Sunday, August 14, 2016

In honor of Afternoon Tea Week in England: Our top five tea favorite tea rooms in London


Gorgeous and scrumptious pastries are part of Claridge's afternoon tea

According to the Mirror, my special Denver tea lady, Penelope C, and my husband's "share" of Harrods' Facebook status,  it's "Afternoon Tea Week" in England.

Although this is the last day of Afternoon Tea Week in the UK, it doesn't mean  the celebration must end. Quite the contrary, whether at the London Ritz or in the northern woods of Michigan, getting together for tea with friends and family is always a special occasion.

However, with all the recent notifications of this delightful week, the end of Afternoon Tea Week coincided with yet another media alert - my Facebook "On This Day".  It popped up this morning with pictures of my trip to London in 2011 with my daughter, Rachel. Of course, it included our trip to The Orangery, a lovely tea room on the grounds of Kensington Palace.

I needed no further prompting. In honor of Afternoon Tea Week, it is time to list BTS' favorite tea rooms in London.

1. The London Ritz

Delicious tea far, fine music and wonderful pomp and circumstance
It doesn't get much better than this. This was the first tea room I visited in London (over ten years ago) and it still ranks as my all around number one. To me, it is the quintessential afternoon tea venue with all the right pomp and circumstance.

Formally attired waiters parade around tables with silver tea pots on trays as a string quartet plays soothing tunes in the background. Everyone is at this luxurious venue for a jolly good time, guests and staff alike.  Back before the days of Instagram and selfies, I was hesitant to ask our waiter to take our picture in such a tony place. Taking a cue, however, from a little less self-conscious group at a neighboring table who held up their camera, I summoned a request for a photo op and was granted one from our warm and courteous server.

If you are looking for great food, fancy decor and elegant ambiance with a nod to a bit of fun and theater, the London Ritz has it all.

2.  The Orangery at Kensington Palace


Dessert table, filled with tasty treats, is at the center of The Orangery tea room
Located on the grounds of Kensington Palace, former home of Princess Di and now the residence of Prince William and Kate, this gorgeous tea room is sleek, modern and bright. Rachel and I came here in 2011 when she spent a summer in London for a study abroad program.

The tea fare is delicious and there is an emphasis on rich, indulgent desserts - which, in my opinion, is a good place to focus. It's also the first tea venue where we sampled tea from Tregothnan, England's only tea plantation. Like the tea fare, it was very good, indeed!

Rachel  outside the gardens of Kensington Palace, the Orangery is left of the palace.


3. Brown's Hotel


Browns Hotel is all luxury and refinement
Luxury and refinement define this lovely tea room. Dark paneled walls, heavily upholstered seats and impeccable tablescapes exude a hushed sophistication that draws from its history of serving high society for decades. In the Gilded Age, the Browns Hotel, along with Claridge's, were the places to stay for wealthy American mothers scouting Lords for their daughters. I came here with Rachel the summer of her study abroad, but I assured her, it was only for afternoon tea.

Sophisticated ambiance and a dessert cart!

Another great feature of this hotel's afternoon tea is the dessert cart. Brown's Hotel serves a full afternoon tea, which consists not only of scones, savories and tiny pastries, but also your choice of a slice of cake or torte which comes to the table via a pastry cart.

4. Claridge's Hotel


Soaking in the rich history of the hotel with Matt, Rachel and Chris
Claridge's Hotel houses another tea room that is of the same ilk as Brown's:  beautiful, elegant and rich with history - and  also with a history of the rich. The tea fare presentation was exquisite, almost too pretty to eat (although we managed quite well).  Service is first class and, although the venue's vibe is a bit busier than Brown's, it's still a tea room that delivers an experience worthy of any Lord or Lady.

We visited Claridge's last September and were charmed by staff, decor and the tea room's distinctive mint green and white striped china.

5. The Wolseley

Enjoying a cream tea at The Wolseley after social media notification
Through the magic of social media, we were directed to The Wolseley last September after I posted pictures of our visit to Buckingham Palace on Facebook. My great Denver tea lady friend, Penelope C, made a comment to that post that we should go to The Wolseley.  We checked our map ap, and we weren't too terribly far. Although it was a bit impromptu for a full afternoon tea, we stopped in for a cream tea and were not disappointed.


Scones and tea were devine

The decor is a mix of modern and classic with black walls, crystal chandeliers and dark marble table tops. Silver tea services are brought to the table with gleaming white china plates and cups. Our scones were divine as were the colorful macarons.

Pretty and delicious macarons came with tea

I loved every tea room I visited in England and I enjoy afternoon tea no matter where I'm at. Afternoon Tea Week serves as a reminder:  tea time is always a memorable occasion whether at the Ritz or in the middle of woods in northern Michigan. It's all about time together with family, friends and lots of good tea!

Celebrating Afternoon Tea Week in the woods of Michigan 



In honor of Afternoon Tea Week in England: Our top five tea favorite tea rooms in London


Gorgeous and scrumptious pastries are part of Claridge's afternoon tea

According to the Mirror, my special Denver tea lady, Penelope C, and my husband's "share" of Harrod's facebook status,  it's "Afternoon Tea Week" in England.

Although this is the last day of Afternoon Tea Week in the UK, it doesn't mean  the celebration must end. Quite the contrary, whether at the London Ritz or in the northern woods of Michigan, getting together for tea with friends and family is always a special occasion.

However, with all the recent notifications of this delightful week, the end of Afternoon Tea Week coincided with yet another media alert - my facebook "On This Day".  It popped up this morning with pictures of my trip to London in 2011 with my daughter, Rachel. Of course, it included our trip to The Orangery, a lovely tea room on the grounds of Kensington Palace.

I needed no further prompting. In honor of Afternoon Tea Week, it is time to list BTS' favorite tea rooms in London.

1. The London Ritz

Delicious tea far, fine music and wonderful pomp and circumstance
It doesn't get much better than this. This was the first tea room I visited in London (over ten years ago) and it still ranks as my all around number one. To me, it is the quintessential afternoon tea venue with all the right pomp and circumstance.

Formally attired waiters parade around tables with silver tea pots on trays as a string quartet plays soothing tunes in the background. Everyone is at this luxurious venue for a jolly good time, guests and staff alike.  Back before the days of Instagram and selfies, I was hesitant to ask our waiter to take our picture in such a tony place. Taking a cue, however, from a little less self-conscious group at a neighboring table who held up their camera, I summoned a request for a photo op and was granted one from our warm and courteous server.

If you are looking for great food, fancy decor and elegant ambiance with a nod to a bit of fun and theater, the London Ritz has it all.

2.  The Orangery at Kensington Palace


Dessert table, filled with tasty treats, is at the center of The Orangery tea room
Located on the grounds of Kensington Palace, former home of Princess Di and now the residence of Prince William and Kate, this gorgeous tea room is sleek, modern and bright. Rachel and I came here in 2011 when she spent a summer in London for a study abroad program.

The tea fare is delicious and there is an emphasis on rich, indulgent desserts - which, in my opinion, is a good place to focus. It's also the first tea venue where we sampled tea from Tregothnan, England's only tea plantation. Like the tea fare, it was very good, indeed!

Rachel  outside the gardens of Kensington Palace, the Oragery is left of the palace.


3. Brown's Hotel


Browns Hotel is all luxury and refinement
Luxury and refinement define this lovely tea room. Dark paneled walls, heavily upholstered seats and impeccable tablescapes exude a hushed sophistication that draws from its history of serving high society for decades. In the Gilded Age, the Browns Hotel, along with Claridge's, were the places to stay for wealthy American mothers scouting Lords for their daughters. I came here with Rachel the summer of her study abroad, but I assured her, it was only for afternoon tea.

Sophisticated ambiance and a dessert cart!

Another great feature of this hotel's afternoon tea, is the dessert cart. Brown's Hotel serves a full afternoon tea, which consists not only of scones, savories and tiny pastries, but also your choice of slice of cake or torte which comes to the table via a pastry cart.

4. Claridge's Hotel


Soaking in the rich history of the hotel with Matt, Rachel and Chris
Claridge's Hotel houses another tea room that is of the same ilk as Brown's:  beautiful, elegant and rich with history - and  also with a history of the rich. The tea fare presentation was exquisite, almost too pretty to eat (although we managed quite well).  Service is first class and, although the venue's vibe is a bit busier than Brown's, it's still a tea room that delivers an experience worthy of any Lord or Lady.

We visited Claridge's last September and were charmed by staff, decor and the tea room's distinctive mint green and white striped china.

5. The Wolseley

Enjoying a cream tea at The Wolseley after social media notification
Through the magic of social media, we were directed to The Wolseley last September after I posted pictures of our visit to Buckingham Palace on facebook. My great Denver tea lady friend, Penelope C, made a comment to that post that we should go to The Wolseley.  We checked our map ap, and we weren't too terribly far. Although it was a bit impromptu for a full afternoon tea, we stopped in for a cream tea and were not disappointed.


Scones and tea were devine

The decor is a mix of modern and classic with black walls, crystal chandeliers and dark marble table tops. Silver tea services are brought to the table with gleaming white china plates and cups. Our scones were devine as were the colorful macarons.

Pretty and delicious macaraons came with tea

I loved every tea room I visited in England and I enjoy afternoon tea no matter where I'm at. Afternoon Tea Week serves as a reminder:  tea time is always a memorable occasion whether at the Ritz or in the middle of woods in northern Michigan. It's all about time together with family, friends and lots of good tea!

Celebrating Afternoon Tea Week in the woods of Michigan 



Saturday, August 13, 2016

Afternoon tea at Heavenly Scent

Heavenly Scent Herb Farm in Fenton offers afternoon teas in the garden

Delicious scones, tasty tea and sweet desserts served on pretty, vintage china in a colorful garden with a nearby waterfall and faeries all around.

If that sound like paradise, it is - more specifically, afternoon tea at Heavenly Scent Herb Farm in Fenton.

This month, my cousins, Dianne B. and Kathy F., and I had the pleasure of taking part in an outdoor tea event at Heavenly Scent. Our hostess was Kathy Matthews, who, along with husband, Steve, own and run the working farm.

Sipping our refreshing iced tea in the cool shade of the outdoor pavilion

We were served a full afternoon tea, by Kathy, and her top-notch assistants, in an outdoor pavilion that provided shade and comfort on hot August day.

Dianne enjoying her tea next to the waterfall

Because of the heat, iced tea was served which was delicious and refreshing. Tea fare included two types of scones, a mint fruit salad, a chicken salad croissant and a divine parfait dessert that had my name on it!

Delicious mint fruit salad and chicken salad croissant.

Cream and curd for scones - all divine!

Two different types of bumptious scones were served

Dessert - so good, I put my name card on it!!

The outdoor repast concluded with a fun craft activity. We were all given ribbons and beads to make a friendship bracelet.  Kathy demonstrated the "magic" that makes the ribbons lock together. It requires two people to twist the strands, hence the name of this special bracelet.

Kathy demonstrates how to make a friendship bracelet


My cousins Kathy & Dianne, sisters as well as friends,  team up to make a bracelet

After our afternoon tea, we strolled the grounds which includes a faerie garden and an outdoor reception area perfect for weddings (which they do host here!).


Sign as you enter the faerie garden

Faeries and their tiny accommodations are hidden all over


Lovely grounds filled with blooming flowers

Great site for a special event, even weddings!

There's a wonderful gift shop inside that is stocked with a full-range of miniature accessories to outfit your own faerie garden. There's also a lot of fun tea products and unique home decor items.

Do your faeries need a Ferris wheel? Heavenly Scent has you covered.

The gift shop sells a variety of items, including tea

 My cousin, Dianne, had suggested our visit this month after she had been to their holiday tea last winter.  It was an absolutely wonderful afternoon in paradise. Gardens of flowers and herbs, scrumptious food and tea, and excellent service - Heavenly Scent has it all!



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Charleston Tea Plantation: America's Tea Garden

Charleston Tea Plantation, America's only Tea Garden

You don't have to travel to India or China to experience a real tea plantation. For those of us who live in the continental US, you can actually drive to the Charleston Tea Plantaion - which is exactly what we did this past April.

Charleston Tea Plantation is located on American Classic Tea Lane

The Charleston Tea Plantation is a working tea farm that thrives in the warm and humid climate of Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina. What struck me from our first turn into the winding road entering the tea plantation (on American Classic Tea Lane!) is that this is the REAL thing. It's not a glitzy, theme-park version of a tea farm - its a genuine plantation and its beauty and allure comes from the acres of camellia sinensis which  flourishes in an environment of care and respect.


A real working tea farm, it's beautiful and educational

This plantation has its roots, quite literally, dating back to 1799, from tea plants brought from China to Charleston. Initially meant for ornamentation, the climate was so perfect for the tea plants, it spurred the development of many tea farms. The most successful was Pinehurst Tea Plantation, which ran from 1888 through 1915. When it dissolved, many of its tea plants were transported to Wadmalaw Island.

You can visit a real tea plantation without traveling too far

Almost one hundred years after the Pinehurst Tea Plantation started, William ("Bill") Barclay Hall, a third generation tea taster, launched the Charleston Tea Plantation in 1987. In 2003, Bill partnered with his friend Lori Bigelow and the Bigelow family are now owners of the  plantation.

Hedgerows of tea, ready for the next harvest (flush)

This is an absolute must-see place to visit if you are a tea enthusiast at any level. It's a chance to learn about the basics of tea (or a refresher for long-time tea lovers). You'll see how tea is grown, harvested, processed and sorted.

The four  main stops for guests at the Charleston Plantation are:

  • the factory tour,
  • the trolley tour, 
  • the delightful gift shop,
  •  and a kiss with a frog (even if you have found your Prince Charming).  

The Bigelows (now owners) provide intro to tour via TV screens

Beginning with the factory tour,  David and Eunice Bigelow greet guests on big screen TV's along the automated tour of the small, but mighty, processing facility.

Chris (aka Prince Charming) points to the Withering Bed

You'll see a withering bed, the roto-vane machine and the oxidation bed, the latter which determines whether the tea becomes black or green.

Next up Trolley Tour of the plantation.

Next up, the Trolley Tour of the farm. In a vintage trolley car, visitors are exposed to acres upon acres of tea plants. Our tour guide explained the growing cycles ("flushes") of the "two leaves and a bud", as we sampled some tea products while traveling  through the many hedgerows of camellia sinensis,

Our tour guide shows us the "two leaves and a bud".


Sampling hand lotion on the tour (made with tea!)


We stopped at the green house where we not only saw new plants being cultivated but also a quick wave from Bill Hall himself!

Bill Hall (far right corner) checks on plants in the greenhouse

Back at the gift shop, guests can sample teas as they shop the many tea and tea-related items on display. I bought lots of tea, including my absolute new favorite of the American Classic Tea brand, Governor Gray.  (It's an Earl Gray-type of tea, but not overly citrus-y and very smooth.)

Free samples of tea are provided.


Many American Classic Tea varieties to choose from.


Tea and tea-related merchandise also on sale in the delightful gift shop.

I also bought some books and hand cream.


I've found my Prince Charming, but still up for kissing this frog. Hello, Waddy!

Of course, the visit wasn't complete without a kiss with Waddy, the frog in residence since 2013. He sits on the expansive front porch, with cup in hand, ready for photo-ops and selfies.


Charleston Tea Plantation has deep roots.

The Charleston Tea Plantation is a wonderful place to visit, a chance to see a real tea plantation in the US.  Beautiful and enriching, it truly is "America's Tea Garden".