Once a month, the newsroom tea club convenes for afternoon tea at one of Norwich's fabulous dining establishments. This month, the four-strong crew visited Caf� Benjamin for a decadent afternoon tea. STACIA BRIGGS takes tea at Norwich's most famous department store.
The rules are simple: once a month, four newsroom stalwarts – photographer Denise, Life Matters editor Emma, picture desk supremo Siofra and myself – meet for afternoon tea.
We're about to celebrate our fifth such gathering (suggestions for venues are welcome) but our fourth was in the hallowed shopping hall of Jarrold for a spot of sophisticated cake scoffing and tea quaffing.
Our table was beautifully set: with white china, a white tablecloth and flowers and we sat on the raised platform towards the back of the caf� where we were attentively served by lovely waiting staff who were quick to reassure us that they'd prepared our vegetarian sandwiches.
Two members of the tea crew are vegetarian while the other two are simply tolerant and go with the flow – we vegetarians felt somewhat mean when we realised we'd denied the meat-eaters the normal selection of smoked salmon sandwiches and blinis that come with the Jarrold afternoon tea.
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Thankfully the vegetarian options more than compensated – hummous and carrot, egg and cream cheese and chive (the former being particularly delicious) – and we all noted that somehow a sandwich cut into a dainty circle tastes far better than a boring triangle or square.
Our tea arrived first – from a selection of English breakfast, Assam, Earl Grey, Darjeeling or Gunpowder Green Tea – and the cakestands followed, filled to the brim with delights.
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After our sandwiches, of which there are plenty, we moved on to the next layer: mini fruit scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam.
There's something really special about eating a selection of small treats as opposed to having one huge slab of cake (although I and my fellow club members am not averse to huge slabs of cake) although it pays to pick your afternoon tea partner well – Siofra and I have a symbiotic relationship in that she likes egg sandwiches and I don't and she likes the cakes I like least. Bonus.
Throughout all this eating and drinking, the cakes on the very top layer of the cakestand were calling us – a fantastic selection of macarons, tiny tortes, meringues and �clairs. A hazelnut-flavoured meringue was a particular joy – I could eat about 20 of them without a second thought.
Afternoon tea is surely one of life's greatest luxuries and we all agreed that �12.50 a head was an extremely fair price for a delightful selection of bite-size morsels that somehow fill you up far more than a common or garden lunch.
Our next meeting is in November. Venue as yet to be decided (but wherever it is, it will serve cake, and lots of it. Taking pictures and writing stories requires lots of calories, you know).
Open: Afternoon tea is served from Monday to Friday from 2.30pm to 4pm in Caf� Benjamin on the store's womenswear floor. Pre-booking is essential
Prices: �12.50 per person (Champagne teas are also available at an added cost)
Vegetarian options: Sandwiches can be vegetarian, please mention when booking
Wheelchair access: Yes