Caffeine drives me crazy. I can have a cup of coffee at 11am and not be able to sleep the next night. I foolishly drank five espresso martinis a few weeks back and ended up fainting and being sick all over my bathroom floor. I have the same problem with Green Tea: not the fainting and being sick but the inability to sleep at night. When I declare my high sensitivity to caffeine I’m advised by well-meaning friends to give up chocolate, which apparently also contains the substance, but I’ve checked the packets and it doesn’t mention it so I should be alright. What I’m trying to say is that this intolerance to caffeine is probably the reason why I haven’t bought into the coffee chain culture. I see my colleagues with their loyalty cards and their branded cups but I’ve just not understood it. Occasionally I’ll get lured in to one of their shops as, in all fairness, there’s so many of them they’re quite convenient for catching up. Yet I’ll end up wondering why we hadn’t chosen an alternative venue.
It’s that exact same thought I’m having right at this minute as I sit in a popular high street coffee chain. I have queued for five minutes in this soulless place for a pot of tea and a sandwich. I have held my sandwich in its polythene wrapper for the last five minutes and having studied it whilst waiting in line I could probably recite every single ingredient none of which make it sound any more appealing. Let’s not mention the cakes. I like cake. Mainly muffins as it so happens. Warmed with icecream on top. But I digress. I have gazed at every cake behind the glass and fingered the ones not behind it. I am so acquainted with every product I could probably enter Mastermind with this coffee chain as my specialist subject.
The tea and sandwich come to £7.00, an extortionate price if you ask me but in for a penny in for a pound I twist my own arm and buy a cake too which now takes the total price to £10. The assistant is robotically friendly and directs me to the end of the counter where I wait, again, for my tea to be served up. I find that this process so far is soul destroying but to add misery there is no place to sit so I have to sit at a communal table clearing the dirty plates of the previous occupants. Oh the joy!
And it is here whilst drinking my cup of tea that I question why the hell I opt to give them my custom in the first place. I’ve read enough mindfulness books to understand that meals should be a rewarding experience. That time should be taken to enjoy the food and the moment. Instead the vast majority of customers in this room are scrolling their phones not even present. I don’t think half of them are even aware that they’re even eating a cake which is good actually, as mine is disappointingly dry. There is no vibe. No music. No atmosphere. And so it was whilst I was eating my dried up cake that I contemplated the alternative.
The tradition of taking afternoon tea was once a daily event not just for those in high society. Tea rooms popped up as the demand for a fashionable place to meet friends and share gossip increased. Meeting friends and sharing gossip is still a popular event today so why now is it only reserved for special occasions? When spending £10 on poor quality food and experience is normalised why don’t we allow ourselves the best of experiences? After all we deserve it. Perhaps there aren’t many venues locally? Perhaps you think you have to dress up for afternoon tea? Perhaps it’s considered too expensive? With this in mind I started looking around at venues in Cardiff that offered afternoon tea. The following prices are taken from the venues’ websites on 24th January 2019 and whilst I have probably left some out I believe I’ve caught a glimpse of the general prices.
Traditional afternoon tea no alcohol
Future Inns £12.00
Angel Hotel £13.50
Waterloo Gardens Teahouse £13.50
The Clink £15.95
Pettigrew Tea Rooms £16.45
Park Plaza £17.95
Chapel 1877 £18.95
Clayton Hotel £19.95 (includes a glass of Prosecco)
Sunflower & I £21.50
Admiral St David’s £22.95
Yes I agree some are expensive and no I wouldn’t pay that for a quick meet up with a friend either but are the top price ones any different to the lower end? For the good of the investigation I booked myself into afternoon tea with Admiral St David’s and Future Inns to compare the two. I wanted to look at the comparison between the highest and lowest price afternoon teas in Cardiff.
Admiral St David’s have a great choice of menu for afternoon tea. They offer a children’s menu which includes milkshake instead of tea, and a gentleman’s menu which swaps the tea for beer. They also adapt the food menu to make it more appealing to the customer. There is also a complete vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menu. It’s so refreshing to see a restaurant that is so inclusive. The food was nice but I get the impression that they’re churning out the food with no love and pride behind the staff’s service. It certainly wasn’t worth £22.95
Future Inns, Cardiff pleasantly surprised me: in fact more than surprised me. I was shocked at how in the ten years that I’ve lived in Cardiff I hadn’t considered them as a food venue. But my goodness their afternoon tea was delicious. Served on Welsh slate and decorated with edible flowers the chef clearly takes pride in not only the taste but also the presentation of his work. Their afternoon tea is entitled Taste of Wales. This is how they describe their afternoon tea on their website:
The Welsh word for taste is Blas, and our amazing chefs certainly bring you that, producing distinct and authentic flavours. They have recreated the traditional afternoon tea menu of delicious finger sandwiches, mouth-watering homemade cakes and handmade scones with lashings of cream and fruit jam, by adding a truly Welsh twist. The Taste of Wales Afternoon Tea is served with unlimited servings of tea or coffee; but we highly recommend continuing the theme with Welsh Brew Loose Leaf Tea. You can also add on a glass of bubbles, prosecco, champagne or even a cocktail.