Boston Tea Party, Ringwood

The Boston Tea Party in Ringwood, Hampshire, housed in an old grain warehouse.It’s touch-and-go whether the Boston Tea Party at Ringwood is the closest to my home, or whether that honour goes to the Salisbury branch. In many ways it’s a typical Boston Tea Party, having taken another iconic building (in this case, an old granary from the 1800s) and turned it into a first class coffee shop, providing good quality food, including an outstanding all-day breakfast menu, and Extract Coffee to the small Hampshire market town of Ringwood. Better still, it is literally just off the A31, so it makes an excellent stop if you are travelling that way.

Like many a branch of the Boston Tea Party, Ringwood has plenty of outside seating. However, with the exception of the original on Park Street and the Honiton branch (both of which have secluded gardens at the back) this may have the best, with multiple tables neatly arranged outside in the pedestrianised Furlong Centre. Inside, the Tea Party spreads over three floors, with the top floor (which used to be the hayloft) having only been opened last year (Ringwood itself opened in 2012). There’s the usual range of Boston Tea Party seating, including comfortable chairs, long sofa benches and more traditional tables.

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Boston Tea Party, Park Street Update

A latte with a fern-leaf motif in the milkIn many ways, the Boston Tea Party on Bristol’s Park Street, where the Boston Tea Party chain began, is also where the Coffee Spot started, albeit a good few years later. It’s the first place that I wrote about, the first Coffee Spot being published three years and two days ago on 28th September 2012. As the Coffee Spot heads into its fourth year, it seems only fitting that I should revisit where it all began.

So, what’s changed in that time? Well, quite a bit, actually. The coffee is still the same, the Tea Party favouring a bespoke Extract Coffee Roasters’ seasonal espresso blend, and while the food menu has gone through some iterations, it’s still the same core of excellent cakes and all-day breakfasts.

No, what’s actually changed is the place itself. Well, not so much changed, just expanded. Since I was last there three years ago, the seating has pretty much doubled, with the Tea Party adding a second garden and a second upstairs room.

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Boston Tea Party, Honiton

The letters BTP (with the B in white, TP in blue) over the words Boston Tea Party (Boston in white, Tea Party in blue)Over the last year, I’ve been to several large branches of the Boston Tea Party (Whiteladies Road, Birmingham and Salisbury spring to mind), so it’s nice to visit a smaller one for a change. Not that the Honiton Tea Party is tiny; it’s not, for example, on the scale of the one in Bath, but at the same time, it’s not a sprawling, multi-floor affair.

Honiton’s Tea Party occupies a beautiful, old house on Honiton High Street (Monkton House, a Grade II listed building). As with every Tea Party, it’s instantly recognisable as a Boston Tea Party, while simultaneously its own place. There’s the usual Boston Tea Party offerings: good quality food, including an all-day breakfast menu, loads of cake, and coffee from Bristol’s Extract Coffee Roasters. This includes the house-blend espresso and single-origin bulk-brew filter.

There’s something about the smaller Tea Parties that promotes a sense of intimacy. It’s not that the staff at the larger branches aren’t friendly (far from it; the Boston Tea Party staff have always struck me as very friendly), it’s just that in the smaller ones, there seems to be more time to interact and chat and, in that respect, Honiton is no exception.

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Boston Tea Party, Salisbury

The letters BTP (with the B in white, TP in blue) over the words Boston Tea Party (Boston in white, Tea Party in blue)Regular readers will know that I have a love affair with the Boston Tea Party, the West Country chain that started in Bristol in the late 1990s. Indeed, my first ever Coffee Spot was the original on Park Street. So, I thought it was about time I visited what is, quite possibly, the closest Boston Tea Party to my home town of Guildford. It also happens to be, I believe, the biggest and occupies the oldest building, the Grade 1 listed Old George Inn, which dates back to the early 1300s.

As with all the other Boston Tea Parties, it has taken an iconic building and made it its own, unique place. Simultaneously, however, it’s instantly recognisable as a Boston Tea Party, a trick that’s very hard to manage and looks effortless when it’s pulled off.

Sprawling over three floors of a magnificent, historic building, the Salisbury Boston Tea Party boasts over 200 seats upstairs alone, plus an attractive outdoor seating area on the pedestrianised High Street. There’s the usual coffee offering from Bristol-based Extract Coffee Roasters, tea from Bristol-based Canton Tea Co, oodles of cake and an excellent food menu based around several all-day breakfast options.

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Boston Tea Party, Birmingham

The Boston Tea Party on the corner of Birmingham's Corporation Street.Here I am in Boston, Massachusetts, and so I thought to myself, what’s more appropriate than posting about The Boston Tea Party? Well, I’ll be the first to admit, it’s probably not very appropriate at all, but it suits my sense of humour, so there you go.

Today’s Boston Tea Party is, to date, the most northerly Tea Party. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s the Birmingham branch, which has been going just over a year. As a chain, the Boston Tea Party has the commendable habit of taking iconic buildings and turning them into excellent cafés. In Birmingham, it’s done it again and, what’s more, I think it’s surpassed itself this time with its most handsome branch so far. It’s also got the largest single-floor area of all the branches I’ve visited.

Being a Boston Tea Party, there’s the usual Tea Party offering, including a full range of food (with the all-important all-day breakfast menu), extensive cake selection and coffee from Bristol roasters, Extract, with espresso-based drinks and single-origin on the bulk filter. It also pulls off the usual Tea Party trick of simultaneously being a Boston Tea Party and yet being very much its own place.

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Boston Tea Party, Bath

My first ever Boston Tea Party piccolo at the branch in BathQuite possibly the smallest Boston Tea Party and certainly the smallest I have visited, the Bath branch has a certain instant charm that I immediately fell in love with. I’ve written elsewhere about the Boston Tea Party chain and why I continue to seek out new branches. In that respect the Bath branch very much fits the mould. It is instantly a Boston Tea Party, but it’s also its own place, with a distinct character.

The Bath branch’s size is the main focus: whereas the majority of the other branches are in large buildings, often spread over two floors, the Bath branch is squeezed into what feels like two small shops with a connecting door. The counter and serving area are in one, while the main seating is in the other. If everyone squeezed in, you might get 30 people inside.

In fairness, you could probably get as many again in the nice-looking outdoor seating area. This is well-situated in a generous triangle of pavement on Kingsmead Square between Monmouth and Avon Streets. Unfortunately, while I was there, it was pouring with rain, so it was something of a non-starter, despite a generous awning.

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Boston Tea Party, Whiteladies Road

The exterior of Boston Tea Party branch on Whiteladies Road in BristolOn the busy Whiteladies Road in Bristol, just a few doors along from where Joe’s Coffee used to be, stands another branch of the Boston Tea Party chain. I’m not quite sure why it’s taken me this long to find this particular Tea Party; the only excuse I can offer is that it’s not a part of Bristol I visit very often. The Whiteladies Road branch has the usual Boston Tea Party offerings: coffee that’s a cut above your average chain, a large and excellent food (and cake) menu, including breakfast served all day, and lovely surroundings to eat/drink in.

Like all the other branches of the Boston Tea Party that I’ve covered, this one feels like a Boston Tea Party while at the same time managing to be its own place. The trick that the Tea Party seems to have pulled off is to take iconic/unique/interesting buildings and turn them into fantastic spaces for cafés. In the case of Whiteladies Road, it’s on the site of an old record store. While I’ve been in plenty of Tea Parties that stretch over two floors (eg Exeter, Worcester), this is the first that stretches over three levels (unless you count the garden at the original Park Street), making it a particularly lovely setting.

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Boston Tea Party, Worcester

The model aeroplane at the Worcester branch of the Boston Tea Party.Regular readers will know of my love affair with the Boston Tea Party, the coffee shop chain which started off in Park Street, Bristol, and is steadily spreading north, east and south. That’s not to say that I like all the branches, but the ones I don’t tend to be the exception rather than the rule. So, when I found myself in Worcester on a rainy Saturday afternoon with an hour or so to kill, I made a bee-line for the Boston Tea Party on Broad Street.

Like its siblings, the Worcester BTP is instantly recognisable as a BTP, but sufficiently different to be its own place. Also, like every one I’ve been to except the Cheltenham Road branch, it’s split over two floors. And this one has its own aeroplane! With lots of windows, plenty of space and a great layout, this is a relaxing place to drink good coffee with friendly, helpful staff, which is all I’m really looking for.

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Boston Tea Party, Exeter

The Boston Tea Party on Exeter's Queen StreetFrom the sublime to the ridiculous. One my recent South West tour, I went from the Exploding Bakery to the Exeter branch of the Boston Tea Party, just two minutes’ walk down Queens Street. From the outside, it’s not much to look at (although the building is stunning) and when you get in, it doesn’t improve much. The ground floor is cramped, narrow and crowded, especially when the lunchtime queue is almost out of the door. But walk upstairs and you’re into a whole new realm of space and light. In a matter of minutes, I’d gone from somewhere with five chairs and two tables to, well, I’d hate to have to count them, so let’s say somewhere that could seat 100 easily…

I was there to try out the new food menu, having been prompted (ordered?) by the Boston Tea Party’s head of food, Anita Popham, and I wasn’t disappointed. As for the Tea Party itself, it’s like all the branches I’ve been to; each is recognisably a Boston Tea Party, but each is its own unique place. It’ll never surpass Park Street in my affections, but if I lived in Exeter, I’d spend a lot of time there.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

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Boston Tea Party, Stokes Croft

A recent addition to the successful Boston Tea Party chain can be found in Stokes Croft in Bristol. As my friend who lives there (Stokes Croft, not, contrary to rumour, the Boston Tea Party itself), aptly put it: “just what Stokes Croft needs, another café”. When it opened, there were already three excellent places within a two minute walk (and now there’s a fourth across the road), so the Boston Tea Party needs to be pretty special if it’s going to make a mark.

Don’t worry, it is.

It’s got the usual Boston Tea Party coffee, the wide range of cakes and food, but what makes it stand out is the seating. Well, the seating and the atmosphere, which sort of goes with the seating. Well, the seating, atmosphere and friendly staff. You get the picture.

It’s a got a broad patio out front which provides some protection from the breeze and the noise of the busy Cheltenham Road (I stress some) and inside there is every sort of seat you could possible want. Beyond that, it’s just a great place to hang out on your own or with friends (or, in my case, with my laptop and camera).

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