London Jambassador

Good morning! It’s Kate, and I wanted to share my recent adventures in London, specifically those centered around jam (and tea). I’ve taken to calling myself Blue Chair Fruit’s “jambassador,” partially because it’s a great pun, but mostly because my trip was totally jam-focused.

Thirty seconds after Rachel approved my request for time off, she gave me a mission: Find England Preserves at Borough Market, and return to Oakland with their Blackcurrant Blighty Jam and Gooseberry & Elderflower Jam. I am so glad she gave me this assignment! Although England Preserves’s bright rainbow labels would have been enough to entice me, the bright fruit flavors of their preserves sealed the deal.

Emphasizing exciting fruits and flavors such as gooseberry, England Preserves does for UK fruit what Blue Chair Fruit does for California’s bounty: takes the best and the brightest and preserves them in delicious jam, maintaining the fruit itself as the central flavor rather than sugaring it up. I ended up bringing seven jars of these delicious preserves home with me, so the whole BCF team could experience them. Bonus: I learned how to appropriately pronounce GOOOOOOZ-bry!

Borough Market is a part-time open-air market offering some of London’s best artisan food, from mushrooms to veggie burgers, meringues to preserved meats. I felt right at home traversing the stalls and sampling different vendors’ wares. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that these vendors were the chattiest Londoners I met on my trip, a welcome change from what this California girl found to be a slightly taciturn population. Having these vendors endlessly chat with me confirmed what I’d already suspected: farmers’ market vendors are some of the friendliest and nicest people you’ll ever meet, regardless of geographical location.

Of course, no trip to London would be complete without an afternoon tea. My BFF and gracious host Erica helped us track down an afternoon tea that would suit our tastes (and budgets!) a bit more than a department store high tea, and boy, did she deliver!

High tea is the most civilized thing in the world. Take note, America: I expect nothing less.

We ended up at Soho’s Secret Tea Room, a, well, secret tea room located above a pub. The decor struck a perfect balance between sophisticated and kitschy, and appropriately self-aware of its nostalgic appeal. It was at this tea I got my first taste of one of England’s best gustatory offerings: clotted cream.

Clotted cream leaves me a bit speechless and weak in the knees. Buttery, light, delicious: the real thing puts store-bought to shame, and takes scones from super delicious to divine. In learning how to properly prepare my scone with clotted cream and jam, my friend’s mother-in-law educated me about the fierce rivalry between Cornwall and Devon in accessorizing scones; apparently, if one is from Cornwall, it’s jam and then cream, and if one is from Devon, it’s cream and then jam. I chose the Devon method because I was partial to seeing the beautiful red jam on top (now we know where my loyalties lie), only slightly offending my friend’s mother-in-law from Cornwall. (I’d already solicited her disapproval when I told her I’ve been taking heavy cream in my tea at home; she lovingly scoffed and referred to me as a “colonial,” telling me it is quite gauche in the UK to take anything but milk. Needless to say, we were fast friends.)

As I’m sure you can guess, a full afternoon tea complete with tea sandwiches, scones with cream, cakes, and cupcakes leaves a girl quite stuffed. I don’t know how a country that’s maintained this ritual manages to get anything done, much less stay a dominating world power for centuries. Heavy with carbohydrates, we dragged our sleepy selves to Liberty so I could drool over their fabrics. Life is hard sometimes.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite shops in London. It’s a tea shop, and while there was no jam there, a girl needs a good cup of tea to go with her favorite jam.

Postcard Teas came with a friend’s strong recommendation, and I am so glad I took the time to seek out this tea shop. The shop’s owners are focused on a close relationship with their tea growers, ensuring that these tea masters can continue to do what they do best: grow awesome, sustainable, agriculturally diverse tea. We spent about two hours in this shop, tasting different teas, all of which can be sent in the Post as a postcard gift! Spending the afternoon at Postcard Teas was one of the highlights of my trip, and expanded my appreciation of tea. If you’re thinking of visiting London, be sure this shop makes it on your must-visit list.

Needless to say, my trip to London was an extraordinary adventure. Upon arriving home, my first task back at the kitchen was to try our new Orange-Kumquat Marmalade with Saffron & Cinnamon — something I just couldn’t have found in the UK. London was incredible, and I feel more than ever that I’m in the right place, working with four fabulous ladies and making awesome jam and marmalade out of California’s bounty. It’s good to be home.

2 comments

  1. The Devon/Cornwall article find is amazing!! Now I’m craving scones, clotted cream and jammmmm…..

  2. Perfect spot for afternoon tea, I’ll have to stop by next time I’m in London.