The British are known to be a nation of tea drinkers. We are the world’s second largest consumers of the stuff, with each person consuming on average 2.1kg per year.
The popularity of tea dates back to the 19th century when India was part of the British Empire and British interests controlled tea production in the subcontinent. It was, however, first introduced in Britain by the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, queen consort of Charles II in the 1660s.
The rest of the world believes that we pour tea from china pots into porcelain cups. They think loose tea is a given and a refined expression of the ‘real Britain’.
But the mug’s the thing, a tea bag dunked alongside a biscuit, five mugs a day on average.
So where can we find a decent cup of tea locally?
Southsea’s Mint Tea Rooms has spotted an obvious gap in the market. Billing themselves as ‘traditional teas in a vintage atmosphere,’ the tearooms occupy a small space along colourful, eccentric Castle Road.
The décor is one of wooden floorboards, light wood tables and posters. The motto Keep Calm and Eat A Cupcake hangs from the green painted upper section where the small kitchen area hides.
A dresser heaves with homemade cakes as well as vintage tea pots, one shaped into a 1950s TV, others sporting Union Jack flags and strawberries. Books line the shelves and band tunes from the forties play.
The simple menu prides itself on its organic, Fairtrade sourcing. Come here for a homemade soup, potato, quiche, dainty or doorstep sandwiches. Or you can start the day right with a bowl of porridge and honey, or some free-range poached eggs.
The tea is the thing though. There’s speciality teas (Darjeeling, Assam, Earl Grey, Lady Grey) and afternoon teas are also served (finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam or cake and a pot of tea for £10).
Prices are reasonable, from £3 for a sandwich, a fiver for the quiche and cakes from £2.50.
Attention to detail is one of the glories of this independent two-woman business. Tea in a proper tea pot, a strainer, small jug and sugar bowl with sugar tongs are part of the deal here.
Lady Grey loose tea is never bettered and the salmon quiche came with an excellent salad plus a tiny jug of proper vinaigrette. The pastry could have used more time in the oven but the filling was first-rate.
Which cake to choose from? The chocolate one with ganache was my choice, a light cake despite its sock-it-to-them moist, dark icing giving the impression of more depth of flavour.
Opened in March, Mint Tea Rooms are an asset to this street and deserve our support. Enterprising, small businesses create a far better feel than faceless corporate ones but only if they are good – and this one definitely is.
It also helps restore faith in British tea drinking and not before time. I spent just under £10.
Mint Tea Rooms
Castle Road, Southsea.
(023) 9234 6958
Open: six days a week, Monday – Saturday, from 10am to 5pm.
Food: Four (out of five)
Disabled access: Fine
How to get there: How to get there: Castle Street is between Elm Grove and Southsea Terrace, the tearoom is on the left, if coming from Elm Grove. Parking on-street.