Sunday, March 27, 2011

TEA IN ENGLAND (SPRING IN HISTORIC BATH PART 1)


A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit England for 8 days. This was my first trip to the 'Sceptered Isle" and to say it was perhaps the most spectacular destination I’ve ever visited would be a vast understatement. For, as an unapologetic Anglophile, being there at least once in your lifetime is as necessary to existence as the water you drink or the air that you breathe. To take advantage of any trip there is a must, no matter how long or short the duration.

After spending a few exciting days in London, it was destination, Bath, where I was able to visit a wonderful tea room which is what this post will concentrate on. Of course, Bath is known for its Roman influence and exquisite Georgian architecture but it should also be noted that this city has many wonderful tearooms and specialty shops. It seems that I stumbled upon one at every turn. I only wish I had several more days to explore this breathtaking city and partake of each and every one. Hum…I’m thinking a tea room tour of Great Britain must be in the future works. Anyone care to join me?

The three most significant activities that were enjoyed by the privileged in Bath during the Regency era, in which it’s so well known, were dancing, gambling and tea. It is also said that if one spent any less than 6 weeks there, you would have certainly held no social significance whatsoever. To do so would have been considered bad form, indeed. After all, Bath, during Jane’s time was second only to London in prestige and fashion- ability, though that would change some years later when it would become much less chic.

Upon first arriving and embarking on the adventure of navigating the maze of one way streets in the city, our first destination was the Jane Austen Centre. The centre offers a museum of period clothing and displays which have been designed to give a glimpse into what life would have been like during the Regency era. It also houses a nice gift shop with everything Jane-related.

The tour at the centre was very informative. It was filled with information about the Austen family especially in reference to the time they spent there. It is often said that Jane grew weary of Bath, but the guide at the centre seemed to feel that she did in fact have a fondness for the city, at least at certain times in her life. Of course, Jane devotees will be quick to point out that Bath was the setting of two of Austen’s beloved novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, the former being my favorite of the two.

Now, for the tea experience: I had researched the Tea Room at the centre a bit before my trip so had great expectations. For instance, it is housed in a Georgian townhouse on historic Gay Street and adorned with d├ęcor faithful to the era. This certainly makes for perfect ambiance. But of more importance, this particular tea room, known as The Regency Tea Room, has been granted the Tea Guild’s esteemed “Award of excellence” and “Tea rooms with distinction” award. One sip of the perfectly brewed selections offered here and it’s easy to see why. I opted to sample two blends from their offering of 15. My first was the Jane Austen Blend; a mixture of delectable China black teas, in keeping with what was more easily available during the Regency period. The second was Russian Caravan. The latter is a blend of China blacks with a smokier flavor- Very satisfying. Of course, I came away with loose leaf bags of both, along with a charming silver tea strainer. As for tea fare, I chose “Tea with Mr. Darcy.” I ask you, how could one resist ordering that when there is a charming portrait of Colin Firth, in the role that made him famous, holding a position of honor just above the mantle? And what exactly was included with this “Tea”? It consisted of a two tiered offering of cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, fresh baked scones (one plain, one with currants) with Dorset clotted cream, strawberry jam, lemon curd, apple tartlets, delectable meringue shells with fruity filling, and cream stuffed buttery cookies-topped with a drizzle of chocolate.

And what did all this result in? Well, an afternoon of absolute bliss, of course!

Now, make sure to check back soon for “Part 2” of Bath to see the rest of what this exquisite English city is known for.