Saturday, December 17, 2016

London 2016 Highlights: The Tea

London 2016 Travel Highlight Blog
February 26 - March 9, 2016
Blog #1: The Tea

For this "highlight blog" of my London 2016 trip, I am going to section the trip by activity, rather than chronologically. I was visiting our London office (now that it's released, I can say the reason I was in London was to help some folks with some technology for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Exciting times!!) Nonetheless I can't really talk about those details here, so rather than discussing my day-to-day on the trip, I'll just cover basic trends: Food, Drink, Tea. That just about covers it. Let's start with the most British of things, tea time! Was this our honeymoon? Nope, I was working. But since it was quite soon after our wedding, Michal came along as well, and we did some honeymoon-ish things in the spare time outside of work time! Carpe diem!!

Fortnum & Mason
We arrived in London and met up with the illustrious EJ and Sue. They presented us with the kindest and most generous of gifts for our wedding, a bottle of personalized Fortnum & Mason champagne, and a gift card for tea! This was a super amazing gift and we put it to use immediately. :) We went to F&M on the second day of the trip and the first cool thing we saw: fancy marzipan!

The famed Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason is a magnificent welcome to London. You are greeted by a pianist playing the piano and a buzz in the air of families and small groups having a special afternoon meal to celebrate the important moments in their life.

Of course this wasn't quite our honeymoon, but no big deal, may as well tell everyone it is! We made our way through a good amount of the champagne and then moved onto their famous tea, tea sandwiches, scones, and mini-cakes. Aside: Lemon curd is life-changing. It was also fun that F&M uses their own fancy china for their high tea, and it was suupppper fancy. I tried very hard not to be a "boorish American" (despite being Canadian). haha. So, yes, what a start to the trip!

After some magnificent scones and all the other goodness you see above, we wandered around further in Fortnum & Mason and bought a metric ton (tonne?) of loose-leaf tea to take home. The last time we were in London, we really liked the "Countess Grey" flavour of tea from F&M so I bought a huge bag of it this time. Mmm.

We also wandered the store to look at their other awesome teaware for sale, and silly hats, of course -- cause Britain.

Tea Time at work
I became known as a bit of a tea fiend last time I visited the London office, so for this visit I knew I had a reputation to maintain. A quick stop at Waitrose seemed to do the trick.

Later on in the trip we found we were running on empty after a long day walking in the rain and not eating enough. So during a nice little shop and wander in the Selfridge's department store, we stopped in their tea area (basically, a British version of a food court?!) and did what any self-respecting tourist should do when in a department store in London: have some high tea.

This was a quick-and-dirty version of what we had earlier in the week at Fortnum & Mason -- a straight-to-the-point scone and tea without constant service or refills, but still absolutely hit the spot. Perfect for a rainy day!

Ultimately, we wandered in Selfridge's long enough that we found something awesome. This Le Crueset mug set and teapot was super colourful and awesome and we insta-loved it, so decided to buy and schlep it home :)

Three-Tiered Tray!
Since we are fancy and married now, and thank goodness my wife is Canadian so she doesn't think I am insane for LOVING things that mostly only Grandmothers like (aside: my Mom is going to read this line in the blog and say, "Hey! What's wrong with Grandmothers?!") -- we were verrrry keen to find an epic three-tiered-tray in London and bring it back as a memento from this trip and also as a gift from one of the people who gave us money for our wedding. Tea is big in Canada of course, and we get our cues from our British heritage, plus my parents are South African so I grew up drinking lots of tea... plus, who the heck doesn't like a friggin' delicate beautiful gold-plated tiered-tray?! It hold snacks when you're having tea with friends!!!! So YEAH. As my friend Nick and Jenn's former tea business t-shirt said, "Real men drink tea." You're damn right they do.

So anywayyyy.... we went to a few different department stores looking for some nice tea stuff. We started at the craziest, Harrods, just to have a high bar to compare things to. They showed us some crazy teaware that the Royal Family uses??!?! Presumably that's a little out of our price range.

MAN that's NICE.
This is apparently the brand the Queen likes.
So I think we were gravitating towards the Wedgwood one. We saw a kindof nice TWO-tiered tray, but as Michal said, "TWO-tiered? NOPE. Three or nothin'." I have clearly married the correct woman.

That said, we hardly expected Harrods to outline which of their items was on a sort of clearance sale, or if the word "sale" has ever appeared on that floor of Harrods. We said thank-you to our very polite salesman, and headed onwards to check out some other shops like Jon Lewis and Debenhams. It was fun to look around and we managed to score a super sweet deal at Debenhams on the same tray we'd seen at Harrods. It turns out that Wedgwood seems like it has seasonal or series of designs, and they are pretty much the same anywhere you go. We really liked their "Butterfly Bloom" design (the 2-tier was very bright and kinda cray, but the 3-tier was subtle and badass. 3-tier wins AGAIN).

We have a winner, ladies and gentlemen!

And so concludes the tea portion of the London blog. Stay tuned for Food and Drink next.

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