The Third Leader: Tea time

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Ah, yes, the murmur of polite conversation, the gentle clink of bone china on bone china, the discreet dab of the napkin, the merest hint of a crunch of scone, mercifully mostly drowned by the strings of the palm court ensemble giving "Indian Love Call" its all: just another afternoon here in the Third Leader Department.

I'm delighted, too - after overcoming an obvious initial disappointment - to see that the rather more utilitarian enterprise operated by Claridge's in its Foyer and Reading Room from £28.50 a head has been named by the Tea Guild as the best place in London to enjoy afternoon tea.

This is because the essential reinvigorating nature of a brief respite from work cannot be stressed enough, and is, indeed, strongly championed by many, including our friends in Brussels. Those testifying to the inspiring power of pm tea include scientists of the calibre of Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman, although Feynman scandalised Princeton by taking both lemon and milk.

Of course, you need not attempt to emulate Claridge's, or even here: the break is the thing, the opportunity for fresh thought; it was on a warehouse tea break that I first heard the interesting theory that the weather hadn't been the same since all those satellites and rockets had been launched. And about Einstein, too, as it happens.

I note also that a campaign is being launched to save the traditional British café. The nation's duty is clear: get out there and take afternoon tea. I shall join once I can find somewhere that also offers, as did the Rothschilds at Waddesdon, a choice of milk between Jersey, Hereford or Shorthorn.

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