I agree completely with Noether
, cheap tourist traps
offering a genuine taste of Ye Olde English culture
are making our sacred institutions
into tacky eyesores
. Despite this, outside of tourist hotspots you can actually find some wonderful little tea shops. From personal experience, I've found that they are often very much out of the way, in the back alleys
behind shopping streets, or hidden in particularly scenic
parts of wooded residential areas.
The best way to tell if a particular cafe is destined for home consumption or for tourism is often the state of the toilets, you can tell a genuine English 'shoppe' by the notorious disregard they give to these facilities. So, after a brief look at the loo's, its time to order. Bear in mind that most patrons only ever tend to order tea (in its many verities), so although it may be on the menu, don't expect an impeccable Cafe Mocha (it'll almost certainly be far too sweet, and made with weak espresso). Of course, the famous thing to order from one of these places is a cream tea, I'd not personally recommend this, and go for one of the many home baked treats on offer. There's a wonderful tea shop in the woods near me that does delicious freshly baked 'tea cakes' these are available everywhere and are a type of sweet bread that's chock full of raisins, sultanas and currants. Traditionally covered in copious amounts of warm butter a whole tea cake is a substantial snack for one, or a comfortably sized tea time treat for two (go alliteration).
Now, onto the tea itself, if you simply ask for tea you'll get either Assam or English Breakfast Tea, a strongish black tea with a very warm reassuring taste. If you're feeling a little more adventurous, you could ask for Darjeeling, often described as the champagne of tea, with is very perfumed taste. Alternatively, for a mellow brew order Earl Grey tea, named for the earl who first brewed it, it's rather weak and (unsurprisingly) grey compared to t'others, but with its own distinctive flavor. It's perfectly acceptable to ask for Earl Grey 'black' with a slice of lemon, this makes it 100x more refreshing, perfect on a hot summer's day.