Mini-Break: Hot Tea Spot in London

Tea in the Garden
At the other end of the kettle from fancy is the tea at the Chelsea Physic Garden's Tangerine Dream Cafe. The cafe's vaguely hallucinogenic-sounding name hints at the original and continuing purpose of the garden, which was founded in 1673 by the Society of Apothecaries of London: to grow and study medicinal plants. Situated near the Thames in the quiet back streets of Chelsea, these wall-enclosed 3.8 acres are home to 5,000 plants and flowering shrubs carefully labeled by name and botanic purpose, such as the Aloysia triphylla (lemon verbena) used in aromatherapy.
On a warmish early autumn afternoon, most people are here for the garden. A tour is in progress, gathered around the statue of Sir Hans Sloane, whose intercession in 1712 ensured the garden's survival. I'm no gardener, but I know what I like, and I like sitting on the terrace, sipping my Earl Grey tea, slathering my lavender scone with clotted cream and jam, admiring the taste of the Tunisian citrus almond cake and casually observing other visitors. At a nearby table, I overhear women my own age discuss a fashion trend among teenage girls, tights with minuscule shorts. "It's a rather curious look, and I'll be glad when it's past," muses one of the mums.
You order inside, in the church-basement-like tearoom (you can also dine there, but you won't want to, unless it's raining), and carry your meal out to the terrace. Everything is made on the premises, and you can tell -- in a good way. The menu is a la carte and presents savory choices, such as crostini of buffalo mozzarella and tapenade, and sweet choices, including scones, cakes and tarts.
Tangerine Dream Cafe (Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Rd., Chelsea, Open mid-March through Oct. 31, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday 12:30-5 p.m. Admission to the garden is about $12; cake and tea about $9 more. From

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