Afternoon Tea in York

Trip Taken: 2008

York is showing its age. New York definitely has shown up its forefather. But for whatever New York has, I don’t think it has Little Betty’s Cafe and its tradition of tea. I read about this cafe in my guidebook saying it was an institution here in York. Institution or not, I have never had English tea before and it was about time I had.

There wasn’t much to do after visiting the Munster so I relaxed for a while at this little cafe. York is a fairly small town. This isn’t London, Manchester, or the bigger cities in the UK. Arriving at this cafe, there is a storefront on the bottom floor. It sells scones, pastries, jams, and jellies. Think of an old-time apothecary and this is the decor. Instead of medicine there are sweets everywhere. I looked at some of the things they have for sale and most of it was geared toward Valentine’s Day. I thought of buying some jam afterward if it tasted good.

I headed up the stairs and immediately hit the waiting line. I must have looked really strange as a single man waiting in line for tea. All the other groups were groups of women. The line moved slowly before I actually got to see the tea room at the top of the stairs. I waited for about half an hour before I actually got to sit down. The waitresses wore ruffled aprons to give the atmosphere a touch of anime kitsch, in my mind anyways. Of course, not being prepubescent Japanese school girls definitely toned down that association.

I looked at the menu and ordered a full tea service. I was in a small room with two other tables. One of them was an old couple drinking tea and eating sandwiches. The other was a family of three. The conversation coming out of the family was interesting. They were talking about their flat in New York and how they needed to renovate it. Even in old York there are still connections to New York.

My teapot full of black tea came first. I’m not a fan of Earl Gray so I could have gotten any other tea. But black tea suited my need to warm up and be caffeinated. After I poured my tea into my cup, the waitress brought me my tower of pastries. The other tables already had their pastry towers so I knew what was in store, but now I got to get a good look at it. The top layer was a plate of tea sandwiches filled with cucumber and salmon, the next layer was a plate of scones, and bottom layer had some cookies and a fruit tart. It was all very good but my favorite thing would have to be the Devonshire clotted cream. With the scone and jam, the cream was so good. It’s not exactly butter where you have an oily aftertaste and not as thin as regular cream. Imagine, if you will, whipped cream with the consistency of butter. That is what the clotted cream tasted like. The other food was just okay but I wanted to buy some of that cream.

I looked at the time on my cell phone and realized that I had stayed a little too long. I paid for my tea and pastries and went on my way. With my stomach full of Devonshire cream and all kinds of pastries I took my time walking down the stairs. I looked around the shop for the cream but to no avail. They didn’t sell any at the time I was there. It was probably for the best since it probably would have spoiled on the train ride back to Winchester and I will always have the good memories of the Devonshire cream from Little Betty’s Cafe in York.

Parting Words

Too bad I had to enjoy afternoon tea all by myself in the winter. This would have been more entertaining with company. It probably would have been better outside during the summer. But it is a quaint experience nonetheless that I glad I payed the extra pounds for; in my coin pocket and in my gut.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.