We visited kooky Derbyshire cafe and shop for a cuppa and cake: “It’s tea lover’s heaven”

“I’m quite bossy. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I do get on my own nerves sometimes. It’s alright I suppose, because I agree with myself on most things.”
Gail Hannan at Cup and Saucer, Clay CrossGail Hannan at Cup and Saucer, Clay Cross
Gail Hannan at Cup and Saucer, Clay Cross

The laughter of Gail Hannan as she says this joins the clink of cups against saucers and the chatter of her customers, adding “I’m usually right about everything”. And looking around her cosy, kooky, stylish upcycled cafe shop decor, it would be hard to disagree.

In short, Gail’s Cup and Saucer shop on the Clay Cross High Street most definitely feels ‘right’.

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“I had a vision how I wanted it to be. Also, a very tight budget. I hate spending money unnecessarily. I just think there’s too much stuff goes to landfill that could be reused. Everything has cost me less than £200. The only things I bought new are paint, two rolls of wallpaper… Everything else is upcycled.”

Tea and cake at Cup and Saucer, Clay CrossTea and cake at Cup and Saucer, Clay Cross
Tea and cake at Cup and Saucer, Clay Cross

When asked about the eye-catching counter, Gail smiles.

“I’d got twelve of the old tea crates. Which I used to use as display stands. I had a vision for a counter, drew it, showed my husband. He moaned a little bit, then was like ‘Okay, I’ll see what I can do’.”

The next part of the conversation reveals the input of local businesses, donating unused timber and furniture, Gail and her husband applying their ethos of reuse. Here in Cup and Saucer, is clear evidence of what happens when community comes together, the local indie businesses offering support, not competition.

“We all try and work together, and not compete with each other. And if you are doing something the same we try and make it a little different. Try and help each other. It’s like the cake-makers…”

Tea at Cup and Saucer, Clay CrossTea at Cup and Saucer, Clay Cross
Tea at Cup and Saucer, Clay Cross
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Gail explains all her cakes are made locally, and the next slice of the story says it all.

“Two of the cake-makers were sat here having a cuppa and a bit of cake together last week, saying ‘I can’t make my carrot cake like you can’… ‘Oh, well I’ll tell you what my secret is’. It’s things like that. It’s so nice.”

Speaking of nice, what is it about a cup of tea and a slice of cake?

“Well, it’s a moment to just sit and enjoy something. I get that when you’re at work, the teabag thing… you just want a drink. Quick, instant, but you’re not actually enjoying it, you’re just having a drink.”

Gail at the counter in Cup and Saucer, Clay CrossGail at the counter in Cup and Saucer, Clay Cross
Gail at the counter in Cup and Saucer, Clay Cross
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“Whereas, how much nicer it is having it out of a teapot, a china cup… It’s like a little ceremony. You get your little saucer, you wait for your tea to infuse. You pour it in your cup, you’re adding your milk… Then you’ve got your cake. Yeah, it’s an enjoyment thing, and taking time to do it.”

Gail’s hands-on ethos goes even further. Cup and Saucer isn’t just a cafe shop, it’s also a brand of tea, with different flavours to suit different tastes, all made by Gail herself. And all this began several years ago from afternoon tea trips with her two daughters.

“We’d always find a little tea shop where you can buy proper loose tea, have a smell at it, and we’d bring different teas home. One day my daughter was reading the packet, and she was like ‘Mum, you know what, I bet we could make this ourselves’. So we were like ‘Yeah… we’ll make our own tea’.”

“So we looked what was in this pack of tea, and it was tea and certain herbs, so we tried to make it. We thought it was just a case of chuck some in a bowl, mix it up and infuse it… We tried it, and it was awful.”

Inside Cup and Saucer, Clay CrossInside Cup and Saucer, Clay Cross
Inside Cup and Saucer, Clay Cross
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Gail’s laughter is as bold as builder’s tea as she tells this, adding “Then we realised… like a recipe, it’s about getting the quantities right. So then we started playing around with a few things. ‘Ooh, we’ve got a bit of lavender in the garden… we’ve got some mint in the garden’, and we just started making our own things, just for us to drink at home.”

From this happenstance moment, Gail has developed a clear knowingness over the years of what makes a good cuppa. She talks of her steps from market stall to her shop of now, an admirable story of can do. And certainly, it brings a different flavour to her somewhat harsh self-analysis of ‘bossy perfectionist’.

“My dream was one day I’d love to have my own little tea shop, and people can come in and they can smell the teas, and they can taste the teas. And I’m going to sell everything in it to do with tea.”

Gail also runs the Clay Cross Totally Locally group, and her shop is stocked with local products by local makers. The idea of community is obvious, an echo seen with the people that walk in during our conversation. Everyone chats over tea, between tables and each other, a feeling of inclusive as warm as the teapot between them.

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And, teapot in hand, a lady from a table near the window declares Gail a ‘force of nature’, the lady grinning as she says this is why she calls her ‘Storm’. And does this Clay Cross ‘force of nature’ have any life wisdom to offer over tea and cake?

“There’s no point in worrying about what’s going to happen in three years time, because it might never happen. And there’s no point in fretting about what happened three years ago, because it’s in the past. So just live for today and try and enjoy it.”

Wise words. And her shop? “It’s tea lover’s heaven” she says, smiling, very probably right again.