For many of us, Christmas means a lot of time spent driving between relatives delivering Christmas cheer and indulging in one-too-many mince pies. One of the worst things about being on the road is drinking horrid machine coffee from a paper cup; I mean, I don't even consider drinking takeaway tea in those circumstances as, although I love a good cuppa, I'd rather avoid tea altogether than drink an underwhelming cup. I guess I'm just not one of those "can't live without tea types"; I find it relatively easy to give it a miss if there's only a disappointing bog-standard tea on offer.
So it was with some interest and curiosity that I found an email in my inbox from Little Chef asking if I'd like to test-run their new tea offering. I decided to take them up to satisfy my curiosity if nothing else. I have to admit that it's been some years since I went into a Little Chef for anything other than a sneaky use of their facilities; and in my mind's eye tea there would consist of one of those metal teapots with an uninspiring tea bag floating inside. But apparently all that has changed. Nowadays they are moving into the world of loose-leaf tea which, as many of you will know, is definitely a positive step as far as I'm concerned. I received a tin of Taylor's of Harrogate English Breakfast Tea which was tasty, full-bodied and the kind of tea that is going to hit the right notes for most people. But almost as exciting as the tea was the fantastic teapot I received to brew my cuppa in.
I don't know about you but I am a serious fan of teapots that allow you to remove the leaves once the tea has reached its required strength. The benefit of these kind of pots is that not only do you avoid a horrid stewed cup of tea, but you can also pop the leaves back in for a second infusion later on. The pot I received from Little Chef was one of the most ingenious I've come across. You put your tea leaves inside a little metal caddy that attaches to the lid of the pot; this caddy then dangles down to infuse and when the tea has reached the strength you like you just lift up the metal arm on top of the lid which elevates the caddy up out of the water. Not only is this a very nifty idea, it makes perfect sense for a café; after all, not everyone likes their tea the same way. I know many people like a good strong cuppa but I'm filled with disappointment when I get a teapot filled with tea that is already dark brown in colour.
Now I'm not entirely sure if all Little Chefs will be featuring these teapots - but I certainly hope so. For me a well thought out set of tea accessories suggests a place that thinks about the drinking experience; and loose leaves served in a clever pot can only be good. I notice on their website that some branches are even serving Rare Tea's RAF blend, which I have been enjoying at home lately, and green tea too. All this seems like a very good thing to me.
In all honesty Little Chef is not somewhere I would ordinarily venture into, but finding out that they are starting to take tea seriously has made me think again. The thought of a well-brewed cuppa to break up monotonous journeys is very appealing. But perhaps even more heart-warming than that is the thought that Britain might just be starting to change from a country that loves tea, to a country that loves good tea. Now that would really be something to smile about.