Considering this tea room is just a few steps away from my university building, I am surprised that I have never been there before.
All About Tea is a quaint, little cafe hidden away on Middle Street. However, there is more to it than that. Not only a great venue to have your daily cuppa, All About Tea is also a shop, factory and the holder of the Guinness World Record for the largest tea bag.
On the outside you barely notice it but when you step inside, you are taken back in time to England, 1918; when the tea pots have tea cosies, swing music is playing and everyone is cheerful because the war is over. There are Victorian style leather sofas, arm chairs and large rugs with iron shelves and daffodils on the tables.
It all works very well together to create a sweet and welcoming aura that is perfect for anyone; whether you want to settle down to read, catch up on university work or have a pit stop on your way to town.
The staff are polite and friendly and are more than happy to stop and chat to you about your day or the types of tea they have in store. One young woman told me about how they import, blend and pack tea just a few feet away from me and how they are the creators of Portsmouth Tea. Fascinated, I tried to peer through the shelves to catch a glimpse of the behind the scenes but had no luck. Maybe next time…
I ordered a mug of this famous Portsmouth Tea, a chocolate brownie and a slice of Lemon Delight cake before settling down in a cosy corner.
As I waited for my tea and cakes I read through the menu and its extensive range of teas. I counted 77 in total and noticed some unique flavours like Strawberry and Caramel. I felt bad that I ordered a normal tea, where was my sense of adventure?
Anyway, my drink and treats came soon enough in dainty floral china that my Nan would have. The tea came as loose leaves in a pot, decorated with a yellow and brown knitted cosy. As I let it stew, I tucked into my homemade cakes.
Lemon Delight was the first. It was moist and had lemon marmalade in the centre. Quite different, it added more zest and flavour to the cake than cream and a refreshing coolness to each bite. Although I enjoyed it very much, I did find the flavour was a bit inconsistent at times, with some bites being more tasty than others. The sugar and lemon crust had seeped into the top layer of the cake but sadly not the bottom. But, either way, I gobbled it up just as quick.
On to the brownie. It was how all brownies should be – crispy on the outside and gooey in the middle. It was rich and sickly, perfect for all those chocoholics out there. I gave up about halfway through and reluctantly passed it onto my friend who devoured it in one bite. We both nodded at one another in approval but still agreed they could have added something else to the mix. Maybe cherries, nuts or chocolate chips. Maybe all three!
My tea was finally ready. Pouring myself a cup and adding far too many sugar cubes, I tried this Portsmouth Tea that many of my friends had gone on incessantly about.
“It’s just tea,” I thought, “how can it be so special? What is wrong with normal tea?”
I took a sip. I took another. I could finally understand why they liked it so much.
The water in Portsmouth isn’t great with its hard, chalky taste. It can easily ruin any cup of tea but, with Portsmouth Tea, I didn’t notice. The aftertaste of the Chalk Hills was gone and the creator, Andrew Gadsden, had really saved tea. Although, I’m still not sure on his self-proclaimed title, ‘Saviour of Tea’. The tea is good but I wouldn’t consider him some teatime Jesus. Who knows, someone might.
When I was done I made sure to have a nosy at the other teas on sale – Apricot, Chamomile and Lavender and Fennel were a few I could spot. They all come in loose tea and tea bag form with tasters available around the store. I tried the Detox Tea which was sweet with strawberries, lemon and peppermint. Keen to cleanse myself I bought a small bag of 10 for £3.99.
All About Tea is a little pricey when you consider a 240 bag box of PG Tips will cost you £5.99 from Tesco. However, that is the price you pay for local, fresh and homemade. You get far more flavour than supermarket teas and supporting a local business is worth the extra pennies. Even if you just treat yourself, it’s worth the price. So, sorry Monkey!
All About Tea is a bit out of the way but it’s worth the trip. The atmosphere is comforting, the tea is warm and rich and the cake is moreish. So, if you are ever nearby or on your way to town, make sure to pop in and give it a try. And, if you are a student like me who is minutes away, why are you not there now?