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In the deep dark depths of ancient Welsh Woodland, you can just make out a whisper of smoke rising from rather an unprepossessing cottage. Far from pretty but surrounded by a garden with the feel of a grotto, you would be unsurprised to walk past fairies & witches as you make your way to the threshold.

Inside Ty Hyll, “The Ugly House” though, all feels welcoming & safe. The fire blazes in the open hearth, the tinkle of spoons against china, each ring casts what feels like an enchanting spell. Their blend of tea tastes quite magical (and is frustratingly secret!). Seek out this characterful place near Snowdonia and I promise you will not be disappointed.

Ugly House

Pretty Tea at the Ugly House

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Christmas is solved! Well, it is for all of us tea lovers at any rate. These very stylish woollie beauties to cover tea pots by Dutch designer Eva Solo are just the thing to keep hot all that needs to be kept hot – after all, with all the potential challenges ahead for winter fuel and heating, I think every tea pot deserves to be kept warm too, don’t you?

woolly tea pot cover

The very stylish Eva Solo woolly tea pot cover – every tea pot deserved to be kept warm this winter

 

It is the weekend – hooray! At this point, I am usually looking forward excitedly to having time, tea and well, more tea in all honesty. But there is anxiety for me this week my dears as I dare to broach a rather delicate subject – yes, last weeks episode of Downton Abbey.

It all stared so well three weeks ago – the reason we all fell in love with Downton in the first place was exemplified by watching the still grief stricken Lady Mary – which one of us has not felt loss or could fail to empathise with her. I think it is that ability to connect to our common experiences directly through the life of the Crawley’s that is the  real strength of its success.

However, even the Countess of Carnarvon was a little put out at last weeks episode. Like her, I watch Downton to be enveloped in loveliness, in a world of beautiful frocks and rooms that I would love to be sitting in front of the fire sipping tea from my china tea cup just served by Carson the Butler ( even the Countess is Butler-less these days). It is the world where the distance between the forks on the table matters and you can watch with some amusement the lives and squabbles of the servants. It was all the more shocking then to be knocked from this safe perch, cocooned as I thought I was, into such a horrible situation.

I am not sure Downton can ever be the same again and I am saddened by that. I concede that this awful violence has been the experience of some, and I sympathise hugely but it felt entirely out of kilter with the tone of all other Downton episodes. I will watch, tea cup in hand, with some trepidation at this weeks episode.

I am unable to claim the credit for the splendid description of Penhaligon’s tea cup – but the description “Spiffing” has now become the word de jour. What a splendid description for such a splendid cup – the only significant disadvantage is the requirement to spend £100 to have one……oh well………

Spiffing Tea Cup by Penhaligon's

Spiffing Tea Cup by Penhaligon’s

 

 

 

 

cheesy tea

cheesy afternoon tea

Restraint was far from our minds as we entered the marquee that is home to the now famous International Cheese Awards at the Nantwich show. Tempted by producers with platefuls of never before seen cheese, suddenly you arrive at the point where it feels like you have eaten your own body weight in gorgeous cheese…..and in fact you probably have…….. but I digress readers, as you may legitimately be wondering what an earth any of this has do to with tea……

Well, quite honestly, tea was furthest from my mind on this splendid occasion  well, as far as it can ever be, then by some serendipitous accident, I stumbled across the closed thing to tea that you were going to find at a cheese show – an afternoon tea made entirely from cheese! And not just any old cheese, my dears, this was gorgeous Butlers cheese, of Blacksticks Blue fame.

As coincidence would have it, the creator of this marvellous afternoon tea happened to pass by as I was admiring its genius  – what are the chances of that, really quite extraordinary. Anyway, she took me through the menu. Who could resist  honey drizzled mejool dates stuffed with blacksticks blue and walnuts or creamy Lancashire stuffed Eccles cakes. My favourite though had to be the red Leicester and spring onion teacup muffins – so original.

All I can say is that this inspiring, sumptuous and entirely cheese focused afternoon tea is going to be recreated very shortly (ahem that’s when I have recovered from a slight over indulgence of cheese – ness) with a nice fragrant brew to accompany it.

Thank you to the lovely lady from Butlers. who was so delightful – her cheesy afternoon tea made my visit quite the perfect day.

manly tea mug - Emma Bridgewater black hatch

A manly tea mug – Emma Bridgewater black hatch

Well, fellow tea drinkers, in a rather unusual move for me, I am going to be all enthusiastic about drinking tea from a half pint MUG – yes, almost heretic I know, however, this mug is a rather special one crated by none other than the queen of British pottery, Emma Bridgewater. It is bold in black & white & as you can fit a proper half a pint of tea in this mug, I have nicknamed it manly – perfect for the male of the species who isn’t that keen on drinking his tea from a china tea cup – and yes, I know I don’t know why either as it tastes so much better, but this is quite the next best thing I think. Bravo Emma for such a gorgeous design.

Summer in a Tea Pot

Summer in a Tea Pot

 

In a freak accident of nature, and unknown for many years, it appears that the UK is actually experiencing warm blue skys that closely resemble summer……of course, we are keeping terribly quiet about it in the vain hope that if we ignore this meteorological phenomenon, it will continue. As iced tea has never been something that I have embraced,  to celebrate this quite lovely weather, I thought I would create summer in my very own favourite tea pot. I hope you love it as much as I do.