A Quest for Decent Cuppa and Cake

A short trip around parts of Northumberland and Scottish Borders for impromptu afternoon teas has opened my eyes the wonderfulness of this British custom. High tea, low tea, cream tea; you should try them all! A pause for tea allows the hectic hubbub of modern life come to a standstill. You can enjoy your surroundings, the tastes, the smells and other like-minded people taking time out of the rat race to enjoy life; for that is why we are here.

The afternoon tea tradition brings back customs of true taste indulgence we seem to have forgotten in this country. We have been hypnotised into consuming fake treats pumped full of who-knows-what instead of eating the real good stuff: fat and sugar which our bodies crave naturally as a defence mechanism.

Oxford Farm Shop & Tearoom

Best for Families

Oxford Farm, just off the A1, about 5 miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed, is a surprising find just off the beaten track.

We sat in the conservatory part of the tearoom which was light and airy. The tables were set up with teacups and saucers and placemats in a kooky, kitsch style. We ordered a pot of tea for 2, 2 fruit scones and a kids afternoon tea. All for under a tenner!

The scones were delicious. Big, bursting with currants and served with butter and homemade jam. Sturdy, but crumbly. A nice crust on the outside, but soft on the inside, washed down with a beautiful cup of Northumberland Tea. The tea didn’t seem to stew so quick and leave that coating on your tongue. It was a delicate,  but flavoursome. This is due in part to the Northumberland Tea Co’s blend being 60% Kenyan tea, which is renowned for its russet hues and higher amounts of antioxidants due to the fertile soil on the equator. Most Kenyan tea is blended as it does not have the strength that many folks look for in a cuppa.

The kids afternoon tea included juice, jam sarnie, a chunk of cheese, cheese scone, marshmallow hats, cornflake cake and a bowl of jelly and ice cream. All for under £4!

Also available are sweet treats made on the premises such as meringues, shortbread and scones. They also sell their own jam, in various flavours, products from Chain Bridge Honey Farm and Northumberland Tea. If you time it right, you can even pick your own berries.

Ebba’s Bistro

Best for Child-Friendly

The best scone I’ve had for a while! Although simple, they aren’t easy to get right. Served simply with butter and jam; it didn’t need the cream although there was the option of having clotted cream. The service was friendly and quick. The day we went to St Abbs was hot and sunny. It was absolutely glorious. The views around St Abbs are breathtaking. The bistro was quite busy and there was a table outside. For the kids, there were books, easy access to highchairs if you need them and crayons and a mini activity booklet.

After leaving the bistro, we spent the rest of the day in St Abbs and explored The Ebba Centre; a great place to investigate, and learn, about local history and sea life.

JW Catering in Pier Red

Best for Ladies who Lunch

Joanne from JW Catering is a one-stop shop from contact to service. Joanne takes the booking, makes the food and serves. Our treats arrived and Joanne told us what was on the tiered treat stand. Our afternoon tea there consisted of 3 selections of finger sandwiches;

  • Cheese and Tomato and Shallot Jam Toastie
  • Smoked Salmon with Spinach and Caper Tapenade Pinwheel
  • Chicken, Mixed Leaves and Tarragon Mayo on a Homemade Seeded Roll

We had Raspberry and Vanilla scones which were served with double cream and homemade raspberry jam.

For sweets, there was a dark chocolate and coffee truffle, which was delightfully rich and melted in the mouth with a swig of tea and a coconut pannacotta, topped with toasted coconut and a pineapple and mint salsa and cute cubes of lemon and elderflower drizzle cake.

As it was Friday, we indulged a bottle of prosecco; served professionally by the proprietor. The prosecco was fruity, sweet and fizzy and perfectly accompanied the afternoon tea. I would recommend this extra.

Afternoon Tea is available on Fridays and Saturdays from 12 and is booking only. All dietary requirements catered for and Pier Red is available for private functions.

The Running Fox

Best for the Boys

Afternoon Tea is a typically female event. However, at The Running Fox, in both the Longframlington and Felton establishments, it is neither a dainty nibble or a superfluous snack. The afternoon tea was a mammoth size, and there was the added bonus of a children’s afternoon tea which was a welcomed surprise. There was plenty of choices available and definitely something for everyone.

We chose for the afternoon tea for 2. This included 2 sandwiches, 2 slices of pie, 2 cakes, 2 scones with cream and jam and a pot of Bari Tea each.

  • Ham, Cheddar and Pickle
  • Local Sausage, Cheddar and Chutney
  • Mince Pie
  • Steak Pie
  • Chocolate Fudge Cake
  • Lemon and Earl Grey Cake (which was also vegan)
  • Fruit Scones with jam and clotted cream
  • Ham Sarnie
  • Chocolate Brownie
  • Crisps
  • Juice

There were many other choices, and whatever you don’t eat is boxed up to take home. They also have selections of locally made bread, by Bread and Roses, cakes and pies to take home.

The Running Fox serves tea from the Bari Tea Brewery in Alnwick. It is a loose leaf blend but served in biodegradable bags.

Book to avoid disappointment.

Cabosse

Best for a Sweet Treat

Cabosse is located in the picturesque Northumberland town of Warkworth. Happened upon by accident, and as if it was meant to be, someone was vacating a table as we entered and we were promptly seated. As if we had stepped into Willy Wonka’s continental boutique, the front of the shop displayed the confectionary ranging from sugared almonds to filled savoury croissants, chocolate fondants to Danish-style pastries.

I ordered the cafe gourmand, known in English as a ‘greedy coffee’. Don’t judge, when in Rome. This consisted of a filter coffee, a fresh cream petit fours, a handmade chocolate and strawberry truffle and an apple turnover mini pastry. Also ordered, was a real hot chocolate – as in not powdered. It was real chocolate melted, hot and warming served with a jug of warm milk. We are not used to such indulgence. We were still there near closing time, and we were not rushed and even had time to peruse and purchase a treat for home time.

Paxton House

Best for Situation

Despite the drizzly day, there was a good turn out at Paxton House for their annual Summer Fayre. Before our tea, we had a game of croquet and a game of mini-putt and a look at the stalls. After working up an appetite, we headed over to the converted stables, outside there was Giacopazzi’s ice cream stall, where we had a Blood Orange Sorbet. We had a sandwich, made using rolls from James Ford & Son bakery and a homemade fruit scone with a pot of tea. The stables had a rustic feel, in contrast to the stately home of Paxton House with its impressive grounds. There was plenty to see at Paxton House and great for a day out.

At Home

Best for Using Local Produce

Throughout the week, I had picked up a few bits and pieces while on my travels around the Anglo-Scottish Border region. It would have been possible to do some baking, but after a week of indulging in a heavy dose of carbs I couldn’t face any more cake and decided simplicity is key for my own afternoon tea affair. A foodful afternoon tea.

It was a sunny afternoon, and instead of a steaming pot of Darjeeling tea, the tea recommended for afternoon tea, I had purchased a bottle of Left Field’s No. 4 Darjeeling kombucha; naturally sweet, aromatic and a perfect accompaniment to light bites and brunch with it’s beautiful amber colour. Darjeeling is one of those teas, whose delicate citrus flavours can be paired with any treat and enhance it. Darjeeling is a tea that cannot take the strain of overpowering, strong flavours. Darjeeling is known as the ‘champagne of teas’ which is perhaps why it is recommended for this event. It only goes through a partial oxidisation process, hence the naturally lighter colour and flavour, differing from other black teas.

For the sandwiches, I chose thin cut white sourdough, made by Bread and Roses, topped with hummus and cucumber and smashed avocado, cherry tomatoes and rocket. For the sweets, I made a mini Eton Mess with crushed meringues from Oxford Farm Shop, coconut yoghurt and strawberries. Also, there were dates, dark chocolate with hazelnut nibs topped with a strawberry and mint cremes from Cabosse, the chocolatière-pâtissière in Warkworth.

Afternoon Tea Week 2019

I’m looking forward to doing it again next year and going further afield around Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. Watch this space for next years foodful afternoon tea trail!

Thank you to all the family and friends who joined me and to the eateries we visited last week for afternoon tea.

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