I will admit up front: I am a coffee addict. I drink an almost shameful amount of the magical liquid on a daily basis, thanks to my Keurig brewer and the abundance of colombian whole bean coffee at home and a few cafe’s on Virginia Tech’s campus. There’s a joke in the communication department that “caffeine is necessary to [our] continued health.” It’s not too far off, at least in my case. And of course, tea is another staple in my diet. I’ll take it iced or hot, but preferably iced and sweetened. Nothing beats a tall glass of sweet tea garnished with a lemon slice and a sprig of mint on a warm summer’s day.
I like to consider myself a tea and coffee connoisseur, so I was extremely excited about the café scene in London. There are so many options, from chain establishments like Costa and Caffe Nero (and Starbucks, of course), to smaller privately owned cafes on side streets. I have my favorites of each, and enjoy them all for different reasons. Caffe Nero is convenient to where we meet for class, but Costa’s mochas are hard to beat. Take a walk around Covent Garden and you’re more than likely to find a smaller, non-chain café, like Muffinski’s. I’m pretty sure I find a new café every time I go to Covent Garden.
What I love most, though, are the drinks themselves and how they’re prepared. Coffee, such as the one from automatic office coffee machines, is a work of art here. The simplest caffe mocha is easily turned into caffeinated beauty with the swirl of a spoon against the canvas of white fluffy foam. Aside from its appearance, coffee here even tastes different. It’s much stronger, largely because they use real espresso in almost every drink. The chocolate flavor is much more subtle, which I like a lot. I like my coffee sweet, but too much sweetness can take away from the main ingredient. One of my favorite cafes called Notes serves delicious mochas and fantastic, thick-sliced, toasted-to-perfection banana bread with creamy yoghurt and jam. It’s a breakfast to die for that I will surely miss when I leave the city.
At home, I drink almost every meal with a glass of sweet tea. If I asked for tea with a meal here, I would get a cup of hot water with a tea bag and sugar cubes, or a pot full of brewing tea. That’s not a disappointment by any stretch, but it is different.
I had my first experience with English tea at The Porcupine pub, which I briefly mentioned in my first London Callin’ Y’all piece. My full breakfast came with tea or coffee, and since I’d already sampled plenty of coffee, I decided to switch it up and have tea. English Breakfast is one of the most common flavors, so that’s what I ordered. It was a perfect hot complement to my delicious breakfast.
Afternoon tea is also necessary in many Londoners’ daily routines. It provides a nice break from a busy workday, or, depending on how late in the afternoon you go, adds a nice touch to the end of your day. The traditional afternoon “high tea” includes tea and warm scones, which come with jam and clotted cream. When I went to my first afternoon tea, I’ll admit I was not entirely sure what to do with the clotted cream; it looked more like butter than any sort of cream I’d ever seen. But it’s meant to be spread on the scones like butter, and it’s quite tasty when topped with some strawberry or raspberry jam. My favorite café for a nice tea is called Patisserie Valerie, which offers tea, scones, jam and cream for about 6.50 pounds. It’s a calm, affordable treat, especially after long days traversing the city.
Even for a coffee addict like myself, the tea routine is just as sweet and fun to experience. I like my coffee—caffe mochas, to be precise—to get me going in the mornings, but afternoon or evening tea serves as a fantastic cap to busy days in the city.
Kate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern, and a senior at Virginia Tech studying communications and English. Originally form Atlanta, Kate plans to graduate in 2014 to launch a professional career in writing and public relations. Follow her on Twitter @kate3robertson