Simon Duffin has written a quirky and fun review of cathedrals and coffee and tea shops around the United Kingdom. This isn’t your usual tour guide book. Duffin loves cathedrals and he loves the experience of visiting independent coffee houses and tea shops. He certainly has done his homework.
Duffin travelled through England, Scotland and Ireland and visited a variety of churches from the iconic monuments such Winchester and York Minster to Catholic cathedrals and other denomination’s buildings. His reviews of the churches aren’t your usual tour guide fare. He tried to find the little out of the way items of the churches to look for that make them unique. An example: the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham has a plaque in the ceiling showing where a bomb was dropped on the building during World War II that didn’t do too much damage. Duffin points out that in Oxford Cathedral there is an effigy of a fourteenth century knight who was 6’6” tall. He must have been a giant! Other information given is if there are organized tours of the buildings and if they ask for and accept donations for the maintenance and repairs of the building.
After touring the cathedrals, Duffin likes to go for a cup of tea or coffee. The ritual of drinking tea was introduced in England by Catherine of Braganza, the Queen of King Charles II in the seventeenth century and people in the UK practice it daily. This guide book gives Duffin’s favorite coffee houses or tea shops, usually within walking distance of each cathedral. He looks for independent coffee shops serving good quality coffee beans and usually run by an individual or a couple. A good barista makes the experience even better.
In looking at the tea shops, there is an explanation of the different kind of shops he looks for, such as contemporary or vintage. Important aspects are quality tea leaves, good cake and the character and décor of the shop. Duffin gives a list of some of his favorites in the beginning of the book such as his favorite coffee shops, tea shops, top five venues for cakes, etc.
Duffin lists all this information for each cathedral in alphabetical order by city. As an admirer of cathedrals and churches in the UK, I thoroughly enjoyed this guide. On my next trip, I will have this book with me to refer to and to find a good shop for cake.