Wailing Laments from Wet Lettuces
High street coffee shop chains do a very good job of luring the masses into their unoriginal shops. It seems that all they need to do is hang out-of-focus pictures of coffee beans on the walls and play acoustic music by navel-gazing 'wet lettuce' singers who wear woollen hats, 'talent beards' and grey marl sweatshirts. They might have Arabic and/or Chinese words tattooed on their forearms too. Forget the quality of the drinks they serve in these establishments.
It's very convenient to use these plasticky hellholes, as they tend to get the best spots in town; but don't fall into the convenience trap. Before you know it your wardrobe will be full of loungewear.
If you are visiting somewhere new, take a little bit of time investigating the area. You will find one or two independent tea rooms or coffee shops that will reward you with a stratospherically better experience and quality of refreshment. And a decent cup of tea.
Stokes of Lincoln
Let's take Lincoln, England, for example. Here you could respectfully put on a shirt and tie and visit Stokes High Bridge Café (pictures above), a fourth-generation family business that was founded in 1892 by Robert William Stokes. The café is situated in a Tudor building on the High Bridge, which was built in 1160 and is the only medieval bridge in the country that still has buildings standing on it. Tea-wise you would probably want to plump for the founder's Gold Medal Blend. Perhaps you should order some local plum bread too.
Imperial Teas of Lincoln
And whilst you're in the city you should also visit Imperial Teas of Lincoln on Steep Hill. Imperial Teas is regarded as one of the finest tea merchants in the country, their shop the very nerve centre for tea lovers in the east of England.
And I quote:
Our range of tea is chosen from thousands of samples sent to us each year from the producing countries around the world. No speciality worthy of the name passes us by and often we are the exclusive stockists in this country, if not Europe, of the world's finest and most rare varieties.The range of teas from Imperial is both stupefying and edifying. It would be best to seek their advice when looking for samples, but you would be remiss not to include some Darjeeling. That's the Puttabong Moondrops below — it has a hand-twisted leaf with a flavour of 'blackcurrant bushes, mango, stewed apricot and muscatel wine', and a fragrance of 'mild almond and cashews'. They say the best Darjeeling is going to Japan now. Can we let this happen?
With establishments like this in Lincoln, and there are many other independent tea rooms in the city, how could anyone for shame visit one of the boringly ubiquitous coffee shop chains that have muscled into the town centre?
Idea for Lincoln: Hold a tea festival and pitch to become the tea capital of the UK.