For the latest in our miniseries about the great people driving the UK’s local food revolution, we spoke to Mark and Mary of Tea with Alice in Darlington, a hip, family-friendly cafe just near the A1.

What can people expect at Tea with Alice?

Ahoy there and welcome to Tea with Alice! We’re a little bit different, we’re a little quirky and we are a L O T of fun. Serving tremendous tea, cracking coffee and fabulous food we are based in the village centre of the West Park development in Darlington. A neighbourhood café that will welcome you with open arms and fill your bellies with deliciousness. We are a small independent serving a great selection of loose tea, great coffee and amazing breakfast, brunch and lunch, as well as a great selection of cakes. Call in for a quick brew or stay a while and get to know us.

Who are the people behind Tea with Alice? 

We’re Mark & Mary, owners, and we do everything from pot washing to accounts.

Alice (our namesake and daughter) is the Big Boss!

Chef Paul is a genius. We are so lucky to have such an inspired, creative chef. Paul makes almost everything in the TWA kitchen from scratch from sauces right through to fresh bread and cakes daily.

The rest of the team is small but mighty! Lyndsey, Meg, Beccy, Hannah, Rachael & Michele are all here to make sure you have the best visit ever, every visit.

How did you start the business?

After a lot of blood, sweat, tears and business planning we acquired a start-up loan from Virgin and put all of our time effort and dedication into making the space great.

Why did you start it?

In June 2015 Alice, our daughter arrived and made us think about becoming self employed again to allow us to spend more time with her alongside doing something that we love. The space at West Park was just what we were looking for. We wanted the café to incorporate who we are as a family, creating a cool and unique space full of things we love. We sourced furniture from up and down the country, found local suppliers, got Bobzilla on board to fill our shop with colour, bought a lot of tiny teapots, recruited an amazing team and in September 2017 took the brown paper down from the windows and let the world in.

What were you doing before?

Before we went back to being self-employed Mark was working as an Operations Manager for a brewery and Mary was working as an Administrator for a charity working with adults with learning disabilities.

Where does your food come from?

Our tea is from Brew Tea Co. in Manchester, coffee by Illy Café. All the milk, dairy and eggs we use at TWA are from Acorn Organic Dairy at Archdeacon Newton. Mulholland’s of Darlington supply all of our meat. Simon Raine and his Weardale Cheese company supply the cheese. It’s local, it’s artisan and it’s fantastic. The happiest cheesemonger you’ll ever meet!

What’s your food philosophy?

Our food is cooked fresh to order from local ingredients because you get out what you put in. We love what we serve otherwise we wouldn’t sell it! Paul is passionate about every dish he sends from our kitchen and we hope this shows.

What’s your favourite snack for car journeys?

We love a good car picnic! Good crisps, Paul’s bloomer, scotch eggs and a Fritz Kola to wash it down – bliss.

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