Pop the kettle on and get out the celebratory bunting! It's National Tea Day 2018 today and as we love nothing more than a beautiful cuppa, we've been chatting to the owner of one of the loveliest Somerset tea spots... Simon, at The Lion Rock Tea Rooms in Cheddar.
So, sit back, relax, sip your tea of choice and read Simon's take on what makes Lion Rock so special, who he'd have a cuppa with at the Tea Rooms if he could and all about their loose leaf teas. Now that's what we call a perfect way to mark the happiest of tea drinking days!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about Lion Rock Tea Rooms, how it came to be and what makes your place so special?
The Tea Room was opened back in 1908 by the Derrick family and was known for many years as Derricks Tea Room. My Wife Bonnie and I, having been let down by so many places that call themselves Tea Rooms, decided to find the best setting for us to create what we believe a Tea Room should be.
We searched for ages before finding Derricks on the market, way back in 2007. When we viewed it we instantly fell in love with Cheddar Gorge - it's beauty, the amazing area and the building. The Tea Room did look very tired and dated then, but we knew it had so much potential so we put in an offer straight away.
Over the next few years we worked hard... building reputation up again, growing the business to the point where we had to move out of the accommodation upstairs to increase capacity. Then along came our first of two sons, which led Bonnie to step back, and we began to bring in a great team to help us. Through everyone's dedication and caring, we grew the business even more and one of the Managers we took on then was Tamsin, who is still with us today.
In January 2015 we took the brave decision to close for a while and strip everything right back, undertaking a huge renovation project from front to back of house. When we re-opened in June 2015, we'd taken the biggest step of all... re naming as The Lion Rock Tea Rooms. With a huge rock behind us of the same name, that was a no brainer for us really! From this point on things rocketed and we took on our Head Chef Sean, who has many years experience of working in fine dining. He's transformed our menu.
You could say we stand out from the crowd! :) We've given each room a unique theme (and pet name) even down to the toilets, which we regularly have customers going back to... to take a picture of the decor (for the right reasons too!!). We play music that suits the era we're recreating and we regularly have people sitting there having a sing along!
Our Menu is all cooked on the premises using the finest local produce possible and our secluded garden, underneath Lion Rock, is beautiful - a perfect spot for a sunny Somerset day. We've also got the best team we could possibly ask for and they all have the same passion for the business as we do - that makes the Tea Rooms a really special place.
As it's National Tea Day, I have to chat about our tea list, which has a huge range of tea from Black and Green to Fruit and Oolong... all loose leaf and all served in bone china. When you arrive at a table with a tray set up for tea and you announce that the tea is Loose Leaf, “Ooo proper tea” is one of the comments you hear so much!
It always makes us chuckle when we hear parents explaining to their children what loose leaf tea is too, and when we're asked whether we sell the tea we serve (which we do) it's lovely to think we've converted someone back to loose leaf tea. It's something we're really passionate about and loose leaf really does make the best cup!
2. What have been your proudest moments at the Tea Rooms so far?
Back in the 'Days of Derricks' we won the Award of Excellence in the United Kingdom Tea Guild in 2011/12/13, but the proudest moments for us all are winning Somerset Life Magazine Best Independent Tea/Coffee Shop Awards 2017/18, Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards Gold Award for Best Tea/ Coffee Shop 2017/18 and Somerset West Tourism Awards Bronze Award for Best Tea/Coffee Shop 2017/18 in the West Country. These really were special and to celebrate with all the team on the night was unforgettable for us all.
3. If you could share one of your afternoon teas with anyone at all to celebrate National Tea Day, who would it be and why?
I'd have to share it with the crooners from back in the day! Frank Sinatra, Deane Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, as well as the great Doris Day and Ella Fitzgerald. I think I'd introduce them all to our 'Before Noon' Tea which is a sweet and savoury breakfast version of Afternoon Tea. We launched this earlier in the year... although maybe 'Before Noon' is a bit too early for the Crooners, after a night of singing in the clubs! ;)
4. Tell us a secret about Lion Rock Tea Rooms that no-one else knows!
The building, which used to be three stone masons cottages, also used to have the first shop that sold Cheddar cheese under the name of W.M Small. We have pictures in the Tea Room showing this too.
Well, very soon I think we'll be heading over to Cheddar before noon to try one of those signature teas! What a cool idea.
Happy National Tea Day everyone. Whether you're sipping a cuppa in your garden or are out and about visiting your favourite Tea Room or Cafe, have a great one. Cheers!