).

However, having lulled them into a false sense of security, Harlequin goes for the kill. All the coffee is from Has Bean, not exactly the choice of the average, run-of-the-mill coffee house. There’s also hot chocolate from those purveyors of fine, chocolaty goodness, Kokoa Collection.

And yet is still looks just like your typical tea room. Genius, I tell you, pure genius.

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Tea House Theatre

The Tea House Theatre on the edge of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, resplendent in the sunshine.The Tea House Theatre is, as the name suggests, an old theatre (actually, it’s not, it’s an old pub) which serves tea (actually, it does; one out of two’s not bad). It’s somewhere I’ve been going, on-and-off, for the last year, and have always meant to write up for the Coffee Spot. I’ve just never had the excuse. Until now, that is.

During a recent visit by the esteemed Bristol Café Watcher to the fair city of London, I remembered one of Café Watcher’s rare faults: a penchant for drinking tea. I therefore decided upon the Tea House Theatre as the final destination of a day spent wandering around London in the sunshine. When it comes to tea, it doesn’t get better than this, with numerous (I ran out of fingers and toes while counting) loose-leaf tea offerings.

However, probably the most relevant thing about the Tea House Theatre, given that this is the Coffee Spot, is that it DOESN’T SERVE COFFEE! That’s right: after dallying with the “other stuff” in Cardiff, I’ve finally gone the whole hog and written about a place that only does tea. And superb cake. And food. But not coffee.

It’s lovely by the way.

September 2015: I’m delighted that the Tea House Theatre was short-listed for this year’s Lunch Business Awards Best Tea Experience.

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Bettys Café Tea Rooms, Harrogate

The cake trolley at Betty's of HarrogateNo trip to Harrogate would be complete without at least contemplating a visit to the famous Bettys Café Tea Rooms. I duly carried out my contemplation as I walked past in the morning, put off by the long queue snaking along the pavement. However, as I wandered past with an hour to kill in the evening before my train back to York, the lack of a queue led to a reappraisal and soon I was seated downstairs in Bettys, greedily surveying the heaving cake trolley.

Founded in 1919, Bettys sounds as Yorkshire as they come, but it was, in fact, the creation of a Swiss baker/confectioner, Frederick Belmont. Despite this, it’s quintessentially the British Tea Room and opinions about it vary considerably. I find my own ambivalence to Bettys both puzzling and informative.

On the one hand, having to queue for anything puts me off, plus it is, undoubtedly, a grand institution of the sort I am naturally suspicious off. On the other hand, were this Paris’ Angelina or Dublin’s Bewley’s, then I would (and have been) there like a shot. Perhaps it is just the familiarity of the British Tea Room that breeds contempt. Regardless, reach your own conclusions.

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Bean & Bud

The Bean & Bud logo: a coffee bean flanked by two tea buds, with the motto "Bean & Bud Real Coffee & Fine Tea since 2010"Harrogate’s finest is Bean & Bud, although from the looks of it, Hoxton North could give it a run for its money, if only it wasn’t shut on Mondays (guess who came to visit Harrogate on a Monday?). A few minutes’ walk north of the train station on Commercial Street, Bean & Bud can best be described as bright and bold, the majority of the interior painted a bright red, in contrast to, rather than in sympathy with, the lovely wooden counter and flooring. What isn’t red is white, including the (fairly low) ceiling.

However, the draw of Bean & Bud is the outstanding tea and coffee. While I can’t speak to the tea, Fancy a Cuppa rates it, which is good enough for me. The coffee rotates on a regular basis, changing both beans and roasters with frightening speed. Don’t come back expecting the same cup of coffee you had last week!

The coffee is available as espresso (with varying quantities of milk) or filter (V60, Aeropress or Chemex). The week’s beans are up on the board, the idea being that you have a discussion with the barista about which bean you want and then how to take it.

September 2015: I’m delighted that Bean & Bud was short-listed for this year’s Lunch Business Awards Best Tea Experience.

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Barker Tea House

The counter at Barker Tea House on the High Street Arcarde, Cardiff.My (perhaps annual) visit to Cardiff continues. After Monday’s Coffee Spot, the fabulous Washington Tea (younger sibling of Waterloo Tea), I am continuing in the same vein with today’s Saturday-on-a-Wednesday Supplement with the Barker Tea House, newly-opened younger sibling of the lovely Coffee Barker. Yes, I know, I’m going soft in my old age: that’s two tea places in a row! Well, if you think that’s bad, just you wait until you see what I have planned for you in a couple of months…!

What made Coffee Barker stand out from the crowd was its lovely interior. Since I last visited, it’s been extended (and is ripe for a Coffee Spot Update) but, not content with that, the folks behind Coffee Barker decided to move one arcade over and open the Barker Tea House. If you thought Coffee Barker had a lovely interior, then wait until you see the Tea House! It has the same wonderful features that made me fall in love with Coffee Barker (person-swallowing sofas, uber-comfortable comfy chairs, quirky, retro décor) but takes it to a whole new level with a stunning first floor seating area. This place is simply gorgeous!

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Washington Tea

Washington Tea, the new offshoot of Waterloo Tea, down in Penarth in the Washington BuildingsThis time last year I went to Cardiff for the first time with my Coffee Spot hat on and I liked what I found. A lot. So much so, that I promised myself I’d be back… So, after trips here, there and everywhere, a year has gone by and finally I found myself back in Cardiff, ostensibly visiting my friend Kate (the tea-drinker), although she knows me well enough to understand that many cafes will also be visited.

First stop was a short train-ride down the coast to Penarth, where the fabulous Waterloo Tea had opened its second outlet, Washington Tea, shortly after my visit last year.

“But, but…” I hear you splutter (or is that just me?), “it’s a tea shop!”

Well, yes it is, and, while it’s true that Waterloo Tea can be found in some of the best coffee shops in the country, the reverse is also true: some of the best coffee in the country can be found in Waterloo Tea… And in Washington Tea too, which also has a full food menu. Brunch is served all day on Sunday and it stays open late on Friday for live jazz, and five-course food and tea events.

September 2015: I’m delighted that Washington Tea won this year’s Lunch Business Awards Best Tea Experience. Congratulations!

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Waterloo Tea

A teapot brewing at Waterloo tea with dual egg timers (one orange, one green; what tea you have determines which one you use)Whisper it quietly, but I quite like Waterloo Tea, or the Waterloo Gardens Teahouse to give it its full name. No, seriously. Despite the obvious flaw (tea), it’s wonderful. It’s a bit of a trek from city centre Cardiff, but well worth the walk (or bus ride).

It’s in a lovely setting in a parade of shops, opposite a small park, and occupies what feels like an old shop. The space isn’t best suited to a café, resulting in a rather interesting layout. However, the atmosphere’s very welcoming and, if you can’t grab the sofa opposite the counter, go for one of the (very popular) window tables.

Waterloo Tea is passionate about its tea. The good news is it’s equally passionate about its coffee, taking as much care and attention over preparing the perfect cup as any speciality coffee shop I’ve seen. Honestly, I can only applaud, since speciality tea shops which takes this level of care (even for tea) are few and far between. The equally good news is that it seems to take just as much care over its cake as it does over the tea and coffee. Frankly, with a philosophy like that, you can’t go wrong!

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Anna’s Tea Rooms

No trip to Conwy is complete without a visit to Anna’s Tea Rooms & Coffee House. Okay, so Conwy’s got one of the best examples of King Edward I’s castles, which is a masterpiece of medieval military architecture, the most complete set of medieval walls in Britain and Plas Mawr, a fine, Elizabethan town house. But, but…, it’s also got Anna’s!

Situated above an outdoor shop on Conwy’s Castle Street, a stone’s throw from the castle itself, Anna’s is a complete gem. For a start, it serves coffee by the cafetiere, with 17 different beans to choose from. Tea drinkers are even better served, with 12 black teas, three fruit teas and nine loose-leaf teas. Then there’s the homemade cakes. And the homemade lunches. And the afternoon teas. And the ice-creams, and desserts, and, and, and…

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Mimi’s Bakehouse

Mimi's Bakehouse

It’s all about the cake. That’s what it says over the counter at Mimi’s and that sums up what is rapidly becoming a must-visit place in Leith. In truth, it’s always been a must-visit for me, so it’s good to see the rest of the world catching up, even if I can’t always get a table now! Naturally, the coffee’s great and, as well as a mouth-watering range of cakes, Mimi’s does excellent breakfasts and lovely lunches.

One note of caution about Mimi’s: since it’s so popular, this really isn’t a place to just sit and linger. That’s not to say that the staff are going to hassle you to eat up and get out, far from it. However, it’s busy and that means a certain level of noise and bustle. Also, Mimi’s is all about the pleasure of the food. As such, it’s somewhere I go for the coffee, cake and food rather than to spend a couple of hours and have a coffee while I’m at it.

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