Tea for you and me

Join me on my epic quest to find the best tea ever


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My first cruffin

Today I had my first cruffin. I’m a bit late to this trend as they’ve been around for a few years, but at least I’m all caught up now. I think this is the first portmanteau item I’ve tried (I’m discounting brunch as that’s not one particular thing).

Today’s cruffin came from The Cookie Jar and was a chocolate cruffin. Here are some photos for your delectation.

The cruffin was heavier than I expected and quite filling (which I appreciated as I was hungry). My cruffin-eating companions shared one between two, I think they were already aware of the filling nature of the cruffin.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience, and kudos to the Cookie Jar for going to the trouble of making them (apparently it takes three days and so they only sell them on a Saturday), but I’m afraid I would still choose a croissant or a muffin over a cruffin. Sorry cruffin.

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Tipsy bean

18 Prospect Street, Caversham, Reading, Berkshire, RG4 8JB.

wp-1476990122244.jpgTipsy bean (great name) is a cafe/bar in Caversham, where the old Wordplay bookshop and toy shop used to be. It’s a long space with the bar along one side towards the back. The windows onto the street give light to the tables at the front, while the area near the bar is quite dark, but it feels nice and cosy rather than oppressive. The seating matches the change in light – with upholstered grey/cream chairs near the window and a long red leather bench opposite the bar. With dried flower bunches hanging above the bar, red Gerberas on the tables and jam jar style lamps, Tipsy bean has a welcoming feel.

The menu said that they had lots of tea and they certainly seem to – they had rooibos at least and quite a few other varieties (all in boxes on a high shelf at the back of the bar). I wanted to sample their cake, but unfortunately they’d run out.

My tea came in a mug, with a milk jug and a little plate with a sugar. It was a good mug of tea and I enjoyed my visit.

  • Teapot? No.
  • Leaf tea? No, but Waitrose rooibos teabags, which I’m quite partial to (Tick Tock and Clipper are my other favourites, just so you know).
  • Milk jug? Yes.
  • Price? £2.
  • Cake? No (sob). But platters (smoked salmon, veggie, meat) and sandwiches and breakfast and nuts and nibbles.
  • Go again? Yes, both because I liked it and because I’d like to try the cake and the veggie platter.


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Farewell, Cafe W

I’ve been adding reviews to this blog for a number of years now and have seen a fair few cafes open and close in that time. One of these days I’ll manage to double check all of the reviews and note which ones are now shut.

The most recent one to close is Cafe W in the Oracle Waterstones, as the whole shop has shut down. There is another Waterstones in Reading, but that one doesn’t have a cafe.

In my review of Cafe W I said I’d like to go back when they were more established (and I wanted to see what their tea was like in a pot rather than in a paper cup). I’m sure that they must have got their crockery sorted a while back, but I’m afraid I didn’t make it back before they closed.

Other Waterstones have cafes and they’re also called Cafe W, so I could try one of those instead. The cake sold at the Reading Cafe W was supplied by Picnic, so you can still get the same cake in Reading.

It’s still a shame though. So long, Cafe W, thanks for all the rooibos tea.

 

 


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The Cookie Jar

Unit 3, 164-170 High Street, Crowthorne, Berkshire, RG45 7AT.

Visited on: Thursday 8th October 2015

The Cookie Jar

A view of The Cookie Jar from my table.

Cookie Jar tea and brownie

This photo is deceptive, because the brownie doesn’t look that big. I should have put a ruler up to the cup so you could see it’s a big cup, but that it was an even bigger chocolate brownie.

I know this is a blog about tea, but the most memorable thing about The Cookie Jar was the huge and very delicious slab of chocolate brownie. The rooibos tea was nice, but came in a cup rather than a pot and wasn’t loose leaf. I liked the cute little milk bottle and managed to retrieve the lid after I dropped it in my tea (my fault, not the fault of the milk bottle).

There aren’t that many tables in The Cookie Jar (three, I think?) and there’s no toilet. So it’s not a place to linger, but for a tasty sugar hit and a hot drink, it’s definitely the place to go.

  • Teapot? No.
  • Leaf tea? No, but they did have rooibos.
  • Milk jug? Yes, though again it was a little glass bottle for the milk. Came with a little lid and everything.
  • Price? £1.90 for a cup of rooibos tea. £1.75 for a huge piece of chocolate brownie.
  • Cake? Yes, all made on the premises. Cookies (naturally), ice cream, biscuits, meringues, and three different types of chocolate brownie: choctastic, vegan and marshmallow. I think there was cake too, but to be honest, once I’d spotted the brownies I’d stopped paying attention to any of the other things. They also sell savoury food at lunch.
  • Go again? Yes.


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Manhattan Coffee Club

Upper Level, The Oracle, Reading, RG1 2AG.

Visited on: Saturday 5th September 2015

Inside Manhattan Coffee Club

The interior of the Manhattan Coffee Club, I liked how the big glass windows let in as much light as possible.

Another new cafe in the Oracle shopping centre, the Manhattan Coffee Club has been open for a couple of months now. It’s not that big, and in keeping with all the cafes inside the Oracle, has no natural light, but it still feels relatively light and airy inside. This light feeling is partly created by the green plants on every table and by the door, but unfortunately all of them are plastic.

The chairs were far more comfortable than they looked – with a solid seat that I didn’t mind sitting for an hour in. The table tops were rough planks of wood and while these look nice I imagine they’re a complete pain to keep clean. Certainly my table had crumbs stuck in between the gaps.

No loose leaf tea here, but they did have rooibos – Chilli Chocolate flavour. The barista let me sniff the teabag before purchasing as I wasn’t sure about it and I appreciated that. It didn’t smell of chocolate at all and indeed it didn’t taste of chocolate either, but the chilli gave it a warm zing when I drank it. No teapot, but at least the mug came with a saucer so I had somewhere to deposit my used teabag.

I seem to have developed a habit of ordering the chocolate brownie wherever I go, so I stuck to form and ordered another one here. This time the brownie was slightly chilled and had a fudge-like texture. I enjoyed it and would order it again.

There are some nice touches here, like the wooden tray my items were brought on and the community book swap area in the corner. The salads, sandwiches and toasted sandwich looked really good too. Overall though, it’s not somewhere I think I will go again. Partly it’s things like the plastic plants and the bumpy table that put me off, mainly it’s that there wasn’t a teapot and that I didn’t particularly like that flavour of rooibos tea. I imagine that if coffee is your hot beverage of choice that this is the place to go though, so if it is give it a try and let me know.

Tea and brownie at Manhattan Coffee Club.

Chilli chocolate rooibos and a very nice chocolate brownie at Manhattan Coffee Club.

I do think that Manhattan Coffee Club should be congratulated on opening in the Oracle shopping centre. An independent ethical coffee shop in a shopping centre is not a usual thing and I hope they are very successful.

  • Teapot? No.
  • Leaf tea? No. The London Tea Company ‘Rooibos Chilli Chocolate’ tea bag. Looked like all their tea was tea bag tea.
  • Teapot? No.
  • Milk jug? I don’t know. This particular tea didn’t need milk and everyone else I could see was drinking coffee. Feel I’ve failed a little as I didn’t find this out.
  • Price? £1.90 for speciality tea, £2.30 for the brownie.
  • Cake? Yes, plus brownie, millionaire’s shortbread etc. Also sells salads, sandwiches and American chocolate and snacks such as Hershey’s.
  • Go again? Probably not -there are other cafes nearby that I would prefer to go to.


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Cafe W, Reading

Waterstones, 12 Holy Brook Mall, The Oracle, Reading, RG1 2AQ.

Visited on: Saturday 29th August 2015

View of Costa at Waterstones Oracle

A fuzzy photo (sorry) of what the Costa Coffee in this Waterstones used to look like.

View of the inside of Cafe W

View of what the new Cafe W looks like. The plant pots on the tables are a nice touch.

So, here we are. Cafe W. So new it’s not listed on the Cafe W page on the Waterstones website yet. It was advertised as opening yesterday, but when I turned up yesterday afternoon there were no tables or chairs – instead people were running round unpacking things and being trained on how to use the coffee machine. I came again today and low and behold: a new cafe.

Not everything was up and running yet. There were paper cups because there were problems with the dishwasher (apparently it ‘blew up’), but as it’s the first day and things aren’t yet ship shape, all the hot drinks were discounted to £1. Fair enough.

Most impressively, they have a selection of loose leaf tea that includes rooibos. I tasted some of the chocolate cake that was in tasting chunks on a plate on the counter and it was a good strong flavour. I ordered some (instead of a chocolate brownie) on the strength of the taste and the recommendation of the lady behind the counter. It was nice, but very soggy – one of those cakes that are designed to be gooey and pudding like. I wasn’t that keen. I’ll try the chocolate brownie next time.

Tea and cake at Cafe W

Rooibos tea, milk in a paper cup and a generous slice of chocolate cake at Cafe W.

There are less tables in here than there used to be when it was Costa. Other changes include the walls now being Waterstones green and the tables being a lighter wood. Overall it feels much brighter. The staff were friendly and chatty and I’d be interested to come back again when they’re more established.

  • Teapot? No. But perhaps there will be teapots once the dishwasher is up and running?
  • Leaf tea? Yes, Suki loose leaf tea.
  • Milk jug? No, but milk was provided in another paper cup so I could add my own and the lady serving me apologised for the lack of jug, so I’m guessing there will be a jug when the dishwasher is sorted.
  • Price? £1 for the rooibos tea (reduced from £1.80) and £2.50 for the chocolate cake.
  • Cake? Yes, chocolate cake, carrot cake, croissants, chocolate brownie and some sort of square traybake with jam.
  • Go again? Yes. This isn’t my favourite cafe in Reading, mainly because though there are windows the windows look out into the corridor of the Oracle shopping centre and so there’s no natural light, but I will come back again because I like the feel of the place and because they have loose leaf tea. Also, if it’s the same as the Costa before it, it’s a useful cafe if you need to get some work/tea drinking done after 6pm (as the Oracle stays open to 8pm every weekday).


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Intrigue in Waterstones

I think this is the first time I've seen a poster with the words 'See you there' and thought, 'Yes, you will'.

I think this is the first time I’ve seen a poster with the words ‘See you there’ and thought, ‘Yes, you will’.

There are two branches of Waterstones in Reading, one in the Oracle shopping centre and one on Broad Street. The one in the Oracle used to have a Costa Coffee inside it, but, in line with Waterstones’ policy of not renewing external coffee company contracts and instead putting in their own cafes, this has now closed.

While I’m sad to see the lovely and super friendly Costa coffee staff go (they’ve gone to the Debenhams a few metres away), I am intrigued by the thought of a new cafe. Waterstones branded cafes are called Cafe W and I’ve never been in one. Not ever.

When I went in yesterday there was a white hoarding around the area where the Costa used to be and a smell of fresh paint. Tomorrow, there should be a whole new cafe there. I’m not sure what it’ll be like, but I’m going to go and find out. And then, dear reader, I’ll post about it on here so you can know too.