Tea Time Tunes

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tea for Two

Ahhh, Saturday mornings. As Norah Jones so aptly put it, "The sun just slipped its glow below my door, and I can't hide beneath my sheets." The weather is a sunny fourty degrees, but the weather man says it feels like thirty, and I would be inclined to agree with him. This morning desperately calls for a steaming bowl of cheese grits and a sweet cup of Peach and Ginger Tea from the Olde English Tea Room & Gift Shoppe in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
This past September, as a surprise during my visit, my best friend took me for tea at the Olde English Tea Room after a fun morning of exploring the quaint downtown area of Wake Forest. There is nothing like a hearty afternoon tea after a morning of strenuous window shopping.
I am currently working on a counted cross stitch that reads, "While the pot boils...friendship blossoms." How true is this statement? Tea for one is a good thing, but tea for two is even better, especially when you are with a friend you haven't seen for some time. My friend and I have know each other a little over ten years now. We have gone from being roommates to living in different countries, and now just different states. Of course, we talk on the telephone and email each other, but nothing beats sitting across the table from one another and talking face-to-face. Not to mention that comfort, a relaxed atmosphere, a full belly and beautiful surroundings also do wonders for conversation.
The room in which we were seated was decorated in a Victorian style with dark woods and a dark green wall paper. It had a semi-private feel, and there were windows that flanked the doorway that allowed a view into the adjacent room. A classic afternoon tea is offered daily, along with lunch and dessert options as well, and there are a variety of special occasion teas that are available with reservations, and when party size requirements are met. If you are looking for a bit of a fancy affair, hats, gloves, and strings of beads are available on-site and are at your disposal. The gift shop carries a small collection of china pieces, and if you enjoyed the tea you were served in the dining room, you can pick up some to take home with you, as I did with my Peach and Ginger tea.
Now, I don't feel that I can fairly review this tea room for a few reasons. For one, I have only visited once, and at the time of my visit, my attention was not focused on my perception of the tea room itself. Also, since my visit was in September, I have forgotten details pertinent in writing a review. And finally, whatever my opinion of this tea room, it only improves based on the fact that I was there catching up with an old friend. Can any of you relate?
All in all, I can say that I would go back for another visit. If you feel the same, here's their info:

Olde English Tea Room & Gift Shoppe
219 South White Street
Wake Forest, NC

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Earl Grey. Not.

As I have said before, I do not claim to be an expert on tea. With that in mind, I will try to approach my posts with the assumption that some of my readers may not be experts either. For those who are, skip over the parts you know and get to the good stuff!

Earl Grey is a black tea that is flavored with oil of bergamot. It was named after the second Earl Charles Grey of Britain, who, as legend has it, was given the recipe as a gift by a Chinese nobleman. It is also one of the most popular teas in the world.

Believe it, or not, I am a Star Trek: TNG fan. For all you non-fans, that's The Next Generation, not the original. And, as any good Star Trek fan knows, tea played quite a frequent featured role in that series as the preferred beverage of Captain Picard, who always ordered it hot. I can't even look at a box of Earl Grey tea without his famous line running across my brain: "Earl Grey. Hot." The good Captain's passion for this tea was the primary reason for my desire to give it a try.
And so I did.
Tea has had an influence on many things throughout history. Remember the Boston Tea Party? So, is it possible that tea could also have an influence on the way you view one of your favorite television programs? In the beginning, when I would see the Captain order his Earl Grey, it gave me the impression of strength, comfort, and a certain unattainable level of class.
Now, all I think is, "How can he drink that?!"
I confess, I hate Earl Grey. No offense to the man himself, but his tea leaves a lot to be desired. I know, I am in the minority, and am probably committing tea community suicide with that statement, but I have to get it off of my chest.
I thought I saw a ray of hope when Starbucks introduced their Tea Lattes. The nice man at the window explained the "London Fog Latte" to me, and raved about it, saying he now even drank it in place of his morning coffee. Earl Grey tea with milk and vanilla syrup. That's about as far away form being a tea purist as one can get, but I thought I'd give old Earl a second chance. Strike two.
I don't think I'll be offering another chance for that third strike. From now on, when I hear that familiar line in my head, I'll have to reply, "Earl Grey. Not."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How many cups is enough?

The time has come to take care of a few "housekeeping" items. Since this blog is still in the development stage, updates and changes are happening at a fairly rapid pace. Over time, hopefully I'll find a design and layout that I'm comfortable with, and the majority of changes will then come in the form of new posts.
To start with, please take note of the "Tea Time Tunes" that now resides at the top of the page. I love music and believe that there is a song for every moment in life. These are just a few that I think go very well with a relaxing cup of tea, so enjoy a listen!
Also notice, over in the left-hand column, that you now have the option to subscribe to the blog and receive a notification every time its updated.
I'd also like to take some time for a little clarification of the tea room review scoring system. Each tea room is scored 1-5 "cups" (points) individually on food, service, cleanliness, tea selection, tea quality, atmosphere, staff knowledge, and the variety of tea services available (IE: cream tea, dessert tea, afternoon tea, royal tea, or high tea). The scores from each category are then added together and averaged, resulting in the overall "cup" rating. So, a tea room that scores four or five cups overall is worth another visit by me.
How many cups is enough for you?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Rose Garden Tea Room - Newberry, S.C.

I thought it only fitting to open with a review of the tea room from my hometown.

The Rose Garden Tea Room
1104 Caldwell Street
Newberry, SC 29108

As you enter through the old wooden doors of The Lamplighter Gallery and Rose Garden Tea Room, you are immediately greeted with the faint sounds of piano music and a sense of peace and tranquility. This is the only tea room in the city of Newberry, and is situated just off of Main Street in the historic part of town. It is owned and operated by Donny and Beverley Ringer, a couple who embody southern hospitality.
The Rose Garden Tea Room is located in the back of the building, and you have to travel through The Lamplighter Gallery store to get there. This is not a bother, however, since I love to linger among the beautiful linens, tea accessories, stationary, and other wares they have to offer. Upon reaching the tea room, you take your seat and hear about the specials of the day. The tables are elegantly and simply set, with each tea cup individual in its pattern. The cups, plates, and silverware are set upon a glass tabletop which protects the lovely white linen and lace table cloths. As you look over the menu, you quickly note the extensive selection of teas.
Now, if you have come to the Rose Garden to have a traditional tea, I am afraid that you will be disappointed. Their food offerings fall into the lunch category of soups, salads, and sandwiches, and your meal can be made up of varying combinations of the three - with or without dessert. A personal pot of loose leaf tea comes with each meal, and honey and raw sugar are both available.
Every time I have dined at the Rose Garden, the food has been absolutely wonderful, and the tea just as delightful. I particularly like their chicken salad and date-walnut pie. The service is warm and friendly, and the atmosphere so calm and serene, it makes you want to stay all day. Every tea on their menu is also available for purchase, as well as many different varieties of bagged and pre-made teas.
The Lamplighter Gallery and Rose Garden Tea Room is one of my favorite places to visit in Newberry. Unfortunately, the last time I visited, I was told that they were changing their Tea Room hours to Saturdays only, and only with the reservation of a group of 12 or more. Pity. Everyone I knew that visited there once always went back again.

I give this tea room:

Monday, February 23, 2009

The First Cup

To begin, please know that I do not claim to be an expert on tea.

Tea has always been a part of my life. Growing up in the deep south, sweet iced tea is unavoidable. It is a staple at every function at which food is served. Up until my teenage years, this was the only tea I had ever tried. In an effort to branch out, and much to the amusement of my family, I ordered hot tea at a restaurant one Sunday at lunch. I also asked the waitress to bring the accompanying lemon and milk and proceeded to add both to the wonderfully fragrant cup that steamed before me. Puzzled by what occurred in my cup, I quickly asked the waitress to bring me another, assuming that the milk had gone bad. Unfortunately, this second cup yielded the same result when the lemon and milk were both added, so I set the cup to the side and kept to my water for the rest of the meal. Of course, I have since learned that tea may take lemon or milk, but never both.

Again, I do not claim to be an expert on tea.

The notion of a tea party never appealed to me as a child. This was something that grew over time, with the aid of volumes of classical literature depicting women in their parlors taking tea with friends. It seemed to be such a relaxing ritual; a time to refresh, retreat to a simpler time, connect with friends or oneself, or enjoy the beauty that comes from one's surroundings, be it in the great outdoors or around an elegantly set table. My grandmother also inspired me with her knack for being a great hostess and ability to design and create beautiful events, from parties and showers, to simple family dinners. My father called this "putting on the dog." He has accused me of such a thing now and then, but it is an accusation I gladly claim to be true.
I visited my first tea room my sophomore year in college. It was a wonderful experience, and one that would have to be repeated again in many different locations all across the country. Now, any time I visit a new city, one of the first things I look for is a new tea room to explore. At the urging of my best friend, I have decided to put my thoughts - good and bad - together in a collection of reviews here in this blog. I also hope to have some good tea stories to share as well.
I hope you'll find the reviews helpful and the stories entertaining. Thanks for reading.