Rating the London Fogs of St. Andrews
November 1, 2021
Based on the comments I received on a recent Facebook post, it has come to my attention that some of you poor impoverished souls have never heard of a London Fog. In this article, I have taken it upon myself to educate you on the nature of this delightful libation and provide a critical review of every London Fog in St. Andrews. Soon you shall gaze upon the sun and cease your sad, benighted, London Fog-less existence. You shall also be informed where you can secure the best London Fogs should you ever find yourself in St. Andrews.
Let us begin by defining the central term in this analysis: What is a London Fog? A London Fog consists of Earl Grey tea that is sweetened and mixed with steamed milk. For an extra bit of sophistication, some folks like to add lavender. A good London Fog should be sweet (but not too sweet), well-flavored by the Earl Grey, and should warm you up from the inside. It's like a hug in a mug!
The following are my reviews of the London Fogs at various coffee shops and cafes in St. Andrews, in the order I tried them. This is not a comprehensive list, but most of the local shops are represented. I also threw in one chain coffee shop for comparison and to have at least one London Fog that folks in the US can try. Buckle up for some groundbreaking investigative journalism: my unfiltered opinions on tea.
1) Zest Cafe
This was my first London Fog in St. Andrews, and it got me hooked on the cozy beverage. Zest's London Fog is balanced, perfectly warm, just sweet enough, and has a nice strong bergamot note in the Earl Grey. If nostalgia is clouding my objectivity as a critic, is that really such a bad thing? Zest's London Fog tastes like nostalgia--the good kind when you're sitting inside on a rainy day looking at photo albums, not the bad kind when you can't sleep because you keep thinking of embarrassing things you did in middle school. 5 stars.
2) Gorgeous Cafe
A perfectly lovely, middle of the road London Fog. It wasn't bad; it didn't knock my socks off. My one critique is that it was served a touch too hot to drink right away, but the upside is that it stayed warm for longer than some other London Fogs I've tried. Oh, and it was served in the best takeaway cup on the list: hot pink, textured to prevent slippage, and wonderfully sturdy.
On the other hand, the sultana scone I bought with this London Fog was disappointing. Just a big, tough, dry, floury puck. With raisins. Adding some butter helped a bit. Anyways, I'm not rating the scones of St. Andrews, I'm rating the London Fogs of St. Andrews, and I give this London Fog 3 stars.
This is a stock photo. It does not represent any actual London Fog on this list.
I wanted so badly to like this London Fog. When I walk past Mitchell on Market Street, everything in the window looks so delicious, and the shop itself is so nicely decorated that you would think everything inside must be wonderful. But alas, looks can be deceiving. This London Fog was weak and watery, and the teabag had been removed, so there was no chance of the Earl Grey flavor getting any stronger. The milk was also frothed too much for my taste; my first sip was all hot foam with the suggestion of Earl Grey. It was like a hot Earl Gray-flavored la Croix, but with milk foam instead of carbonation.
The only bright spot in the whole experience was being tempted by a yummy-looking Victoria sponge at the counter. I might go back for one of those. On the whole, however, my disappointment is immeasurable and my day is ruined. One star.
Yep, another stock photo! It's probably tea. Probably not Earl Grey.
4) Rector's Cafe
After my disappointing experience at Mitchell, I was wary of the London Fog at Rector's Cafe, especially because Rector's is one of the campus coffee shops, and campus dining generally does not have a reputation for quality. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this delightful London Fog.
Some friends had warned me that the drinks at Rector's were too sweet, but this London Fog was perfect for my sweet tooth, which is about the size of Rhode Island. Furthermore, the sweetness was not just a plain sugary sweetness, but had a somewhat nutty caramel or marshmallow flavor. This complemented the flavor of the Earl Grey nicely, which was good and strong without being overpowering or bitter. Unfortunately, I have to take off some points because it got cold really fast. I won't take off too much, though, since I can't expect Rector's Cafe to change the laws of thermodynamics to make my tea stay warm.
When I had pretend tea parties as a child, this London Fog is what I imagined myself drinking. I give it 4 and-a-half stars.
5) The Cottage Kitchen
Ugh. This London Fog frustrated me the same way as the London Fog from Mitchell. Cottage Kitchen is the cutest little cafe you've ever seen, with a charming outdoor patio, tempting scones and other desserts on the front counter, and colorful mugs and teapots for customers who dine in. All this cuteness does come with a price--quite literally: my total for a London Fog and a scone was about 10 US dollars. The steep price tag would have been worth it for an excellent London Fog, but my drink was thoroughly average.
Cottage Kitchen's London Fog was not bad, but it wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be. The flavor of the Earl Grey was diluted with too much steamed milk. The flavor I did get was alright--the tea seemed to be brewed strongly enough and sweetened nicely--but I mainly tasted the milk. Furthermore, the milk was under-heated just a tad, so the London Fog was cold by the time I finished it.
This London Fog was better than the one from Mitchell, but not good enough for the money I spent on it. I give it 2 stars.
Ok, this one shouldn't even count because Combini doesn't serve a London Fog. I got a hot chocolate instead, and I feel the need to tell you that it was delicious. If I were rating the hot chocolates of St. Andrews, I would give it many stars. Alas, I have to give Combini's nonexistent London Fog zero stars. Because, you know, it doesn't exist.
According to my (admittedly limited) research on London Fogs, the version served at Starbucks majorly increased the drink's popularity in recent years. This claim sounds plausible, but maybe Tennessee is an outlier in the statistics, since none of you back home knew what a London Fog was until I posted about it on Facebook. Anyways, provided you live near a Starbucks franchise, this is a London Fog you can try for yourself!
And what a mediocre London Fog it is! Perhaps my expectations for this London Fog were too high, but the almighty green goddess Starbucks failed to deliver anything special. There was nothing wrong with the drink, but it was rather disappointing compared to some of the other London Fogs on this list. The experience was reminiscent of going to a trampoline park; the marketing pictures make you so excited to fork over 20 bucks and get to jumping, but the fatigue, achy knees, bratty kids, and permanent sweaty sock smell quickly dampen the mood. You don't have a bad time, but you never achieve the euphoria portrayed by the bright-eyed trampoline models from central casting. Furthermore, like a ticket to a trampoline park, the price was on the steep side, but who would expect anything else from Starbucks?
In the interest of saving my wallet and supporting small businesses, I will not be drinking any more of these London Fogs, which I give 2 stars. Try it for yourself, then maybe try to make a better version at home. After all, it is cheaper than a plane ticket to Scotland.
Wow, another stock photo. Why have they finished the tea/coffee/hot chocolate but not the granola bar/cookie? I have so many questions.
I had high hopes for the London Fog at Taste, which has a reputation for being one of the best coffee shops in St. Andrews. My first sip left me feeling disappointed, but let this be a lesson that first impressions can be deceiving and perseverance is a noble virtue. By the time I finished this London Fog, it had risen to the top of my list of favorites. Perhaps this is due to the quality of the tea: Taste sources its Earl Grey from Twinings of London, not some cheapskate knockoff brand for plebians. A balanced brew and sweetness made this London Fog thoroughly delightful. My only critique is that it could have been mixed a little better, that way I might have gotten a tastier first sip. I give this London Fog 5 stars, down to its last drop.
9) Old Union Cafe
Old Union Cafe is another campus coffee shop, so I was expecting a London Fog similar to the one from Rector's Cafe. My expectations were met, sort of; I can think of no better way to describe this London Fog than Rector's Cafe's London Fog's evil twin. It has many of the same qualities as the London Fog from Rector's: the strong brew, the caramelly sweetness, et cetera. For some reason, I couldn't finish this London Fog. I tried another one again after a few days, and I still couldn't make it to the bottom of the cup. Perhaps there is some benevolent (or malevolent?) force at work preventing me from finishing this London Fog, since I can't pinpoint the quality that makes it less good than any other. I am confident, however, that I could save the USS Enterprise if I were in that episode of Star Trek where Captain Kirk gets split in two and wreaks havoc on the ship. I have that evil twin premonition.
I give this Rector's wannabe London Fog 2-and-a-half stars.
Two other chain coffee shops were not represented in this review: Costa and Pret a Manger. Other local coffee shops that do not serve London Fogs and were not represented are The Canny Soul and Con Panna. An addendum may be published if I discover another London Fog excluded from this review. Congratulations if you made it this far. :)