After a morning spent touring the historic sites that Stratford-Upon-Avon has on offer, a well earned tea break should definitely be on the agenda. And what better place to explore the amazing high tea culture than true Shakespeare country- where a sonnet and a scone seems a perfect way to while away an afternoon.
Afternoon tea is by far the most quintessential British tradition. Dating back to the 1800’s, the taking of high tea was introduced by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, who complained of an afternoon “sinking feeling”, and called for some four o’ clock drinks and nibbles to keep off the tummy rumbles until supper- a truly revolutionary request. As for the accompaniments, it is thanks to the Earl of Sandwich, who had the great idea of putting filling between two pieces of bread. The pause for tea then became a fashionable event, taken up by well-dressed woman in the 1800’s, who congregated at 4’O clock in many a Victorian drawing room. Nowadays, traditional afternoon tea consists of a pot of the finest tea, with a range of yummy accompaniments- sultana scones served with clotted cream and jam, sponge cakes and pastries, and cucumber sandwiches.
Stratford is a great place to indulge in the fine tea culture, as the town is inundated with tea shops and cafes, offering the authentic tea experience. Award winning Bensons Restaurant and Tea Rooms is the best of the bunch. The tea room was voted as one of Britain’s best places to take afternoon tea, with scones and traditional clotted cream only made from local producers and. Food service is also in action at other times of the day, offering a Full English breakfast to gourmet sandwiches as a lunchtime bite
Around Ann Hathaway’s cottage, there has sprung up some other great little tea shops. The cottage Restaurant and Tea Gardens is in an idyllic setting, situated in a rose garden, by a little stream complete with some noisy ducks and woodland creatures, who often sneak around you whilst you obliviously tuck in to a crumpet of two. Hathaways Tea Room on the other hand is a family run business, which has been in existence since 1931, with the building dating back to 1610. Don’t miss the downstairs bakery that allows you to hand pick exactly which cake goes with your steaming brew.
For a more modern twist on tea, McKenzie’s is the alternative. The more contemporary inspired café prides itself on its loose leaf tea selection- offering 17 different types of tea, from the traditional Early Grey to some secret combinations- try the explosive “gunpowder” for a taste of something truly innovative.