You cannot visit the UK and not have tea. It just should never be done. For those who say the tea culture in Britain is dying, you are wrong. It is true, coffee has taken a stronger hold on the British population recently but tea is the norm. It is used to comfort, to welcome, to mediate, to relax and the list goes on. If someone came to visit me I would, of course, offer them a cup of tea. Obviously it is an unspoken invitation to other drinks as well but I will not actually offer them a ‘drink’, it will always be ‘do you want a cup of tea?’
Unfortunately London poorly reflects true British tea culture. You imagine cute little tearooms in old half-timber buildings but the reality is very different. Every café serves tea but to have tea in the traditional sense you often have to go to one of the numerous big four and five star hotels. Most of the pretty little tearooms are gone or never existed in the first place. So to have the true experience requires a journey outside of London. Edinburgh is quite a long train journey to make for a cup of tea but if you have read my previous post you will understand that the city is well worth it. The fact that they have some wonderful tea places is an added bonus.
My favourite is everything you would expect from a traditional tearoom. In other words, it looks a bit like your grandmother’s dining room with a few added tables. I do not say this negatively. For a girly afternoon tea and gossip right off the historic Royal Mile, what more could you ask for? Clarinda’s Tea Room is a cute little place on the Royal Mile down by Holyrood Palace. The walls are covered with china and old pictures and the wainscot has floral wallpaper. To complete the picture, the tables are covered in lace tablecloths and surrounded by antique wooden chairs. They serve breakfast and lunch and they have an appealing array of cakes but I would always go for the cream tea. You just cannot go wrong with a cream tea. For those who are confused, cream tea is actually just tea and a scone with cream and jam. But remember, the cream goes on first and then the jam on top, anyone who says differently is mad.
If the above tearoom sounds absolutely revolting with its lace and floral patterns, there is another wonderful tearoom in the new town with a very different approach to teatime. I discovered Eteaket on my most recent visit to Edinburgh and it was perfect. The atmosphere is more casual and the décor modern and colourful. They have a very wide selection of interesting teas to choose from as well as some tea lattes and ingeniously, tea cocktails! For those sceptical of the powers of a cup of tea, don’t worry, they serve coffee and cold drinks as well. They have a better selection of breakfast and lunch options and there are several different tea combinations available from plain cream tea to high tea with champagne. The scones are truly delicious and for those who require more comfort than just a cup of tea, there are some enticing cakes to choose from. Are you convinced yet?
Above: The Royal Mile
Photograph by Savannah Hayes