A cab driver is never wrong. In many instances, when it comes to places to eat or drink, cab drivers know best. Like in Puerto Varas Chile, when Jose pointed to an Italian restaurant and in Ubud Indonesia when Como brought us to a Warung close to the rice terrace.
Happily, my sisters and I hopped into the cab when it was our turn at a long queue outside York Railway Station in York England. We sat, relaxed, and chatted with Ian the cab driver about the weather, English football (soccer), and York’s traffic. Then, I asked, “where do I go for good coffee?”
Ian answered: Starbucks!
I was disappointed.
But then, I shouldn’t be. What should I expect from a city that is known for its Yorkshire Tea and Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms. I had a week in York and these are my coffee experiences:
1. Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms
Bettys was established in 1919 by a young Swiss confectioner, Frederick Belmont in Harrogate, a town about 23 miles from York. Today it continues to be one of England’s most popular tea houses. I asked a friend from Uruguay who lived in York about places to eat and she recommended an afternoon tea experience at Bettys.
Bettys serves their finest teas and coffees in silver teapots. Of course, we drank from fine china cups and saucers. The handmade bread, cakes, and chocolates are from their own Craft Bakery. This fourth and fifth-generation family owned establishment continues to wow customers with the combination of their rich Swiss heritage and local Yorkshire specialties, namely the Yorkshire Fat Rascal – their famous plump and fruity scones.
Instead of a pot of tea, coffee lovers can order coffee. Bettys’ traditional afternoon tea has a selection of sandwiches, sultana scones with strawberry preserve, and Yorkshire clotted cream, miniature cakes, and lemon macarons. It was a beautiful affair. One that deserved to be Instagrammed.
The coffee was normal. From my own experience here I would recommend and I think it is best to have tea instead of coffee with all those sweets and savories. You get multiple refills of hot water for the pot of tea. You can’t possibly refill the coffee with more hot water.
I highly recommend afternoon tea (of course coffee if you insist) at Bettys for the authentic British afternoon tea experience. The teahouse is a historic house with plush chairs and squeaking floors.
Bettys has two locations in York. We were at 46 Stonegate.
2. Molly’s Tea Room
Molly’s Tea Room is on the second floor of an antique shop known as The Antique Shop of York. Remember, in England the street level is called ground floor while here in the US it is the first floor. So the first floor means it’s the second floor to Americans.
We were at Molly’s at 3 p.m., almost time for the tea room to close for the day at 4 p.m. We were the last guests and before we could finish our afternoon tea, the staff was already sweeping the floor and placing the chairs on top of the tables.
The service was amazingly good. The afternoon tea presentation at Molly’s was not quite as refined as Bettys. The portions were big and tea and coffee were served on fine china. Considering the price per person, Molly’s is worth every penny. Again, I would recommend tea with the savories and sweets, rather than coffee.
Molly’s is located at 41 Stonegate.
3. Tarts and Titbits
Tarts and Titbits was our favorite deli in York. The owner, Phil Black and his staff were friendly and helpful in explaining their menu. We usually stopped by for fresh bread and salads. You’ll get burgers with names like Bhaji Burger and sandwiches made of scones like the Sconwich, which was our favorite.
Coffee enthusiasts can reserve hand-roasted coffee at Tarts and Titbits. This is freshly roasted coffee from York Coffee Emporium, York’s local artisan coffee roaster.
Tarts and Titbits is located at 78 Gillygate.
4. The Vanilla Cafe
Our tour guide recommended The Vanilla Cafe after the first half of our four-hour walking tour. The Vanilla Cafe has a few tiny tea rooms upstairs. We settled in one where there were chicks and bunnies decor, retro mirrors, and old magazines. The table has freshly cut flowers and a bowl of sugar cubes.
This vintage cafe served delicious cakes and excellent coffee. It is located at 12 College Street.
5. Shambles Tavern
The Shambles Tavern is an interesting place on many levels. It’s a place for local food, craft beer, coffee, and York pub vibes. The tavern is located in an old butcher shop at The Shambles, York’s most fascinating and oldest street. The Shambles is a narrow cobblestone street with 15th-century buildings and it’s the most well-preserved Medieval street in Europe.
Having a meal at the Shambles Tavern on the second floor by the window gave us a special vantage point of the historic street and old butcher shops. These butcher shops are converted into souvenir shops, restaurants, and cafes. At the tavern, we were introduced to pork pie with mushy peas, mint sauce, and Shambles Ploughmans (Yorkshire ham, cheese, pork pie, pickle, salad, and bread).
Shambles Tavern coffee menu list: latte, espresso (single or double shots), house coffee, Americano, and espresso.
Although we didn’t have the time to drink coffee in many of the coffee shops in York, we did pass by a few beautiful shops and signs about coffee in York. Here are a few that we saw:
While I was waiting for the train to return to London, I stopped by at Starbucks at York Railway Station and ordered an Americano using my American Starbucks app. I had to. Since my cab driver, Ian said it was the best.
If you are looking for a historic place to visit in England, don’t hesitate to include York. York is rich in history, the people are friendly, the food is delicious and coffee is readily available. Starbucks fans won’t be disappointed because that was the first and the last coffee shop I saw in York.
Read these before you go: