25 top tea shops in Kent
PUBLISHED: 10:00 03 August 2016 | UPDATED: 11:33 17 October 2016
Nikki Bidgood, Thinkstock
Who can resist a nice cup of tea and a home-made cake or two? Here are just some of the ones our readers love in the Garden of England
Godinton House, Ashford
A real gem, approached through a rural idyll of rolling pasture and ancient oak trees. The Jacobean manor house is surrounded by exquisite gardens which include: formal flower beds, a lily pond, an ornamental garden, a rose garden and a meadow with orchids. Conservatories with exotic plants are situated in a walled garden of football-pitch dimensions. Famed for their delphiniums, the gardens also have spectacular displays of irises and wisteria.
The tea-room is a must. Situated on the ground-floor of the house, it is decorated with antique china, old clocks and paintings. Excellent home-made cake (coffee and walnut, lemon, fruit, Victoria sponge) is served in generous portions at exceptionally reasonable prices.
Recommendation: Simple but delicious teas in the old billiard room, with home-made cake, cream teas with superb scones - good strong coffee for coffee lovers too. Gilda Puckett, Ashford
Tickets: Adults gardens only £5, house and gardens £9. Under 16s free.
Godinton Lane, Ashford TN23 3BP. 01233 643854. www.godintonhouse.co.uk
Whitstable Castle The Orangery Tearooms
The term Castle is really a misnomer as it was originally built as a family home in 1790 by Charles Pearson, a founder of the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway. In subsequent years, it served as the home of MP Wynn Ellis and his mistress Susan Lloyd, then the headquarters of Whitstable Urban District Council. After a three-year refurbishment costing 3m, it was restored to its former splendour, re-opening in 2010.
The Castles Orangery Tearooms offer a selection of home-made treats which include: Victoria Sponge, coffee and walnut cake, carrot cake, lemon drizzle cake as well as giant fruit and plain scones. There is also a high tea menu, featuring delicate finger-rolls, pastries and a selection of cakes, accompanied by a selection of teas and coffees. The Orangery can also offer a gluten free menu and a bespoke tea (if pre-booked). Also available are: a hot dish of the day, home-made soup and light lunch options.
No entry fee: Donations to the Whitstable Castle Trust are appreciated.
Tower Hill, Whitstable CT5 2BW. 01227 281726. www.whitstablecastle.co.uk
Home to Wellington and the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Walmer Castle was built in the reign of Henry VIII. After touring the castle and walled gardens, visitors can enjoy refreshments in the tea-room.
Entry fee: Adults £10.10, children £6; concessions £9.10.
Kingsdown Road, Deal CT14 7LJ. 01304 364288. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/walmer-castle-and-gardens/
Broadview Gardens, Tonbridge
Part of a visitor complex run by the famous horticultural college at Hadlow, this on-site tea-room has a broad-ranging menu which reflects its commitment to local produce. Traditional snacks get an original twist e.g. Kentish Rarebit with date and Spitfire ale chutney. Substantial sandwiches, hot snacks, slices of cake, scones and tray bakes can all be purchased individually. There is also a choice of Hadlow Cream Tea (a pot of house blend tea, two sultana scones, clotted cream and strawberry preserve) and Hadlow Afternoon Tea (a pot of house blend tea for two, smoked salmon and mayonnaise sandwiches, a choice of cake, a sultana scone, clotted cream and strawberry preserve). Gluten-free options (sandwiches and cake) available on request. Indoor and outdoor seating.
Broadview Garden Centre, Hadlow College, Tonbridge Road, Hadlow TN11 0AL. 01732 853286. www.broadviewgardens.co.uk/tea-rooms
Goodnestone Park Gardens
Jane Austens brother, Edward, married Elizabeth Bridges, a baronets daughter whose family owned Goodnestone Park. They subsequently moved to Godmersham Park which Edward inherited from his distant cousins, the Knights. Situated roughly mid-way between Canterbury, Sandwich and Dover, Goodnestone gardens have received much praise; one writer described them as Sissinghurst without the crowds. Light lunches, home-made cakes and cream scones available on all open days.
No entry fee required for tea rooms. Garden entry: Adults £7, seniors £6.50, students £5, children (ages 6 to 16) £2, disabled in wheelchair with carer £3
Goodnestone Park Gardens CT3 1PL. 01304 840107. http://www.goodnestoneparkgardens.co.uk/index.php
The Grand Hotel, Folkestone Leas
The hotels Salon de Thé is situated in the Palm Court, an elegant glass structure that runs along the front of the hotel. It was once nicknamed The Monkey House because, when King Edward VII and his male companions all heavily bearded were in residence, locals would crowd around outside, trying to catch a glimpse of them through the windows; rather like viewing monkeys at the zoo. There was, no doubt, another reason for such intense interest: a hint of royal scandal. The Grand was obviously a favourite with the King because he not only brought Queen Alexandra here, but also his mistress; the celebrated beauty, Alice Keppel. When the King opened the Grands new ballroom in 1909, he had the first dance with the Queen and the second dance with Mrs Keppel!
In keeping with these genteel surroundings, tea can be taken to the accompaniment of a pianist on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. High tea packages start with The Cream Tea, a generous scone with all the trimmings and choice of tea or coffee. You can combine this with a two-hour tour of this historic building’s public rooms (Mondays or Fridays, pre-booking required).
The Grand High Tea includes: a selection of sandwiches (four quarter sandwiches generously stuffed with fillings such as smoked salmon and cucumber, tuna, coronation chicken, and cheese and chives); a huge fruit scone, warm from the oven with cream and jam, and a pastry chefs special (on the day I visited, this consisted of a large chewy meringue filled with cream and decorated with fresh fruit or a rich, truffley chocolate cake).
Those wishing to celebrate a special occasion or emulate royalty can pre-order The Dom Perignon Cream Tea. Personally prepared by the head chef, this comprises sweet and savoury tartlets, sandwiches and wraps, mini fruit scones, cheese scones, cakes and gateaux, complemented by a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne.
Bread, biscuits and cake are all made on the premises and, for those who fancy a lighter bite, individual options include: a homemade biscuit selection, a slice of homemade cake and a choice of gourmet Teapigs tea from varieties such as Rooibos Crème Caramel, Chocolate Flake Tea and Chilli Chai. There are also coeliac-friendly/gluten-free options.
The Leas, Folkestone CT20 2XL. 01303 222 222. www.grand-uk.com
Boys Hall Hotel, Willesborough
Built in 1616 by the Boys family, this beautiful Jacobean manor has three acres of gardens and took four years to restore. Afternoon tea must be pre-booked and is served in one of two ground-floor rooms and, in good weather, on the lawn. The high-tea menu consists of: a Traditional Cream Tea with preserves, clotted cream, home-made scones and a pot of tea or cafetiere of coffee; The Boys Hall Manor Tea home-made sandwiches, cakes and scones with preserves and clotted cream, choice of tea or coffee; The Boys Hall Manor Champagne Tea same as the previous menu with the addition of a glass of champagne.
Boys Hall Road, Ashford TN24 0LA. 01233 633772. www.boyshall.co.uk
The Marquis at Alkham
Chef Charlie Lakin has already made a reputation for his unusual foraged menu at this cutting-edge restaurant. Now he has extended this successful theme to include a foraged afternoon tea, incorporating unusual seasonal elements into his cakes and pastries such as sea-buckthorn curd and meadowsweet flavouring. The afternoon tea consists of a selection of sandwiches (smoked salmon, cucumber and herb crème fraiche; Kentish Farmhouse cheese and red onion marmalade; salt Dexter beef and celeriac remoulade) as well as cakes, pastries, tarts and fruit scones, jams and clotted cream. It also includes a pot of tea or coffee with a choice of 12 types of teas and infusions. Four other price options are also available, each consisting of the afternoon tea with the addition of a glass of bubbly (House Champagne; RC Lemaire St Trinian Rose Champagne; Bollinger NV Champagne; Vintage Dom Perignon Champagne). Gluten-free items can be pre-ordered. Tea is served in various indoor locations and, in good weather, on the terrace.
Alkham Valley Road, Alkham, Dover CT15 7DF. 01304 873410. www.themarquisatalkham.co.uk
Eastwell Manor, Ashford
Sit by a roaring fire, curl up in a window seat, relax in the imposing oak-panelled Lounge or bask on a sunny veranda overlooking the garden. Take your pick of places in which to enjoy an Eastwell Manor Tea comprising: a pot of tea or cafetiere of coffee, home-made sandwiches, cakes and scones with preserves and clotted cream (and add a glass of champagne).
Eastwell Park, Boughton Lees, Ashford TN25 4HR. 01233 213000. www.eastwellmanor.co.uk
Cabbages and Kings, Halstead
Situated in a 200-year old flint building that was once the village Post Office, this unique tearoom reflects the artistic talent of its owner, Jane Whitby, an interior and soft-furnishing designer. I’d be bored if I didn’t keep evolving, says Jane who is constantly researching and adapting her tea-time menu. There is always a large variety of cakes and with gluten free cakes too, there will be something for everyone.
Jane’s scone selection is also very popular (she once sold 100 in an afternoon and customers will wait 25 minutes for a fresh batch to appear from the oven). There are sweet and savoury scones in adventurous flavours.
High-tea options are: Cream tea consisting of two scones, cream, jam and a pot of tea; Cream Tea Plus comprising a sandwich of choice, two scones, cream, jam and a pot of tea; Full Afternoon Tea (minimum 2 persons) comprising a sandwich selection, a scone and a half per person, cream, jam, three small cakes per person and a bottomless pot of tea.
In summer, seating is also available in the garden which is designed like small, outdoor rooms and filled with flowers.
The Old Post Office, Church Road, Halstead, Sevenoaks Kent TN14 7HE. N.B. For SatNav purposes, use TN1 7EX which takes you to the back of the building. 01959 533054 or 07773 103578. www.facebook.com/cabbagesandkings.halstead
The Secret Gardens, Sandwich
Originally designed by Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens, the Secret Gardens were renovated after 25 years of neglect, winning the praise of Monty Don who considered them to be among the top ten in the UK.
The tea rooms have a special treat for chocoholics: The Chocolate Cream Tea! This includes: two chocolate chip scones with jam and clotted cream, chocolate brioche with hazelnut spread, a chocolate brownie, a chocolate cup cake and a selection of finger sandwiches. There are also three other cream tea options to suit both appetite and purse. These are: The Simple Cream Tea, The Knightrider Cream Tea and The Salutation Cream Tea. There is also a choice of individually priced cakes, pastries and desserts as well as light lunches.
The Salutation, Knightrider Street, Sandwich CT13 9EW. 01304 619919. www.the-salutation.com/the-gardens
The Cliff Top Café, Capel-le-Ferne
Eye-watering eyrie with spectacular views across the Channel (not to mention the beach and coastal railway far below!) A white cube-shaped building complete with flagpole Albions last outpost before France. Outdoor seating for sunny days. (Due to location, children must be supervised). If the flags flying, then were open! Usually opens from mid-February, weather permitting. Open every day in high season.
Old Dover Road, Capel-le-Ferne, Folkestone CT18 7HT. 01303 255588
Recommendation: Very good home-made cakes and all-day breakfast. They open in spring and close around November. You can rely on them. A family-run business; they miss you if they don’t see you. – Marie Greenhalgh, Folkestone
Black Douglas Coffee House, Deal
This captures the essence of tea- and coffee-shops as a place to converse and reflect. While the exterior looks Dickensian, the atmosphere inside is bohemian and intellectual. The bare wooden floor combined with an attractive mismatch of wooden tables and chairs give it an informal feel while the austere gun-metal grey walls are relieved by a frenzy of brightly-coloured cushions. Customers can browse through a selection of broadsheets piled on a table inside the door while the contents of a bookcase (locked) give an insight into some of the shops culinary influences.
All cakes and tarts are made by the owner, Dalziel Douglas. Cakes will appeal to gourmet cake-eaters as well as those requiring products that are flourless and gluten-free. In the past, cake varieties have included chocolate, rose and pecan, apricot, coconut and cranberry, pistachio, pomegranate and blackcurrant, and lemon polenta. Other flavours have included: stem ginger and cardamom, pistachio and pear, and almond and rose. All are served with a generous dollop of mascarpone cream. I particularly enjoyed the coffee, cardamom and walnut cake, an unusual but pleasing combination of flavours.
It is worth noting that most of the fresh ingredients are locally-sourced with spray-free, organic vegetables provided by Deals Allotment shop. (The Black Douglas also provides breakfasts, brunches, salads, soups and sandwiches with an enticing evening menu too).
83 Beach Street, Deal CT14 6JB. 01304 365486. www.blackdouglas.co.uk
Herberts Coffee and Ice Cream Kiosk, Folkestone Harbour
Resembling a miniature scene within a match-box, this little gem is situated within the harbour alongside Victorian railway arches. Pillarbox-red tables and chairs are ranged on the cobbled road with slate planters doubling as mini menu boards. Customers are served over the counter from the kiosk. From shelf-decoration to hand-written labels, no detail has been overlooked. A small but tasteful oasis, it reflects the talents of its owner Amie Reed, a former art student, whose fisherman grandfather Bert also ran this kiosk. With a strong emphasis on organic and Fair Trade ingredients, Herberts serves excellent Lavazza coffee, freshly-squeezed orange juice, a variety of teas and a wide selection of home-made treats including: flapjack, shortbread, rock cakes, meringues and individual gypsy tarts. Home-made confectionery includes: coconut ice, honeycomb, peppermint creams and salted caramel lollipops on wooden spoons. Customers write back from all over the world (their postcards are pinned up inside the hut).
1-2 The Stade, The Fishmarket, Folkestone, Kent CT19 6AA. 07796 847486
The Light Railway Café, Dungeness
A no-nonsense, yet charming café situated at the end of the miniature Romney Hythe and District railway line. Blister-pack cream tea (a fruit scone, clotted cream and strawberry jam) available. Fish and chips, rather than high tea, are the order of the day here to be served with lashings of vinegar and an authentic waft of engine smoke. The location is unique: a must for enthusiasts of miniature trains, light-houses, wild spaces, big skies and power stations! Artist Derek Jarmans shingle garden is also accessible from here.
RH&DR Dungeness station, Dungeness Road, TN29 9NB. (RH&DR head office) 01797 362353. http://www.rhdr.org.uk/dungeness-cafe.html
Havisham’s Coffee Shop, Faversham
Much more than a coffee shop, this excellent caf also serves tea and generous slices of home-made traditional cake (carrot, lemon drizzle, coffee and walnut, Victoria sponge and chocolate). Also, individual cup-cakes and fat-free tea bread, bread pudding, scones (cheese and fruit). It also offers light lunches very simple food cooked exceptionally well e.g. bubble and squeak, omelettes, salads, quiche and succulent gammon, slow-cooked on the Aga for five hours. New seasons offerings are likely to include new scone varieties (date and walnut, and olive) and a gluten-free option. Bob Geldof has been spotted here.
47 Court Street, Faversham ME13 7AL. 01795 591571
Lathe Barn, Romney Marsh
Award-winning Lathe Barn specialises in old-fashioned food cooked to a high standard. Options include a Kentish Cream Tea (2 scones (plain or fruit), butter, jam, cream, a slice of cake and a pot of tea), a Farmhouse Brown Tea (a boiled egg, 2 slices of toast or bread and butter, a pot of tea), locally-produced strawberries with cream or ice-cream (seasonal: June/July), a slice of cake (chocolate, coffee, lemon, fruit, Victoria sponge), one plain or fruit scone with butter, cream and jam. There is also: gluten free bread/toast; diabetic jam and all scones are sugar-free.
There is even a stand-by supply of nappies, bibs and baby food for busy mums.
Donkey Street, Burmarsh, Romney Marsh TN29 0JN. 01303 873618. www.lathebarn.co.uk
The Moat Tea Rooms, Canterbury
Located in a 500-year old, half-timbered building this is a tea-shop plus, stocking a selection of 39 different types of loose leaf tea and 15 varieties of coffee beans. It offers three choices of cream tea: Traditional (two scones, cream, preserve, pot of tea); Special (includes cucumber sandwiches and a slice of cake), and Champagne. Home-baked cupcakes are a speciality and there are assorted cakes and pastries and even crumpets. The shop also doubles as a tea and coffee merchant, enabling customers to try their favourite variety at home.
67 Burgate, Canterbury CT1 2HJ. 01227 784514. www.moattearooms.co.uk
Tea Rooms and Gardens, Rochester Cathedral
Varieties of home-made cake include: coffee and walnut, bakewell tart, shortbread, flapjack, bread pudding, mincemeat strudel, apple layer cake. There is also a choice of one gluten-free and one diabetic cake every day. In summer, there is also outdoor seating for 58 in a historic garden that boasts a beautiful magnolia tree and a newly-restored section of Roman wall (c. 200 AD)
The Refectory, The College, The Precinct, Rochester ME1 1SU. 01634 810076. http://www.rochestercathedral.org/visiting/tea-rooms
A very traditional-style tea-shop, recommended by a lady who actually rubbed her stomach and smacked her lips as she was describing it! It has a vast array of home-made cakes and online reviewers rave about it. Set afternoon teas all come with a pot of tea and offer a choice of: Plain Tea two scones, butter and jam or Farmhouse Tea two cheese scones, butter, apple and chutney and a Cream Tea two scones (plain or fruit), jam and clotted cream.
81a High Street, Rochester ME1 1LX. 01634 847941
Raffertys Coffee Shop, Sevenoaks
With a strong emphasis on locally-sourced and ethically-produced ingredients, Raffertys offers a large range of wheat-free and gluten-free cakes including: ginger fudge, blueberry and lime, and apple and walnut. Customer favourites also include cupcakes and chewy meringues. A variety of unique house-teas are on offer (including one for Pregnant Mums).
54 Hollybush Lane, Sevenoaks TN13 3TL. 01732 454233. www.raffertysfood.co.uk
Penguin books are the unusual theme for this shop some 300 are available for customers to read or buy. The classic Penguin logo appears on mugs, aprons and cards which, combined with a log-burner, leather sofas and quiet jazz music, contribute to a cosy, retro feel. Home-made cakes include: gluten-free, vegan, lemon drizzle, sticky ginger, and coffee and walnut.
18a Preston Street, Faversham ME13 8NZ. 01795 533121. https://www.facebook.com/Jittermugs/
Shelly’s of Kent
Pop in for a cream tea at Shelly’s and enjoy freshly baked scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream with your pot of tea. Or if you want something slightly extra, order an afternoon tea (but book 24 hours in advance!) which includes finger sandwiches and cakes along with your scone, jam, cream and of course, tea. There are two Shelly’s tea shops: one in Chilham and one in St Margaret’s Bay.
2 The Square, Chilham CT4 8BY. 01227 730303
3 The Droveway, St Margaret's Bay CT15 6DH. 01304 852455
The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company
This is a Tea Shop with a difference. You can’t drink tea here but you can choose from 250 varieties of loose teas and teabags for your home brew. How about some Gopaldara Wonder Tea, Red Needle or Golden Monkey King? Or a Tsiao Liu Chiu Chinese tea brick? There are also over 50 types of coffee on sale. Purchases can be made online, by phone or from the Factory Shop (address below).
Pivington Mill, Egerton Road, Pluckley, Ashford TN27 0PG. 01233 840 265 or UK Freephone 0800 0351199. www.tea-and-coffee.com