WEEKEND WEB: Everything stops for tea
TRISH TAKES FIVE: By blogger Trish Burgess
Is Britain no longer a nation of tea drinkers? Consumption has been declining and our high streets are now filled with coffee shops, as skilled baristas create numerous combinations of espressos, cappuccinos and flat whites for customers.
Now I love a latte as much as the next woman but I have begun to appreciate tea over the last couple of years. I like the taste of green tea in the morning as it’s refreshing and high in antioxidants. I also love a chamomile tea before bed and have a supply of flowers in a pot by the back door.
On our recent trip to Suffolk we stopped off at the Cragg Sisters Tearoom in Aldeburgh. This gorgeous little place in the high street is all about tea. There is a house blend of cafetiere coffee available to interlopers but otherwise it’s a tea-lovers paradise.
The tea menu includes black, green and white teas; all loose-leaf and served in proper teapots and vintage mis-matched china. The room is pretty with shelves of enamel jugs, tea cosies and cookbooks. It’s the perfect spot on a cold winter’s day but outdoor seating makes it a favourite choice for tourists in the summer.
I was curious about the history of the tearoom. Who were the Cragg Sisters? I discovered they set up their business in 1949 and baked every day, giving leftovers to children who hung around the back door. One child started working for the sisters at the age of 10 and went on to inherit the business.
Research into the tearoom indicates a fairly haphazard, colourful approach to providing tea and cakes until, in 2010, self-taught baker Emma Neilson, from Dunwich, took over.
Emma met a man in China who ended up in Suffolk running a tea-importing business. This led to the introduction of superb quality teas to accompany Emma’s fabulous cakes.
On the day we visited I chose an elderflower white tea; a fragrant mix of white peony loose tea with elderflower and marigold blossoms. Dougie opted for a Moroccan mint; peppermint blended with green gunpowder tea to pack an extra punch. We loved them both so much we bought a packet of each of them to take home.
The ideal accompaniment for the tea is a fruit scone with clotted cream and jam. I’m a follower of the Cornish tradition of jam before cream, which I’m sure will offend any Devonians who think this is a travesty. But then, I also pronounce it ‘scone’ as in ‘gone’ rather than ‘scone’ as in ‘loan’ so I’m used to raised eyebrows.
Either way, this scone was sensational: soft, light and moist. It’s up there with the best I’ve ever tasted. If I’d had room, I’d have sampled one of Emma’s cakes. A sure test of a baker’s talent is how well they can bake a Victoria Sponge.
I’m sure the Cragg Sisters would be delighted to know their establishment is in such very good hands. A return visit to Suffolk is definitely on the cards. I wouldn’t want to miss the chance of another cracking cuppa for all the tea in China.