This time last year, I was in England. In Sussex, specifically, researching for my new Spindle Cove series. Now, Spindle Cove is a fictional village, but I knew I wanted it to have a tea shop. Therefore, I considered it my professional duty to take tea in as many Sussex tea shops as possible. It was a tough job, but it had to be done.
Now, when one is preparing for one’s first trip to England, one is often urged to have “a cream tea.” However, one is rarely told exactly what a “cream tea” is. If one is like me, she might naively imagine this to be some sort of creamy tea beverage, not unlike a chai latte from Starbucks.
But no! A cream tea is so much more than a beverage. It’s a whole meal. (At least, I made meals of them.)
Behold, my first cream tea, served to me in the Royal Pavilion Tea Room in Brighton (once the Prince Regent’s own residence). A traditional cream tea includes:
- A pot of strong, fragrant brewed tea, with lumps of sugar and a jug of cream
- A scone, plain or studded with fruit
- And–the cream tea’s raison d’etre–freshly churned cream, which is that pot of yellowish stuff.
In taste and consistency, the cream is like a slightly sweet, spreadable, very rich butter. You often hear of Devonshire cream, but because I was in Sussex, this was local Sussex cream. Perhaps the “best cream” bragging rights are a subject of hot debate, not unlike college football rivalries?
Whatever it’s called, wherever it’s from – it is heavenly. And sinful. And addictive.
See, this cream tea was my gateway drug. Soon, in the course of my assiduous survey of Sussex tea shops–for research purposes, mind–I was moving on to “full tea.” Which looks like this:
This might possibly be the best meal I’ve ever had. All the cream tea components are there – pot of tea, scone, jam, cream. Plus four salmon-cucumber tea sandwiches AND a slice of the most delicious cake on the planet. I think the flavor was toffee walnut cranberry…? I don’t recall, but it was simply amazing. I walked five miles after eating this meal (that’s a crazy story for another day), and still didn’t feel hungry in the least. I hope you are suitably impressed by my dedication to research.
And I consumed it all in The Fletcher, a tea shop in Rye that was once the home of John Fletcher, a Elizabethan playwright and contemporary of Shakespeare. The building is over four hundred years old–delightfully slanted and sagging and creaky when you walk across the floor.
These were the doors of the restrooms. Aren’t they wonderful?
Sigh. The things I do for research. But enough about me.
What’s your perfect cuppa on a weekend morning? Tea? Coffee? Chocolate? Do you take your beverage of choice straight up, or do you doctor it up with soy milk, orgeat syrup, and a dusting of nutmeg? Do you favor egg-and-cress sandwiches, or cucumber-salmon? Fruited scones or plain?
Also – what similarly dire, unpleasant tasks can I take on in the name of research? I think perhaps I need to write about Regency massage therapy.