I do like it when the Fancy a Cuppa? tour ends up being a conversation with other coffee and tea lovers rather than just a one-way reviewing process. And so it was with the visit to Stokesley in North Yorkshire this week.
Stokesley is a cute little town, nestled up against the North York Moors. The Visit Stokesley website claims there’s a spectacular view of Roseberry Topping from the east end of the town, but I wonder if that was written before the supermarket and car park was built – or did I just miss the vantage point?
It’s up towards the east end of the town, in College Square, that I stopped off for that all-important first coffee of the day. Bexter’s Tea Room is the place for coffee in Stokesley.
There are lots of other coffee spots around town but this is the only place selling coffee as good as Limini (based in Bradford). And it’s always a good sign when a coffee shop (or, in this case, a tea room) is proud enough of their coffee to have their roaster produce a blend just for them: so if you like Bexter’s Blend, you can walk off with a bag of the ground stuff to make at home, too.
I was lucky enough to time my visit to Bexter’s perfectly for owner Jayne’s arrival with a tray of scones, just out of the oven. Jayne may not be a full-time, hands-on owner (she has another job too!),but she’s certainly very present around the place and those scones are very much her work.
It’s great to see a new business trying new things out, asking for feedback, and open to new ideas. When Stokesley has its annual fun fair right outside the tea room next month, Bexter’s will be closed for a week, giving Jayne and her colleagues the chance to assess how things have gone in their first few months of business.
Well, it’s all looking good to me! So good in fact that I stayed for a pot of their loose-leaf tea, blended by a Yorkshire company I hadn’t come across before: Holmfirth Tea.
And here’s where my conversation with Jayne led to ideas in both directions. I was delighted to see her setting up a Twitter account within hours of my visit (and quickly getting quite a few mentions from regulars); while her story of finding local, Yorkshire-based suppliers for all her goods got me thinking it’s about time the Fancy a Cuppa? website had links to our favourite coffee roasters and tea blenders – nationwide, though, and maybe even worldwide, not just Yorkshire!
So, thanks Jayne. Nothing like a good natter over a pot of tea to get those brain cells working.
The prettiest part of Stokesley is actually just off the main High Street. The River Leven winds its way through town, and I loved the various ways of getting over the water: the ‘packhorse bridge’ is apparently 17th century; I’m guessing the ford – used mainly by ducks these days – is even older; then there are several low-level concrete paths over the river, which must get exciting when there’s been a bit of rain round here; and of course there is also a bridge for cars!
Just over the river is perhaps Stokesley’s quirkiest historical claim to fame.
Yes, this is the former home of Jane Pace, who was apparently the first white woman to settle in Victoria (Australia). She’s not the most prominent of English settlers in Australia, but a bit of google searching threw up this little gem from her memoirs, dating back to the 1830s…
Hmmm, I’m starting to think of future projects again. Following on from Isabella Bird of Boroughbridge, is there mileage in a study of Intrepid Women from 19th Century Yorkshire…Let’s see who else we come up with on our tour of North Yorkshire this year.
As it is, I’ll be needing a return visit to Stokesley before the end of the year. There’s a new deli in the High Street called The Pantry. It’s only been open a few weeks, but their focus is on loose-leaf tea…from Taylors of Harrogate, and as soon as they open their planned tea room upstairs, we’ll be back to try their tea.
But for now we’re recommending Bexter’s Tea Room, whether it’s tea or coffee you’re after in Stokesley.
And a final observation: if you’re a vegetarian and like that meat-substitute Quorn, you may be interested to know they make the stuff just on the edge of town. Yep, it’s Quorn HQ, is Stokesley. Can’t say I saw many cafés shouting about it from the rooftops, mind. Maybe not the most popular thing on the average North Yorkshire dinner table?