Two months ago, a friend of mine who lives in London dropped me a message on Facebook with a link to a video I just had to watch – along with an “OMG” and “we have to do this!”.
I had already made plans to see her in London the following month and we had already made plans to do a whole bunch of stuff, including some kind of an afternoon tea event – although nothing was yet reserved. I knew she wouldn’t go “OMG” on me unless she’d discovered something beyond fantastic. It had to be borderline magical for her to use such an exaggerated statement. I mean, she’s French, and French people are not exactly known for going ga-ga over n’importe quoi.
Needless to say, the video triggered my curiosity.
And her reaction was within reason. The video was an advertisement for an afternoon tea unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Gone were grandma’s tea sets, cream filled scones and dull rooms decorated in fifty shades of beige. Those were all replaced with purple, glittery walls and magic lamps as teapots. Welcome to Agrabah, I mean, Cutter & Squidge .
Welcome to a magical afternoon tea in Genie’s Cave!
There you are, sitting in a bakery in central London – yet, it doesn’t feel like that at all. Feels a lot more like having tea in a whole new world (see what I did there?) inside of the Disney universe.
“Should I make a reservation for us?”, my friend asked. Before I even finished watching the video I gave her a thumbs up. I needed this. I needed a little bit of magic in my life.
Fast forward to the day before our reservation in Genie’s Cave took place.
Pretty much as soon as I arrived in London, I was offered a cup of tea.
I was hungry, so I went to a fish and chips shop and was offered a cup of tea on the house while I was waiting for my fish to be cooked. Totally unexpected, very appreciated.
Now, if that ain’t British hospitality, I don’t know what is!
To me, this was a reminder of how tea is such an important part of British culture.
I wanted to honor this part of the culture. I wanted to experience tea in multiple ways. After all – don’t shoot me for saying this – but, I’ve always felt like afternoon tea events were just a full blown gimmick.
Yet, I wanted to experience it myself to see if it’s worth the money – and find out why people are so obsessed with it.
But I also wanted to drink tea where all the locals drink their tea (well, apart from in their homes) and I wanted to purchase high quality tea from the famous English brand Twinings and drink so much tea I’d be having tea running through my veins by the end of the week.
The Twinings Tea Shop and Museum offers tea tastings so you’ll get to try before you buy and not end up with something that sounds like an amazing flavor but ends up being just one big disappointment in need of large quantities of sugar, honey or lemon in order to be consumed. Yes, Lipton cherry tea, I’m looking at you!
A staff member poured me some tea and told me I could ask her anything, anything at all about their product range. I tasted (and purchased) green tea with a hint of dark chocolate and coconut, and green tea with a hint of caramelized apple.
“Do you sell these outside of the UK – and does your online shop offer international shipping?”, were the questions I asked, to which she answered no. Talk about exclusivity!
Guess I have yet another reason to return to London then.
As if I hadn’t tasted enough tea that day, I was determined to find somewhere cozy to sit down and grab a cup of English breakfast tea to go with my lunch; a raspberry jam and cream filled scone.
I did find a nice little bakery called Fleet River Bakery where absolutely everything looked delicious. My eyes were begging me to order a big slice of delicious-looking chocolate cake, but I ordered a scone instead. Because, I didn’t come to England to eat something you can eat pretty much anywhere in the western world. No. I came for a cup of tea. And a scone.
The tea was just as good as anywhere else, and the scone was amazing. I’m usually not a fan of anything cream filled, but the acidity of the raspberry mixed with the sweetness of the cream complimented the taste of the tender scone. Everything was just perfect.
And then came the day I’d been waiting for. The Aladdin-themed afternoon tea.
When entering the Cutter & Squidge you’d have no idea there’d be some kind of magical Genie stuff going on in the basement. The charming modern bakery invites you in with its beautiful cake display and butterfly decor. Pastel macaroons, picture perfect cakes and anything Pinterest and Instagram-worthy.
A pink haired shop assistant guided us downstairs to Genie’s Cave. We walked into a room way smaller than expected, with sparkly purple walls – just like in the video. Jewels, gems, golden coins and other treasures were glued to the walls and to the floor. The pink haired girl showed us to our table, asked us if we wanted Mimosas or Bellinis or whatever fancy cocktail brunch-goers drink these days. I don’t quite remember, and we were both fine with just fruit juice and tea.
As an appetizer we were offered yogurt with berries, cotton candy and meringue. Visually very pretty – and an oddly delicious combination of flavors and textures.
Then came the dessert stand and the sandwich platter. My friend and I looked at each other with the same mixed reaction. It all looked so good, but… how on earth were we gonna be able to finish all of it?
Guess what? We didn’t. We couldn’t. Once we were done with all the savory pieces, we were full. And we still had all these cute little desserts to finish. Even a chocolate dessert with 24 carat gold inside of it. Yup. Gold.
I force-fed myself as I didn’t want any of the delicious goods to go to waste (and neither did my friend) and practically rolled out of the bakery and almost vomited on the street because I was so full after eating what felt like thousands of calories. I felt like I was having a hangover from all the afternoon tea magic presented to me in Genie’s Cave.
Now you may ask, is the Aladdin-themed afternoon tea worth the hype?
I think it depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. If you’re not much of a big eater and you just wanna have a nice little meal in typical British surroundings and don’t care much about the “magical” aspect, you’ll be better off going to a bakery or a cafe and ordering tea and pastries of whatever quantity you like.
However, if you’re a big fan of Disney and everything magical (unicorn frappuccino crowd, where you at?) and you want to escape from reality into a world of purple glitter and more cake than you could possibly eat – this is definitely for you.
I have yet to try a traditional style afternoon tea, and I am interested in trying, just so I can compare it to the Aladdin-themed one.
…And roll out of yet another bakery, hotel, restaurant or whatever establishment I’ll end up going to.