You could call me an Anglophile (one who admires all things English) if it weren’t for the tiny little detail that I actually am English. Though she spent her later years living in an adorable house on a quiet street in Pasadena, California, my great-grandmother was born in a suburb of Liverpool. She had the most wonderful British accent (much more aristocratic than Liverpudlian) and, to be perfectly honest, when I was very small I thought she could have been the Queen of England. She wore a string of pearls, she never let us put our elbows on the table, and she would say things like, “He was quite cracker at it.” Because of her I fell in love with England before I even knew that was where I came from.
And that’s the preamble to my recent obsession with finding British grocery stores. I hadn’t been able to find one locally (although World Market’s not too shabby in the international foods department) so I took the opportunity to hunt one out on a recent trip to Southern California. Well I had no trouble finding one in Los Angeles – the trouble was in choosing one. I eventually settled on The British Grocer in Fullerton and really couldn’t have been more charmed by it.
My mom and I are tea fans. If tea had jerseys, we would wear them. If tea put on concerts, we would be in the front row. In the last decade I have developed an insatiable desire to experience every Afternoon Tea I can find (I’m coming for you, Steakhouse 55!) and my mom is always on board. So of course we were excited to see what kind of authentic English teas they had. But that was about the only expectation we had going in.
When we found the building, we made our way across a quiet, greenery-filled courtyard and spotted the hanging sign marking our destination. I got that little tingle of anticipation as we stepped through the door. The foods of my people!
The interior walls of The British Grocer were exposed brick, painted white, and the windows were tall and arched. It was bright and welcoming and packed with every goodie imaginable. Although I had been most interested in tea and maybe some jam, the candy counter stood in front of everything else calling out, “Look at me first!” So we did.
Can I just say how much I love the names of British chocolates and candies? I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat a Crunchie, a Curly Wurly, a Flake, or a Wispa? How about a Lion, a Munchie, a Yorkie, a Jelly Tot, a Jammie Dodger, or a Random? What even is a Random?! It’s delicious, that’s what. I picked out a giant, cookie dough-filled Kit Kat and every Cadbury product I could get my hands on. Then I somehow tore myself away and marveled at the goods on the rest of the shelves. Colman’s Mustard, Chivers Lemon Curd, Walkers Shortbread, McVitie’s Hobnobs, Jacob’s Digestives, Heinz Baked Beans, Wilkin & Sons Tiptree Marmalade, Tayto Prawn Cocktail Crisps, Marmite, canned haggis (!). Seriously, I could go on. I can’t tell you how many times my mom and I said to each other, “Look at these!” and “What is this?!” And we hadn’t even made it a quarter of the way into the shop!
As we browsed the tea cups, tea pots, tea towel, Union Jack mugs, and cold cases of cottage pies and scones, we chatted with the woman behind the counter (whose name escapes me but is written on a page of notes I can’t find!) and almost forgot all about the Twining’s Earl Gray, Darvilles Darjeeling, Barry’s Irish Breakfast teas waiting for us. Almost.
We left with a basket full of treats (plus a Union Jack pin for good measure), went back out to the car, and ate a few nibbles before driving off to have a healthy lunch. Haha just kidding! We dug into our bags and ate everything but the loose leaf tea.
If you want to eat everything at The British Grocer too, you can find them at 305 N. Harbor Blvd., Suite 124 in Fullerton, CA. Call (714) 738-0229 for hours or visit www.thebritishgrocer.com
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