The Cupar Tearoom

A few days ago, having not been to a new tearoom for some considerable time, I was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms.

There being only one sure fire way to fix that, I whisked a small delightful assistant south-eastwards to where the BBC promised us decent weather. (Well, I say decent, what I mean is it wasn’t raining.)

I had read a review of a certain tearoom in Cupar, Fife, which made a bold claim and I was eager to pop down there and have a look:

Cupar Tearoom sign, Cupar, Fife

There used to be an advert for Carlsberg that had the tagline “Probably the best lager in the world”, and I’m assuming that The Cupar Tearoom has borrowed this line for its tearoom, a little tongue in cheek.

When you approach this tearoom, you find it behind the main street in Cupar, in a paved area called Ferguson Square. On entering this area I felt I was walking into a 1960s council housing estate. Not the most promising of beginnings, and yet the outside of the tearoom looked surprisingly at odds with its surroundings:

The Cupar Tearoom exterior

Inside, it was busy, with only one free table. The counter at one side of the room was reassuringly piled with large and attractive looking scones, and there were books in bookcases dotted around the walls. There were also packets of Teapigs tea for sale in one bookcase, and these teas were also on the tearoom menu, which pleased me.

We opted to share a pot of Teapigs English Breakfast tea for two, which came in an unexpectedly decorative teapot:

Decorative teapot

To accompany her tea, my delightful assistant chose a slice of lemon drizzle cake, which was served on a rather worn, but nevertheless prettily floral, plate:

Lemon drizzle cake

I opted for a fruit scone, which I’m delighted to say was delicious.

The teacups were also patterned, and I was quite impressed that when the waitress saw that one of them had a piece of cake in it, she whipped it away and brought a clean one.

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One question I always ask myself when visiting a new tearoom is “Would I include this tearoom in a tearoom guidebook?” I like to visit a new place at least twice to make sure, but I’m confident that this one would be a contender.

Is it the best tearoom in the world? Well, that’s a matter of personal taste and I can only speak for myself, but I’ve been to many establishments I would rank above this one. I’ve also been to many that have been considerably lower in standard. On balance, I’d say it sits somewhere just above average.

Some of the things a really top tearoom has to have, in my opinion, is homemade jam for the scones, sugar cubes or granulated sugar in a bowl with a nice set of tongs or a teaspoon, salt and pepper you can grind yourself, elegant table settings and a beautifully presented menu. The Cupar Tearoom didn’t quite come up to scratch in these areas:

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On the other hand, I would also include excellent home baking, a good range of teas, nice china, quiet surroundings and cheerful, pleasant staff, all of which The Cupar Tearoom provided.

I apologise for my negative comments, I wouldn’t normally mention down sides in a review, but I felt I couldn’t include the first picture without addressing the claim in some way.

Despite all of that, I enjoyed my visit to The Cupar Tearoom, and would certainly visit again.

Although it was a dry day, it was overcast and quite cold. We had a short wander round the town centre after our tea, and I was reminded of how many narrow closes (‘close’ is a Scottish term for an alleyway) the town has.

I need to return on a warmer day and take pictures of some of the other closes there. I did photograph one close though, which had a sign above it saying “Tannage Close” which makes me wonder if leather was treated there in the past, but I really don’t know the history of it.

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Cupar on a dark, damp, January day is not perhaps the most inspiring of places, but one thing I must commend the town for is its parking charges – only 40p to park for up to 2 hours in the central car park. Very good value for money, I’d say.

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Categories: Books, Cake, Fife, Photography, Scone, Scotland, Tea, Teacup, Tearoom Delights, Tearooms | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

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36 thoughts on “The Cupar Tearoom

  1. Looks like a lovely place! I especially like the picture of the close. Is Cupr northern?

    • Thank you Arnel, there are other closes that I think will prove more interesting, I really must pop back and investigate. Cupar is in the Kingdom of Fife, in the East of Scotland, north of Edriburgh and south of Dundee, if that helps at all.

  2. katiewritesagain

    I love that you don’t want to make less than glowing comments, Lorna. Too many people are all about negativity. I don’t know why.
    Actually I didn’t think you were negative as much as just presenting the whole picture. I was in the restaurant business for so many years-as a server, not the ones with decision making power! I often wished I could offer more. Sounds like the servers were doing their jobs as best they could. The Cupar tearoom still sounds delightful to me. And I love the idea of a tearoom on a damp day!
    Thanks for letting the rest of us tag along on your wonderful excursions.

    • Thank you for tagging along Kathleen! I can certainly whinge with the best of them, but I think it’s a tough job running a tearoom and people are generally trying to do their best. I know that if I were in the business myself I would find it very difficult to provide as good a service as I’d like to, it is quite an art and when somewhere has some good points, as most do, it’s only fair to acknowledge them. In this case, I had nothing but praise for the staff, who were smiley and welcoming and doing their jobs well, and that counts for a lot in my book.

  3. What a delightful (if not the best in the world) tea room! To me the tea has to be served in a nice teapot (like the one shown) to even be considered a good tea room. In North America they often use the horrible stainless steel teapots or worse still, make it in the cup. I love the picture of the alleyway. Would love to visit!

    • A nice teapot does make a difference, I agree, and serving it in the cup is for truckers’ cafes in my opinion. I hope to post more alleyways anon to lure you over here with. :-)

  4. Nicely balanced post Lorna. If they’re claiming to be up there with the best – even flippantly – they need to pass muster. And paper sachets of sugar are wholely incompatible with the high standards suggested by the sign. Cubes or granules and silver tongs or spoons it must be! Having said that though the scone does look rather tempting (but only if the butter was butter and served in a proper butterdish :-) )

    • Most kind of you to say so FInn, thank you, and I agree with you about the butter dish although they are uncommon, in my experience. I’m glad to report that it was real butter, albeit in little foil packages. Your comment reminds me that when I was a nipper and used to visit my grandparents for luncheon the butter was served on a china dish in little yellow curls. My mum used to do that too when we had visitors, and I think she still has the butter curling utensil. I must have a go at curling butter some time.

  5. oh, what a gorgeous little tearoom. It looks so inviting. Wonderful picture of the Tannage Close … when I see a picture like that, I always wonder what the history and stories are behind it. Love the teapot too … tea served in a bone china teapot is just so good. This Teapigs tea intrigues me. Why is it called teapigs? :) Lovely to have you out and about in tearooms again.

    • I agree Alison, those closes are steeped in history. Edinburgh’s are the ones I’m most familiar with, running all the way down the Royal Mile, but I know next to nothing about the ones in Cupar and it’d be interesting to find out.

      I don’t know where Teapigs got their name from but I think their products are perfect for tearooms – loose leaf tea in what they call ‘tea temples’ (fancy teabags, tetrahedral in shape and made from some sort of silky mesh). The tea inside is whole leaf, not the sort of thing you usually find in an average teabag, and the spaciousness of the bag allows for excellent infusion. For tearooms, this means they can serve leaf tea without the hassle of tea leaves everywhere. It also means that when the tea is the strength you like it you can whip out the bag. They’re pricier than standard teabags, but you’re paying for a high quality tea.

  6. Perhaps they will read your suggestions and make a few changes. They are SO close to being outstanding.

    • One can but hope, Annie. I realise that some tearooms are operating close to the margin and cutting down on things like whole peppercorns is a way of cutting costs. However, a really good tearoom is open to constructive criticism and ploughs back some of its profits into improvements. I’d like to think The Cupar Tearoom is such a place. They’ve certainly done very well in the areas of staff training and baked goods.

  7. A very fair review – I (ignorantly) have only ever thought of Cupar as a kind of commuter outpost, just because of the number of academics I know who teach in St. Andrews and live in Cupar. It’s good to see there is more to the place than commuting boffins. Lovely photo of the close!

    • I didn’t know it was a commuter town for St Andrews, but that makes sense. St Andrews is a very expensive place to buy property, and Cupar is presumably considerably cheaper.

  8. Another tearoom, another day! I’m pleased to hear you’ve had some incentive in the form of a good fruit scone & cuppa. Shame to hear to didn’t quite love up to your expectations (but knowing) the establishments you’ve visited in the past and how well they measure up, that can be understood. As long as you enjoyed your trip and company, I guess not much was lost in the end :)

    • Quite right Alice, I did enjoy it and you can’t always go around expecting perfection. I was well pleased with the scone, and the service, and it certainly wasn’t a wasted journey.

  9. I’m feeling kind of sorry for Cupar. Not sure why. But I loved the teapot.

  10. S Joe

    Nice post Lorna, as usual very well written. I think that there is nothing wrong in painting the whole picture while writing a review. Stating the facts help the reader and also the owner of the place (in case they read it). It is not to dampen the spirit but to enable them truly become best of the world :) It’s certainly a delightful tea room in my humble opinion. I love the china. Beautiful and ornate. I miss the alleyways in England and the picture of your close reminds me of them. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Thank you Sukirtha, very kind of you to say so. I hope that if anyone from the tearoom reads this post they take it as it was meant and don’t get bogged down in my criticisms. It was very nice to be served with proper china. England does have some wonderful little alleyways in quaint villages, you make me want to cross the border and remind myself of them. :-)

  11. I’m glad you and your assistant had a nice adventure! That lemon drizzle cake looked good. I know you like to explore the area so I’ll look forward to your next visit there when the weather is warmer… :)

    • Thank you Meg, I forgot to mention that I tasted the cake and it was wonderful. My delightful assistant kindly gave me a bit from the top where the crusty sugar was, and the crunchiness of the sugar combined with the lemoniness of the cake made me think of pancakes with sugar and lemon. It was delicious, and I would quite possibly choose it myself another time.

  12. Lovely to see Cupar as the destination for your latest tea-stop. When I was last in Scotland I visited Cupar to show my son and daughter where I had gone to high school. I didn’t notice this tea room while we were there. We had lunch at Fisher and Donaldson the bakery. It was not at all how I had remembered it.
    I love your photograph of the close.

    • I thought of you when I was there, Heather, and wondered if you’d been to the tearoom. Fisher and Donaldson was my second choice if The Cupar Tearoom was closed, but I’m glad I got my first choice.

  13. You always find the coziest tearooms! love it.

  14. Wish I could get a nice cup here at Aberdeen airport, on my way to the Shetlands

    • I’m envious, I love going to Shetland! There’s a Costa in the airport isn’t there? Not ideal for tea, right enough. If you’re in Lerwick there’s quite a nice little cafe at the back and upstairs in the Peerie Shop, but perhaps you’ve already discovered that for yourself on previous trips. Have a safe journey!

  15. That sounds like an honest and fair-minded review – after all, if you make sweeping claims then you have to expect scrutiny and criticism! I love the look of their lemon drizzle cake – I am almost tempted to go and make one. Like you, I am struggling for decent ‘post-able’ outdoor photos in this grey weather, but your indoor shots are lovely – warm and cosy-looking.

    • Thank you Jo, I feel better for reading your comment. :-) Lemon drizzle cake is such a winner when it’s really lemony isn’t it? Makes my mouth water just to think of it.

  16. A scone in any setting looks delicious!! We are in full Downton Abbey swing here in the states, and tea time is quite serious!! And fun!

    • Tea time is a serious business, but also fun as you say, Moira. I hope you’re enjoying Downton Abbey, I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen any of it.

  17. You bring a wonderful tearoom experience to us again! When ever I read your blog I feel like treating myself with a scone and some nice tea! Enjoyed this lovely write up Lorna!

  18. Lou

    I went to High School in Cupar but don’t get back much. I have heard of the tearoom so nice to see a review…many years ago a friend had a record shop on that very premises. Fisher & Donaldson’s i have been to..and although the cakes are nice, it is pricey and doesnt not feel in any way special..we haven’t hurried back

    • It seems more like the sort of location for a great little record shop, tucked away behind the main street. I agree with you about Fisher and Donaldson, although I’ve only been to one in Dundee.

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