Some of the most pleasant surprises can be found in the strangest places. In this case, a couple friends and I discovered Forsyth’s Tea Room hidden in a narrow alleyway between The Wee Gift Shop and a pharmacy on The Royal Mile, a road with Edinburgh Castle on one end and Holyrood Palace on the other. I would have walked right past it if I had not earlier read a review online mentioning the alley. When we entered the small teashop, the charming owner, an older woman in an apron behind the counter, warmly greeted us and the gracious host showed us to a table. The intricate carpet, patterned tablecloths, teacup-lined walls, and beautiful decorations made the narrow room of brick and stone walls exceptionally cozy.
Deciding against the full all-day breakfasts and “Traditional Afternoon Tea,” which included both a sandwich and a large sultana scone served with butter, preserves, and whipped cream, I made my way to the counter to choose a lighter option. I learned later that afternoon tea was originally a mini meal meant to hold busy workers over before dinner was served at 8:00 PM, explaining why such hardy options made an appearance on the menu. With my mouth watering, I stood staring at the counter filled with every kind of sweet and light dish you could imagine—Dutch apple pie, carrot cake, lemon meringue pie, key lime pie, chocolate fudge cake, coffee walnut cake, toffee pecan pie, fruit cake, apricot pie, Scottish shortbread, cheese pasties, and traditional Scotch meat pies (just to name a few)—and tried to decide which one to have as a compliment to my tea.
After considering each of these bountiful options, I eventually decided to order the classic “Scottish Oaties,” a sweet biscuit (or “cookie” as we would refer to it in the U.S.) similar to the oatcakes (recipe here) available at almost every restaurant serving traditional Scottish dishes. Almost immediately after we returned to our table, the courteous host brought our pastries on a delicate platter with a teapot painted to look like a house with children peeking in the window. With the tea and desserts warming us from the chilly, damp weather outside, we had a very pleasant couple of hours just visiting around the table, slowly sipping from our exquisitely painted teacups.
Although the website reported that the teashop was casual, I felt just a bit underdressed in my capris and tennis shoes, however, the comforting atmosphere created by the lovely staff quickly made me forget my embarrassment. It also allowed us, as unfamiliar customers, to thoroughly enjoy our first experience participating in a traditional British afternoon tea. I like to drink tea every so often while at home, but this was the first time I had it served with milk alongside the sugar, and my first cup since I’ve been in one of the largest tea-drinking countries in the world! One of my friends, who much prefers coffee, was also able to enjoy a couple cups and the new experience. The combination of friendly service, delicious food, delightful decorations, and, most importantly, hot, strong tea made our first teatime especially memorable and an experience I just may have to repeat at least once while I’m here.
Kathryn Smith is a freshman at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in Psychology and Pre-Medicine, with the goal to become a psychiatrist. During the month of July, Kathryn is participating in the UMKC Honors College Program in Scotland.
Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.