Creative Cuppas

With our summer coming to a somewhat abrupt halt, my thoughts naturally turn towards tea. While you can't go wrong visiting East India Company or Twinings, creative cuppas can be found at the following:

Blends for Friends (Multiple) — Everyone loves a cuppa, but how much do you actually know about what you're drinking? Their Master Tea Blender has tasted over a million cups of tea... and counting — not bad considering that the average person will drink 50,000 cups in their lifetime.  After learning about the history, origin, manufacture and different styles, we tasted a combination of 24 teas, learned the art of slurping and spitting (all in the best possible taste) and took a custom blend home.

T2 (Multiple) — It is hard to walk by this storefront without going in. T2 features rows of beautiful displays of teas along with colorful teapots, cups and countless tea accessories. The staff is friendly, helpful and go of their way for you to feel welcome. With over 200 teas to choose from (and try), T2 is a fun place to visit over and over again.

Yumchaa (Multiple) — As many coffee shops there are, there are not nearly as many tea shops.  Initially, a single market stall, Yumchaa now also boasts locations throughout the London area.  The quaint and cosy tea shops features a wide range of proper loose leaf teas you can smell before you taste - popular flavors that make good gifts include Notting Hill (black tea with apricot and strawberry) and Regent's Park (tropical fruit, strawberries and rose petals).

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Top pre-theatre picks

It can be tricky to find good food served in good time, here are some of my favorite London restaurants that manage to do both:

Christopher's Grill  Conveniently located across from the Lyceum Theatre, this stylish art deco restaurant offers a reasonably priced pre- and post-theatre menu served before 6:15 pm or after 10 pm. They serve modern American cuisine and are well-known for their martini bar. 2072 404222
18 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7DD

M.A.S.H. (Modern American Steak Restaurant) Located within walking distance of Piccadilly Circus, the decor reminded me of US steakhouse with its dark red leather, mahogany and walls of wine. There is a pre-theatre two or three course dinner and they are good at getting people in and out efficiently.  Our steak selections included Uruguay and Danish cuts, with four different sauces to choose from. 2077 342608
77 Brewer Street, LondonW1F 9ZN

Sagar — We enjoyed indli (steamed dumplings with chutney) and masala dosa (large rice and lentil pancake filled with vegetables) at this small South Indian vegetarian restaurant. With reasonable prices and fast service, their location across the street from the Apollo Theatre is an affordable, pre-theatre alternative. 2087 418563
157 King Street Hammersmith, London, W69JT

Spring Located in Somerset House, the stylish main dining room is light and airy and exudes spring. In addition to their ala carte lunch and dinner menu and reasonably priced set lunch menu, they offer a pre-theatre Scratch Menu. This three-course meal is £20/person and cleverly made using ingredients that are overlooked. 2030 110115
Somerset House, New Wing, Lancaster Place London WC2R 1LA

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Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden

A unique and magical place

It is hard to put into words just how beautiful the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden in Ockley is. The drive there alone is stunning and once there you are surrounded by 200+ pieces of art thoughtfully placed in every direction you look.

The pieces vary from abstract to realistic works and materials range from ceramics, glass and wire to bronze, stone and wood. The self-guided tour booklet includes details of each piece, photograph, the artist's name, name of the piece, material used and the price.

The 10-acre garden created by an award-winning landscape designer is in fact an outdoor gallery that happens to be open to the public May to October. As a result, you can easily visit more than once as new pieces are added once others are sold.

It really is "a truly unique and magical place"! 1306 627269
Black and White Cottage, 
Standon Lane, Ockley RH5 5QR

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Mayfield Lavender in Bloom

A bit of Provence in Surrey

We first came across Mayfield Lavender on one of our regular shops to Costco in Croydon. Since then, we have made regular return visits.

The family-run 25 acre farm opened to the public in 2006 and features three varieties of organic lavender. It is hard to imagine miles of lavender less than 15 miles from central London!

There is an on-site farm shop that sells all things lavender from fresh bunches, oils and soaps to lavender-flavored honey, ice cream, shortbread and most recently cider.

The fields are open daily June 1 – September 15 from 9 am – 6 pm and there is a nominal entrance fee of £1 per adult and there is no charge for children under 16. 7503 877707
1 Carshalton Road, Banstead SM7 3JA

A 7-minute drive away is Mayfield Nursery & Gift Shop set on 12 acres of land. Along with lavender, the orchard has over 450 fruit trees of apples, pears and plums.

In addition to their full-range of lavender products, they sell their own cider, juice and preserves and offer pick your own fruits in the fall along with a Christmas shop in the winter – making it worth a visit year-round!

139 Reigate Road, Ewell, Driftbridge, Epsom KT17 3 DW

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