Good coffee in Worcester, but where’s the Royalist tea room here?

We found great places for a coffee in Worcester, but surely in a town so full of references to Charles II there would be room for a traditional tea room in memory of the King who brought tea to the English Court when he returned from exile?

The weather was warm in Worcester, and so was the welcome in Café Aroma, once I’d found the place (led astray by misleading information on Google searches and plain wrong guidance on my gps!).

Café Aroma entrance in Worcester

Darren is the perfect host to all his customers, most of whom he knows by name (and can pretty accurately predict their orders too!). And his coffee is just as his website describes it: “smooth-tasting, never bitter, strong but not too strong…”.

Cappuccino and Victoria Sponge at Café Aroma in Worcester

And he’s laid back enough to come and talk to casual bloggers that turn up unexpectedly in the middle of the morning rush. And this place was full of locals reading the morning paper, having a work meeting, or just meeting up in an organised group. A really good start to my day in Worcester.

Worcester was so Royalist in the Civil War period that it became known as the “Faithful City” – there are images and references to Charles II all over the place. But it’s an earlier king who lies close up against the High Altar in the Cathedral: it’s said that King John was so disliked in much of England that Worcester was his likeliest bet for a safe passage to heaven and he chose to be buried here.

There’s lots of history in the Cathedral – goes back to the 7th century – and a real sense of grandeur there, but the tour I went on felt a little too earnest and lacked the quirky stories that usually feed the Fancy a Cuppa? blog and memoir.

Worcester Cathedral

If you look at our History of Tea, you’ll  see that it was Charles II who brought tea to the English Court when he returned from exile with his Portuguese wife. Given Worcester’s infatuation  with old Charlie, I was surprised not to find a more traditional tea room, with  lots of Charles & Catherine (of Braganca) trimmings.

I ended up diving into one of the  buildings that’s just up the road from the hotel where Charles II spent his last night before going into exile. They had an offer on for a cream tea, even  though they called themselves a coffee house, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Cream tea at Edesia Coffee House in Worcester

Good choice, I have to say. Fantastic old building; great life-changing story from owner Elizabeth; and utterly wonderful cakes baked by her Mum. Easy to recommend Edesia Coffee House in New Street.

Outside Edesia in Worcester

But come on, Worcester, someone should be opening up a quaint old tea room…

For the rest? Worcester has lovely  river-side walks, where you can check out the flood levels of years gone by (and see how close to the record the 2007 floods were); lots and lots of Tudor  buildings even in the High Street; and little gems to discover, like the  original shop where they sold Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce: it was in a chemist’s…

Video: Finding great coffee and cake in Worcester where King Charles once roamed

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Shrewsbury: Great coffee and tea in England’s most asymmetrical town

Shrewsbury has it all for coffee and tea lovers: perhaps the liveliest coffee shop I’ve seen outside London; a 12th century hotel for afternoon tea; and a tea/coffee merchants. It even has a street called Coffee House Passage…

It’s a bit of a shame the Shrewsbury Coffee House isn’t in Coffee House Passage, but it’s handily placed instead just opposite the train station in the romantically-named Castle Gates.

Outside Shrewsbury Coffee House

Jessica and brother Keaton were serving up the cappuccino yesterday and great quality it was, too.

They got lucky with their cake supplier too: it’s their Mum’s bakery two doors down that makes all the bread and cakes for the Coffee House, and some of them are a little bit different. The Rhubarb Loaf even felt healthy, and is definitely seasonal – if I didn’t normally spend my whole day eating cake, I would have asked for more…

Inside Shrewsbury Coffee House

Very friendly place and a real buzz about it.  It’ll make a perfect entry for the Fancy a Cuppa, Bishop? book next year.

Shrewsbury’s the kind of town you can wander around for hours, and almost certainly get lost, even though it’s not that big. The higgledy-piggledy layout of the mediaeval streets can quickly disorientate: wasn’t I just walking down Dogpole? Didn’t I pass Grope Lane a minute ago? And streets like Mardol make you feel like you’re on some sort of
Lord of the Rings set.

Of course, I was here to visit the Cathedral.

It’s not the first Catholic cathedral I’ve been to this year, but it finally struck home this time just how recently
Catholic persecution ended in the UK, with the 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act. I guess it’s why so many Catholic cathedrals date from the mid 19th century…

Shrewsbury Cathedral

This is very much an active church rather than a tourist destination. Unlike some of the ‘big names’, which charge upto a tenner to set foot inside, the warden here seemed almost surprised that I wanted to leave a donation…But one question remained at the end of my visit: where IS the stained glass window depicting the ‘local Olympic swimmer’? None of us could find him…or was it her?

So to tea, and another of those dilemmas, rather like I experienced in Newport recently…

Is it snobbish to be disappointed that a ‘tea room’ has a Tetley tea bag as its ‘house tea’? Not all my venues have loose-leaf tea and their own blends, but to get over the ordinary tea bag issue they’d have to be a bit special.

Trouble was the place I chose for lunch just wasn’t that special – it was nice enough, but when I was told I couldn’t take any photos and the owners weren’t around, I just decided enough’s enough and moved on…

The other trouble is: THE place to go for afternoon tea in Shrewsbury is closed on Mondays (and Sundays by the way). But the owners of the 12th century Prince Rupert Hotel were so friendly, taking me through the menu for Camellia’s Tea Rooms, showing me the venue and giving me the story of the hotel and of their lives, I took the decision to review them anyway.

Camellia's Tea Room outside

I’m just waiting for them to send me their photo of a typical afternoon tea at Camellia’s. And I’ll just have to be back to try it myself before Fancy a Cuppa, Bishop? goes to print…With the schedule I’m on, it’s a good job I have a few months to go yet…

A final word on Wilfred Owen. Unlike most of the celebrity names linked to the town, he didn’t attend the big Shrewsbury School that looks down over the river. His parents lived just behind the beautiful Shrewsbury Abbey across the English Bridge. The story goes that his parents learnt the news of his death just as the Abbey’s bells rang out to celebrate the Armistice.

The (fairly modern) monument to Wilfred Owen in the Abbey’s gardens must be about the only symmetrical thing in Shrewsbury. It apparently represents the bridge he was building when he was shot right at the end of the Great War…

Video: Finding coffee in England\’s most asymmetrical town

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Maps and coffee in Hereford – with antiques and tea

For a place that feels like a big market town, there are an awful lot of coffee shops in Hereford.  In contrast, the Antiques Tea Shop has pretty well cornered the market in tea rooms there.

We usually have a wander round a town before deciding where to have that all-important first coffee of the day. But the more we walked around Hereford, the more difficult it became to decide where to go.

In the end, it was the billboard advertising ‘home-baked cakes’ that helped us plump for the Coffee Bean & Leaf Tea Café, though I am always intrigued by venues that have no website and no apparent presence anywhere on the web.

Coffee Bea & Leaf Tea Café in Hereford
The coffee was yet again supplied by Peter James who really seems to have made his mark round these parts, with an excellent quality roast. I must meet this guy one day because everyone speaks so highly of him, but so far I haven’t managed to get to the industrial estate near Ross-on-Wye from which he supplies his beans.


Coffee and shortbread

David is in charge here and he confirmed that they have no website, no Facebook, no Twitter account. Their customer base grows by word-of-mouth and that’s good enough for them. For all that I’ve become a social media addict in the last four months, I do have a sneaking respect for people like this (like the guys in Lancaster’s Book Café) – after all, once upon a time, this was how all businesses prospered…

Hereford Cathedral is famous for holding the ‘Mappa Mundi’ and everyone speaks about it as if we are supposed to know exactly what that is…But when I asked that specific question in the Cathedral: “What IS this mappa mundi thing?”, I honestly believe the person i spoke to didn’t really know.

Well, it is a 1300 map of the world, drawn at a time when many people thought the world had edges and you’d fall off the end if you travelled too far. Trouble is, it’s housed in a special exhibition at the back of the Cathedral and you have to pay £6 to get in.

Hereford Cathedral

Now, I went for the guided tour of the Cathedral, not realising that the Mappa Mundi was not on our itinerary. Big mistake! This was the most mind-numbingly boring tour of a cathedral I have done in my tour of 25 cities this year and after 90 minutes, I needed more caffeine rather than pay for the sight of the old Map.

So, what better place to go after such a disappointment than a map shop, which had a coffee shop attached. And what a great name: Bean There? in Church Street is the kind of place I could spend hours in. Maps, travel books, coffee, cake: ingredients to make Fancy a Cuppa? come alive again.

Bean there? in Hereford

Well done to Jonathan for having the great idea, though the tell-tale cup and cake plate by his desk in the map shop suggests he had a personal motive for getting a coffee shop based inside his own shop…

And what else did Hereford have to offer?  Elgar composed a few tunes here; Nelson was a big hero in town (though they ran out of money while building his column in the park, so there’s an urn rather than a Trafalgar Square-style statue); Nell Gwynne may well have come from here (but apparently other towns also lay claim). And The Old House is a very distinctive Tudor building in the middle of the main street.

And right by The Old House was our venue for afternoon tea. We had been to The Antique Tea Shop in St Peter’s Street before and actually reviewed their other place (in Monmouth) for our first book.

Antique Tea Shop in Hereford

Asanga and Miffy have a great tea room here.  We were a bit early for afternoon tea (only served after 3pm) but wow, the cream tea is fabulous. It’s the whipped cream from a local dairy which makes this special. And the house blend of loose-leaf tea slips down nicely with the scone.

Cream tea at Antique Tea Shop in Hereford

A fittingly grand end to three days in the South West.  But we’ll be back because there’s also Brecon, Cardiff, Swansea and Bristol to do nearby.  I can’t wait…

Video: maps, coffee, antiques and tea in Hereford

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