Thursday, 23 August 2012

Going Underground


There’s a new trend in taking tea and it’s coming to a dining room near you.  Forget popping along to a fancy hotel, calling in to a country tea room or dropping in to your high street tea shop.  Why not stay at home? No not yours, someone else’s!



Up and down the country, women and men are laying the table for ad hoc afternoon teas.  They are opening up their houses and sharing a meal with other tea connoisseurs, all for a reasonable donation towards food.  Most do it because they love to bake and share it with others, some want to raise money for charity, others because they want to meet new people with similar interests.

These events are incredibly popular; they are often booked up months in advance.  The menus are usually imaginative and offer a real alternative to the normal tea circuit.  Similar to supper clubs the venue in which they are held usually remains a secret until just a few days before.

If you fancy going to an underground party here are just a few of the tea rooms on offer:

The Secret Teacup
£24
Based in the Yorkshire Dales this secret tea is served on tables laid with an eclectic mish-mash of vintage china and flowers from the garden. Ingredients are sourced locally and from their own garden, including eggs from their chickens and honey from their bees.

The Secluded Teaparty
£25
Imaginative and quirky tea parties  in Cambridgeshire.  Zombies. Halloween, The Mighty Boosh, murder mystery are all featured themes.

£25
Hosted by Mrs Stokes.  The Secret Teaparty! offers a vintage afternoon tea with a twist. Bubbly, cake and china in a stylish, top secret location in central Bath.

£13
Based at a secret location in Leeds, events are themed and fill up fast.  Book early!
£14
Held monthly in a secret location in South Manchester. Enjoy a delicious afternoon tea in a eighteenth century farmhouse.

£25
Described as London’s most lavish pop-up tea room. Tete a Tea’s founders are the 2011 winners of the Nomnomnom.

Cafe Nouveau
£15
Based near Huddersfield, Cafe Nouveau serves a differently themed afternoon tea every month.  At every tea you will be offered a variety of sandwiches, savoury tarts, small cakes and scones. Ingredients are locally sourced where possible.

Here are a few tips if you fancy setting up your own secret tea room

It is a good idea to gain a certificate in food hygiene (you can do this online if necessary).  You will also need to take out Public Liability Insurance and register your kitchen with the local council.

Research as many other secret tea rooms as you can, to get an insight into underground catering.  If you are serious about running a secret tea room you will find that many amateur restaurateurs are really helpful and will freely offer advice and share tips.

Cost out and establish a menu.  Unless you are rolling in it, try not to go wild financially, you don’t want to put yourself out of pocket. Remember you can only ask your guests for a donation and you must advise how much your suggested donation is on booking.

Don’t forget to promote your tea party or you will be eating scones all on your ownsome.  You could do this via a blog or webpage or even via Twitter or Facebook. Be careful when giving out personal details.

Hold a dummy run with friends.  This will help you make improvements and little changes ahead of your first official party. In return ask your friends to help out as waiter and waitresses, this will give you time to chat to guests.

Make sure your house in particular your bathroom (and it goes without saying your kitchen) is clean and tidy.  Invest in some disposable hand towels or a stock of towelling face cloths that can be washed and reused.  Make sure your bathroom is well stocked up, you don’t want a guest asking for soap or loo roll just as you are pulling a tray of vol-au-vents out of the oven.

Last but not least, have fun and enjoy yourself.  If you are relaxed the event will probably run better and your guests will feel welcome and at home.