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.


Rosie & Lee: The Accidental Cockney Twins & The Rhyming Slang Contest

No, not accidental like that, of course! We got chatting to these two lovely girls who were in yesterday for afternoon tea and it transpired their names were Rosie and Lee! For those of you who’ve swatted up on your cockney rhyming slang, you’ll know this means ‘tea’.

Twins Rosie and Lee, both with cups of Rosie Lee!

Nicky was particularly touched, as her old British Bulldog was called Rosie Lee. She gave each of the girls a tin of Tea & Sympathy’s Rosie Lee tea. It’s a very particular blend of English Breakfast tea and Earl Grey, sold exclusively by us. It’s well worth a try and a bargain at $11.50 a can. Available in-store or online – just click here.

Our three speciality teas: Rosie Lee, Earl Grey & English Breakfast.

This little bit of cockney serendipity got us thinking, and for this week only we’re running a Cockney Contest! Here’s the lowdown: cockney is the style of English traditionally spoken in East London. As well as a very distinctive accent, it contains a whole vocabulary of rhyming slang. Always consisting of a pair of words, the second of which rhymes with the word in question. Some well-known examples include: apples & pears – stairs, ruby murray – curry, butchers hook – look, adam & eve – believe. There’s also a whole host of modern additions out there, including Britney Spears – beers.*

The ideal drinking companion!

So we want to know your versions, either made up yourself or that you’ve heard in passing! The best entry will win tea and scones for two and a tin of our Rosie Lee tea to take home. So get your thinking cap on – it’s time to use yer loaf of bread!**

Who are you calling a head?

* To complicate things (and put eavesdroppers off the scent), the first word is then dropped, so ‘apples’ means stairs, ‘ruby’ means curry, and ‘Britney’ means beers, as in ‘Lets go for some Britneys’


Here’s a little video to get you started:

Celebrity Tea Party Competition!

This beautiful weather has got us in a fantastic mood – so we thought we’d run a little competition with a very special prize. Over the weekend, the question cropped up “Who would be at your dream tea party?” This really captured our imagination as suggestions were thrown around from teashop to chippy and before we knew it, half of Greenwich Avenue had offered their suggestions.

I assume our invite is in the mail?

With famous figures from the past and present as diverse as Oscar Wilde (dandy tea!), Rachel Maddow (liberal tea!) and Mahatma Gandhi (thoughtful tea!) thrown around, we’re not even close to settling on a shortlist. Which is why we need your help! Please tell us your three dream tea party guests, and the reason why. Historical, contemporary, American, British, we don’t care – as long as they’d make good company!

But can I bring a friend?

And what’s the prize, we hear you ask? Well, in keeping with the theme of celebrity (celebri-tea!), we’ll be giving the winner the royal treatment. None other than Mr. Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett himself will come and pick you and a friend up in his black taxi from anywhere in downtown Manhattan, and bring you to Tea & Sympathy to be served free tea and scones. A very unique and special prize, we’re sure you’ll agree!

Your carriage for the evening...

So just let us know your three dream tea party guests in the comments section below, via twitter, or on our facebook wall. And while Michele Bachman and Ron Paul certainly aren’t invited, jokes about the last transatlantic tea party are!

...and your driver!

Yorkshire Tea feature Tea & Sympathy

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: Yorkshire Gold makes a great cuppa. The jury’s still out on how it fairs against PG Tips, it’s certainly up there with the best tea that Britain has to offer. We featured their full length advert last week, and here, in addition, is a mini-feature they made specifically on us. Aren’t we lucky!

Tea & Sympathy in Yorkshire Gold Advert

While to the casual visitor, Little Britain may seem a bastion of English tranquility, a fierce debate rages beneath the surface that, at points, threatens to tear the British expat community apart. Indeed, in epic terms worthy of the Bard, whole households are riven of this particular point of contention. But fear not, it is an argument that surges in our veins, and has divided and united Great Britain along battle lines for many years now, and shows no signs of letting up. The big question is: what’s your favorite cuppa?

Each and every member of staff at Tea & Sympathy has their own perfect brew. Type of tea; length of steeping; order of hot water, sugar and milk; along with a thousand other variables play their part. As harmless as it seems, you should never ask a roomful of Brits the question ‘fancy a cuppa?’, without due preparation. Especially when you consider the reprecussions of serving someone a cup of Assam with milk and two sugars, when actually they were after a black Earl Grey with a slice of lemon…

Delicious... but divisive!

But there’s no denying that Yorkshire Gold is on our all-time short list. Devilishly strong, packed with character, and quintessentially British, it makes a great go-to cup. Which is why we couldn’t possibly have said no when they asked us to appear in this advert, in which their tea van reunites US Brits with a proper mug of chai:

How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea

Did you know that 120 million cups of tea are drunk every day in Britain? Or that the ‘tea break’ has been central to the nation’s working life for 200 years? We even have a Tea Council, charged with protecting and promoting all things cha. By continuing our campaign to get NYC (and the rest of the US) taking afternoon tea, we’re hoping to import a small part of this milky, caffeinated love over the Atlantic. Following cake and scone recipes, and not one but two tea guides, here’s the lowdown on how to brew the perfect cup.

Select a tea of your liking. Swirl boiling water in the teapot and then empty it out. This will warm the pot so proper brewing can take place. If you are using loose tea you can add one teaspoonful of tea for each person person one for the pot. Bring fresh water to a rolling boil and pour it directly into the teapot.

The official tea set of the Diamond Jubilee, approved by Queeny herself.... You can buy yourself one here.

The teapot must now be left so that the tea can “steep”. About five minutes is a good amount of time for the host water to extract the full flavour of the tea. Small-leaved teas, like a green tea, will take less time.

Give the teapot a stir and then get ready to serve. If you are using loose tea you will need to place a strainer between the spout and the cup.

This gentleman certainly knows what he's doing.... Pinky up!

It is customary to pour milk into the teacup first. This tradition, which dates back to the era when delicate China cups were used, was observed by those who wished to avoid cracking the cups by pouring hot tea into them. If you were very righ, the tea was poured in first, to show that could afford to replace your broken teacups. Nowadays, we tend to put the milk in last to control the color of the tea.

How do you take yours? Top graphic, courtesy of

When using a tea bag in a cup, it is best if you warm the cup first with boiling water. If you are making a pot of tea with tea bags, then the rule is one tea bag per every two or three cups.

And remember, we sell a selection of the finest China, imported from the UK, in-store, as well as tea – of course! You can find us at 110 Greenwich Avenue or take a look online. The text below is from our Tea & Sympathy cookbook, which you can also purchase in-store. If you have questions, please email us at, or call 212-989-9735.

Chocolate Cake Breakfast Could Help You Lose Weight!

Good Morning New York, and what a fantastic morning it is. Snow may be threatening, you may not have bagged that front row NYFW seat you were after, and the world of coffee may have just taken a turn for the worst (yet another reason to drink tea), but we awake to news of, quite possibly, the most significant scientific breakthrough of our lifetimes.

Brew-me-o & Perculate... Leo launches a coffee brand?! Apologies for the pun, it's still early...

Scientists at Tel Aviv University have found that a slice of chocolate cake may be the perfect way to start the day for those wanting to lose weight. After a 32-week study on 193 people, it was found that those eating a balanced 600-calorie breakfast, including the gateux, lost more weight than those who took a 300 calorie, low-carb diet.

Eat me... and lose weight?!

The brainbox in charge concluded that, “the participants in the low-carbohydrate diet group had less satisfaction and felt that they were not full.” Read the rest of the article here. Then, get out of your pyjamas and get down to Greenwich Avenue; we’re serving our famous chocolate cake from 9.30am!

Tea Variety Guide Part Two: Something for the Weekend

Did you have a cup of tea & a slice of cake at 4pm today? We do hope so, because we are not letting up in our campaign to get NYC taking Afternoon Tea. Following on from last week’s tea guide, here’s instalment number two, covering some very exotic leaves.

CEYLON - This category includes any black or green teas grown in Sri Lanka, which vary in quality. The finest varieties are grown at higher elevations and have a full flavor and fragrance that makes this another tea that is excellent to drink anytime.

OOLONG - These teas are only partially oxidised, and then they are pan fried. This crucially timed blast of heat and moisture arrests the oxidation process, leaving the tea a lighter green-brown. The partial oxidation makes for a more delicate-tasting tea.

GREEN TEA - So-called because these teas are processed and dried without being allowed to oxidise. These delicate teas are highly regarded for their healthful properties.

WHITE TEA - These are very rare and correspondingly expensive. Their delicate taste makes them a real connoisseur's tea; you would not want to blend them with another tea, as their characteristics would be lost.

More correctly referred to as tisanes. These teas are in a category of their own because they do not contain any tea. This is a general category for dried preparations to which boiling water is added and a brew produced in the same manner as a tea. They are blended from dried fruits and/or herbs and spices and tend not to have any caffeine content.

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.

Rupert Everett & The New York Times at Tea & Sympathy

Rupert Everett is a great friend of Tea & Sympathy. A man totally unaffected by his fame, he always pops by for a chat and a cuppa when he’s in NYC. But don’t worry, he has to wait his turn like everyone else!

While Nicky’s Rules may not be universally liked, there’s really no other way of running such a small and busy establishment. And, as this excerpt from a New York Times feature on Rupert shows, we really do mean it when we say they apply to everyone. If you ever fancy a spot of stargazing, we recommend you start with the bench outside our restaurant!

The story below begins at lunch at the Greenwich Hotel, before switching to a little less swanky – but surely more enjoyable! -breakfast  with us.

Rupert Everett Is Not Having a Midlife Crisis

Published: February 18, 2009

…As we walked to the table, the women in the room looked at him devouringly. Every one of the men — young, old, gay, straight, fat, thin — looked at him with a single expression: dejection. Everett has had people staring at him for so much of his life that he seems quite unaffected by it. I couldn’t help thinking that any other man who got these kinds of looks from both men and women would be a complete monster.

Everett didn’t have to worry about any of that the following morning at Tea & Sympathy, a 23-seat restaurant in Greenwich Village run by British expatriates. The place is so small that the owners learned early to be brutal — no reservations, no incomplete parties seated — and people line up all the same because the food is good and the look of the place is charming. Everett gets no star treatment here, which he loves (just like home), so he arrived early to snag a table. I beat him by a few minutes — they didn’t care whom I was meeting — and back out on the street, I read the rules posted on the door. One said: “If we don’t need the table you may stay all day, but if people are waiting and you have finished your meal, then it’s time to naff off!”

A taxi pulled up with Everett, dressed in the same clothes from the day before, still unshaven and with Sophie Theallet in tow. She is a soft-spoken woman with dark hair and a sweet smile, beautifully dressed in a don’t-look-at-me way that makes you want to look at her. Like any designer in the midst of preparing a show, she seemed tired and distracted, but she adores Everett and rubbed his neck tirelessly as he assured her he was either getting arthritis or dying. She assured him she had the perfect acupuncturist for the job, and heartened, he tucked into a plate of bacon, eggs, sausage, broiled tomato and toast. When he finished that, he ate half my crumpet, with butter and Marmite.

“Very few designers design now,” he said. “They’re stylists, really. They have design teams. Sophie’s is very cottagelike. Her clothes have beautiful sewing, attention to detail and fashion literacy. Maybe Miuccia Prada does. No one else.” Theallet produces her clothes in New York, and she sells to Barneys and Jeffrey.

“What’s happening in fashion is not at all exciting,” Everett opined. “The obsession with having someone else’s name on your body is extraordinary. If fashion takes over your whole identity, it’s not chic, actually.”

When breakfast was finished, the two of them were going to look at a suite of hotel rooms that Babst had proposed for Everett’s stay; they were furnished, there were support services and there was no pink carpeting.

I said goodbye to them both, and Everett sat back down to finish his tea. As Theallet spoke, he turned toward her, gazing deep into her eyes, listening acutely. Although he had shaken my hand and kissed both my cheeks and thanked me profusely for the time we spent together, I felt the unmistakable chill of sunbathing on a cold day when suddenly a cloud comes. It was time for me to naff off. And so I did.