Covent Garden, London, UK

An Ode to Blogger Friendship and Afternoon Tea with Whittard

"Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything." - Muhammad Ali
June 8th is National Best Friends Day, an extra special time in the calendar to show your nearest and dearest just how much you appreciate them. I'm lucky enough to have a really wonderful circle of friends around me, made up in no small part by the amazing people I've met as part of the blogging community. When I first moved to Leicester to start my PhD, I knew absolutely nobody in the city. Leaving Oxford, which had been my home town for four years, was quite an intimidating prospect. However, even before picking up the keys to my first Leicester flat, I was able to make connections with some fellow Leicester bloggers such as Hayley and Ellis through social media, which made me feel like I wouldn't be totally alone! Since then, my friendship with these lovely ladies has blossomed and I've got to know many more East Midlands bloggers besides - I couldn't be happier with or more grateful for the friends I've made.

To celebrate my blogger friendships forged on the internet, when Whittard approached me asking if I'd like to take one of my BFFs for an afternoon tea experience at their Covent Garden Tea Bar, I knew exactly who I'd bring along. The gorgeous Hels and I have been friends for over 2 years now and she's been there for me through thick and thin. We speak over WhatsApp pretty much every day and we get along like a house on fire in person too. There are some people in life that you just click with, and I'm very happy to say that Hels is one of those people for me. I was very excited to share my Whittard experience with her, so keep reading to find out how we got on!

The Whittard Tea Bar

Located at the heart of bustling Covent Garden Market, the Whittard Tea Bar is the perfect place to stop off for some refreshments whilst exploring London's West End. The Bar forms a calm oasis amongst the hubbub of Covent Garden. The atmosphere outside in the piazza is always very lively - you'll find a street performer, magician, singer or dancer around pretty much every corner. The place is a real hotspot for bloggers and influencers too, with shops going to town with floral displays for those all important Instagram photos. Inside the Whittard Tea Bar, you'll also find Instagram opportunities aplenty. The Bar is attractively decorated with painted brick walls and tea themed decor. The venue is split in two with the Tea Bar occupying half of the store and a shop filling in the remaining space. This is fantastic because if you happen to try a delicious new loose leaf tea from Whittard's specialist brew bar whilst enjoying your afternoon tea, you can pick some up to take home in the shop afterwards! My only criticism of the Tea Bar is that space is at a premium. The long benches where we were seated were a little difficult to extract yourself from when leaving, as the tables are crammed quite close together. I managed to squeeze out without knocking anything over on our neighbouring tables but only just! Perhaps the layout of the tables is something that Whittard could improve.
"If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere." - Zig Ziglar

Our Afternoon Tea

Hels and I were treated to The Whittard Tea, Whittard's signature mix of sandwiches, scones, cakes, and Prosecco. While the menu lists its standard sandwich fillings as being coronation chicken and smoked salmon with lemon cheese, Hels and I requested vegetarian alternatives which seemed to be no problem for the Whittard kitchen. Our sandwich fillings included guacamole, roasted pepper and cheese, egg and cress, and the traditional cucumber, all of which were served in crustless sandwich fingers, exactly as you'd expect. The bread was light and tasty and the sandwiches went down a treat. Next up came the scones with cream and tea-infused preserves. The scones were served warm from the oven and were dotted with just the right amount of dried fruit. The cream was presented to us in tiny jam jars, which was a very cute touch. Thankfully Hels and I both eat our scones the correct way (cream first and then jam, in case you're wondering), so we didn't have a very British falling out over our afternoon tea!

Moving up to the top tier of our cake stand, we found ourselves faced with a wide selection of sweet treats, taking the form of bitesize cakes and tarts. I am not normally the easiest person to please when it comes to pastry - I grew up eating delicious jam tarts and quiches cooked by my Mum, who makes the best pastry in the world, so any pastry that I sample elsewhere has to be a real standout to satisfy me. Thankfully, the Whittard pastry was up to scratch. I really enjoyed the passionfruit tart served to us - the pastry had clearly been made fresh and the passionfruit cream was satisfying and flavourful. I also really enjoyed the mini Victoria sponge cakes on offer, although I must admit that I didn't try these until I got home from Covent Garden as we had to pack most of the cakes up in a doggy bag to take away! The serving size for the afternoon tea was so immense that Hels and I simply couldn't finish everything. The only aspect of the cake selection that came a little sub-par for me was the carrot cake - it was very flat had an odd consistency of something in between a cake and a biscuit. However, this definitely didn't dampen the rest of the experience.

Turning now to drinks, what do you opt for when there's a selection of over 100 loose leaf teas available to sample? Well, you go for a hot chocolate, of course! Hels and I just could resist the allure of these amazing-sounding hot chocs, especially when peanut butter and rocky road were offered as flavours! I was also delighted to find that Whittard were able to make my drink with oat milk. The peanut butter hot chocolate was truly delicious, especially when topped with whipped cream. It truly tasted of peanut butter without being overpowering or sickly - I'd definitely have it again. Whittard describes this afternoon tea offering as being fit "for an afternoon of champions" and I can't help but agree. 
“The real test of friendship is can you literally do nothing with the other person? Can you enjoy those moments of life that are utterly simple?” - Eugene Kennedy

Service and Shopping

The service at Whittard, Covent Garden was second to none. Hels and I had the pleasure of being looked after by the lovely Amy, who definitely deserves a shoutout. She was very welcoming as soon as we stepped through the doors of the Tea Bar, she emanated sunshine on an otherwise pretty cloudy day! Amy mastered the perfect mix of delivering attentive service without bothering us too much. Marta, the Tea Bar Manager, was also very warm and friendly - she kindly offered to take us on a tour of the adjacent Whittard shop once we'd had our fill of afternoon tea.

In honour of National Best Friends Day, Whittard also gave Hels and I the chance to select a gift for one another from their shop. We didn't strictly play by the rules as we wandered around the shop together instead of picking surprise presents but we did walk away with matching porcelain Freya mugs in lemon and aqua, so I think we still embraced the best friends spirit! We also chose a mini caddy of Whittard's new limoncello loose leaf tea each, in no small part due to the beautiful packaging. We did have the opportunity to sample the limoncello tea as well as several other varieties before we selected our gifts as Whittard have a tasting station set up in the middle of their store - a great way of making sure you'll love an addition to your tea collection before you buy.
“Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.” - Ed Cunningham

A True Best Friend Experience

As well as being able to share my day with the lovely Hels, my visit to Covent Garden was marked by great friendship in every possible way. The outfit that I wore to the Whittard Tea Bar also had a best friend theme - the gorgeous tea dress that I am wearing in these photos was a gift from one of my BBFs from afar, the wonderful Charlene. I was also wearing a gorgeous set of earrings that were a birthday gift from another of my blogger best friends, the amazing Beth. You can see much better photos of the jewellery over on my Instagram! Like Hels, I've known Charlene and Beth for years now and although they're both based all the way up in Scotland, I've had the pleasure of meeting up with them twice. I wish that I could've brought them down to London for afternoon tea as well because it really is the perfect way to celebrate friendship. Afternoon tea gives you the opportunity to sit and indulge in a brew and some tasty treats as you fill up on good company and excellent conversation. A huge thanks to Whittard for inviting me along to their Tea Bar - I'll be back!
“A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world.” - Leo Buscaglia

The Whittard Tea Bar is located at 18 The Marketplace, The Piazza, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8RB.

When was the last time you indulged in afternoon tea? Let me know in the comments.

*The afternoon tea detailed in this post was provided free of charge by Whittard in exchange for a blog post review.