McVitie’s Digestives & Tea & Sympathy Rosie Lee: Just Married!

Today’s British Pantry is something of a wedding party. For we are celebrating the harmonious union of a biscuit to a cup of tea. Now don’t laugh just yet. Hear us out first. We’ve preached the wonders of dunking in the past, and following the launch of our brand new teabags last week, there was only one grocery item we could feature today. The McVities Digestive biscuit!

The first digestive rolled off the biscuit press at the turn of the 20th century. There’s been no looking back since and we’d wager that you’d find a pack in 90% of British store cupboards. Not sure how we’d get to the bottom of this one, but the offer’s on the table! We do know that 52 Digestive biscuits are consumed every single second in the UK, which more than speaks for itself!

The distinctive name derives from a belief that acid in the biscuits aided digestion, while that even more distinctive flavor (the one that lends itself so well to being dunked in a mug of tea), is a mixture of brown wheat flour, malt extract and wholemeal. If you’ve never tried one, where have you been?! And if you have tried one, you’re yet to experience the perfect marital bliss gained from dunking into a mug of our new brew.

McVities are available in-store, as are our new teabags. We can ship both. Just get in touch at, or on 212-989-9735.


Tea & Sympathy’s Tea Guide

As the name suggests, tea is what we’re all about. There is no underestimating how central this brewed beverage is to the British way of life. 120,000,000 cups are drunk in the UK every day, while “Fancy a cuppa?” and “I’ll put the kettle on” must be two of the nation’s most spoken phrases.

Continuing our campaign to get you lovely yanks taking Afternoon Tea, here’s the first instalment of our Tea Guide. Originally published in our cookbook ‘Tea & Sympathy: The Life of an English Teashop in New York‘, it gives the lowdown on all the major brews.

Along with last week’s guide to making the perfect cuppa, and our recipes for finger sandwiches, scones and Victoria sponge, you have no excuse not to start taking British Afternoon Tea! So wherever you are, make sure you have a kettle and (at the very least) a couple of scones to hand come 4pm!

And if you don’t feel like making it all at home, have it in our restaurant – or we’ll deliver to your door! Give us a call on 212-989-9735 if you’d like to order, or if you have any questions at all.

ASSAM - This is a rich, full-bodied pungent tea that is a perfect all-occasion drinking tea. It is grown in the Assam region of northeastern India, where it was discovered growing wild in the 1830s by the Scotsman Robert Bruce. Prior to his discovery, all teas came to the West from China.

DARJEELING - Grown in the high Himalayan foothills of India, this black tea is considered one of the world's finest, and accordingly a quality example can be quite expensive. The delicate flavor is among the most subtle of the black teas, and connoisseurs describe it as having a hint of blackcurrant.

EARL GREY - This flavored black tea originally from China is said to have been brought back to England by the Second Earl Grey in the 1830s. It is actually a blend of black teas that are flavored with oil of bergamot, and Italian citrus fruit. This is an ideal afternoon tea, which can be served with or without milk or sugar to taste.

ENGLISH BREAKFAST - A blend of Assam and Ceylon tea. As its name implies, it is a perfect tea for mornings, and its full, well-rounded flavor stands up well to bold foods - like the classic British fried breakfast.

LAPSANG SOUCHONG - This black Chinese tea has a very distinctive smokey taste and aroma. The "souchong" refers to the leaf size, meaning the third leaf down from the top of the plant. Some people fin the smokiness a little bit of an acquired taste, but we recommend it as a very elegant tea that is better sipped and enjoyed rather than gulped from a mug.


New Yorkers greet royal wedding with fancy dress, fascinators and fry-ups

Diehard royal fans celebrate Kate and William’s nuptials but for most it’s business as usual

Hadley Freeman in New York, Friday 29 April 2011 15.47 BST

Revelers in New York toast the royal couple at a viewing party beneath the Manhattan bridge. Photograph: Erik Pendzich/Rex Features

“He knocked off my fascinating!” cried Laura Martin, 55, in full evening dress complete with enormous jewelled brooch (“Fake – don’t tell the Queen!”) as she glared at a jogger disappearing towards the Hudson River, before stooping down to pick her fasincator off the sidewalk.

“It’s a fascinate, Laura,” said her friend, in a similarly implausible outfit for 6am. “Fascinate.”

It wasn’t so much a tale of two cities in New York as a tale of two sides of the street. On one side of Greenwich Avenue stores were decked with union flag bunting in preparation for the afternoon’s street party. People took fashion cues from Me and My Girl and Four Weddings and a Funeral queued up outside Lyon restaurant hoping to get inside for the special wedding breakfast with screens set up to allow diners to judge Kate’s dress while they ate fried bread. Any journalist with a British accent was immediately assumed to be a royal expert, even one from the soi-disant republican Guardian.

“We’re not going to have to eat English food, right?” fretted one gentleman outside, topped and tailed. “I just wanna see the wedding.”

Unfortunately for him they did, as it was fry-ups all round. But New Yorker Elizabeth Lang, 51, who was already inside and sporting a tiara, had reassuring words for him: “You know this isn’t too bad – I was worried as I thought the English food would be a little dicey,” she said as she carefully left her baked beans untouched.

“Who’d have thought, a French restaurant doing an English breakfast,” marvelled Ben Mann in a morning suit as he leaned upon his cane, and one of the few Brits to be found.

“It’s not the first time the British have invaded and saved France – 1939 and all that,” smirked Sean Cavanagh-Dowsett, the British owner of the nearby English-themed restaurant and shop, Tea and Sympathy, in full pearly king regalia.

“It’s our job to be English today,” explained Mann.

“It’s such a shame Diana isn’t here,” said Kevin de l’Aigle, an American sporting a union flag t-shirt and Kate’n’Wills badge while he, too, left his baked beans untouched. “But I’m sure she’s here in spirit.”

Actually Diana was there, and celebrating with great enthusiasm: Diana Zorek, age 5.

“I love the wedding! I love princesses!” she announced, and proved it by wearing a Disney princess outfit. But as “really pretty” as she thought Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was, she hadn’t usurped her favourite princess from the top spot: Ariel from the Little Mermaid.

The other side of the street may as well have been a different country. Almost directly opposite the postcard recreation of all things parodically English was a similarly cliched, if more accurate, image of New York: a gym. Young men in various lycra get-ups that would surely permit no ingestion of fried bread jogged on into Equinox gym for early morning workouts, headphones plugged firmly into their ears, blocking out the shrieks from across the street.

“No, I don’t care about the wedding at all to be honest,” said Matthew Reinhardt. “If it’s on the TV screens inside I guess I’ll watch it. Maybe it will help me run faster on the treadmill.”

Back across the street there was no time for republican scepticism: Sean Cavanagh-Dowsett and his wife, Nicky Perry, were organising the afternoon’s street party where fish and chips, cups of tea and someone from Squeeze who wasn’t Jools Holland would be there, apparently representing some vision of Great Britain.

“To us Kate and William are the prince and princess on top of the cake, they’re the happily ever after,” said New Yorker Linda Siciliana in black tie garb, apparently unbothed by the Windsors’ somewhat dubious marital record.

“I think this is such a great day,” said Californian Diana Modica from beneath her Kate Middleton face mask. “How can anyone resist this?”

But by 7am someone was beginning to resist: Diana Zorek, who announced that she was “SO tired” after having risen so early in the morning.

Was she still feeling like a princess?

“Yes,” she replied, falling asleep on her father Michael’s shoulder, oblivious to the jogger running right past her. “Sleeping Beauty.”

The Telegraph – coverage of Tea & Sympathy’s Royal Wedding festivities!

For your perusal, the very kind words of UK newspaper The Telegraph on our Royal Wedding celebrations:

Do New Yorkers care about the Royal Wedding? You bet. Nicky Perry of Tea and Sympathy leads the charge
By Melissa Whitworth | April 20th, 2011

Having a cuppa with Nicky Perry, owner of Tea and Sympathy (Circe Hamilton)

Nicky Perry has been serving Sunday roasts and cream teas to homesick Brits in NYC for the last 20 years. Her restaurant, Tea & Sympathy, is a beloved expat institution, here in Greenwich Village. In fact, it’s the only place in the city where you can get a decent cuppa.

“I’ve done more for British food in America than Jamie Oliver – where’s my MBE?” she asks. Local rumour has it that when the British Consulate here gets a call they can’t deal with, they redirect it to Perry.

My friend, Circe Hamilton, a British photographer who has been living in NYC for 19 years says, “Perry is the local mayor, her reputation precedes her and she’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s never afraid to shout at her punters and get them all in line. I love a woman where you know what she thinks immediately. It’s very comforting knowing there’s a little bit of England around the corner.”

On the 29th April, Perry and her friend, fellow-Brit Penny Bradley, will be hosting the street party to end all parties in celebration of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  They plan to close down part of Greenwich Avenue outside their restaurants, and have the celebrations spill out onto the streets.

Bradley is the co-owner of Lyon, the French restaurant next-door to Tea & Sympathy. Her business partner, François Latapie, has agreed to be British for the weekend (as long as Penny helps him celebrate Bastille Day later in the year with a few games of Pétanque).

The restaurants will be serving full English breakfast, kedgeree, Spotted Dick, Eton Mess, Brown Windsor soup and Pimm’s. Perry has been trying to hunt down the menu they’ll be serving at Buckingham Palace on the day, so she can recreate it for her New York customers. In the meantime, she has her chef baking Prince William’s favourite pudding, a kind of  chocolate biscuit cake with raisins.

Next door, Nicky is selling Royal wedding memorabilia: tea towels, football scarves, teapots, cups and saucers (alongside Marmite, Walker’s crisps, and the city’s biggest collection of Cadbury’s chocolate).

Nearby shopkeepers will be decorating their stores with Union Jacks and bunting. In fact, at the moment there is a huge Andy Warhol-style painting of the Queen in the window of the local chemist. A charity raffle will include a return trip to London courtesy of Virgin Atlantic, and clothing donated by Elizabeth Hurley. A Pearly King and Queen will perform songs in the evening; there will be Morris dancers. Perry has spent $1800 on bunting.

At Lyon there will be two large screens where live coverage of the Royal wedding will commence at 6am (because of the five-hour time difference).

“It’s going to be a right Royal knees-up,” says Perry.

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CBS – The Royal Wedding at Tea & Sympathy

Here are a few articles on our Royal Wedding celebrations from the lovely people at CBS:

Tea & Sympathy Prepares For Royal Wedding Bash
April 25, 2011 12:11 PM

Prince William and Kate Middleton (credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There will be several places around the City where you can watch the royal wedding this Friday.

A royal block party is being planned outside Nicky Perry’s Tea & Sympathy restaurant on Greenwich Avenue.

“It’s all I’ve done for the last month it’s been unbelievable. It’s like royal wedding central,” Perry said. “We’re going to be up, I’m sure, all night, because we’re going to decorate the block with bunting, and we can’t do that the night before.”

The festivities begin at 6 a.m.

“The most exciting thing will be the dress. The second most exciting thing will be the kiss on the balcony because, do you know the first royal couple to kiss on the balcony was Charles and Diana?” she said.

“I can’t wait to see the dress. I just want to take it all in,” one patron said.

Perry regards the royal wedding as a tribute to Princess Diana.

“I think it just destroyed people emotionally. I know it did for me, and I think that this is now the opportunity for us all to get behind her son and wish him happiness,” she said.

Perry was expecting hundreds to attend the party on this side of the pond. Champagne included.

“I’m probably going to have 8 million drunk and disorderly people out here. Thank goodness I get along with the Sixth Precinct,” she said.

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