Where: Thomastown, County Kilkenny, Ireland Style: Georgian Manor Tea Selection: 8 organic loose-leaf teas Teatimes: Daily 1-5 Reservations: Pre-paid reservations required Contact: +353 56 777 3000 Cost: €30 Afternoon Tea; €15 Children’s Afternoon Tea Destination Tea Tip: Leave time for a stroll in the gardens, which you’ll pass on your way to the Manor House where tea is served, at the rear of the property.
Destination Tea Notes: Surpassing the afternoon tea experience typically found at an upscale hotel, with such hallmarks as a luxurious setting, perfectly executed housemade culinary delights and excellent service, Mount Juliet Estate also offers a moderately priced afternoon tea that calls on locally sourced ingredients (a practice we found throughout Ireland). We felt properly indulged and in these 18th century rooms, are as ladies of a passed era, taking our tea in the library.
Upon our request to know more about this beautiful manor, a pamphlet is provided, titled, “A Great Heritage & A Love Story.” We learn that during Ireland’s Civil War, when many “big houses” were burned, Mount Juliet was spared because the surrounding community respected and protected the owners, who had been fair employers and community benefactors. This inspires the girls to share some of their history lessons as we await our tea. And when the afternoon tea trays arrive, the expression on my niece’s face speaks for all of us (see it in Destination Tea’s Instagram feed).
Where: Dublin, Ireland Style: 1960s Retro Tea Selection: Variety of bagged teas, coffee, hot chocolate Teatimes: Wednesday to Sunday – 11, 1:15 or 3:30 Reservations: Pre-paid reservations required Contact: +353 1 6773541 or book online Cost: €50 VIP Top Deck; €45 Adult; €25 Child (ages 6 to 14) Destination Tea Tips: Choose upper deck or window seats for the best views. While tipping in Ireland is not expected, you might bring some cash (Euros) to thank your servers/tour guides/driver.
Destination Tea Notes: Inspired by afternoon tea bus tours in England, Vintage Tea Tours has brought this great concept to Dublin, Ireland. Especially for newcomers to the city (not yet accustomed to driving on the left), this would be an excellent activity for your first day, because it’s a festive and relaxing way to familiarize yourself with Dublin and its main sights. Adults and children alike are enthralled upon entering the 1960’s double-decker bus, smiling at the pretty bunting over our heads as we slip into our green tufted leather seats. Tea trays are at the ready, 1950’s jazz begins to play, our drink orders are taken, and we are on our way. How does one serve afternoon tea while rambling through this bustling city? You’ll soon see!
The last time I had this feeling was right after my first baby was born. A friend of mine, who herself had two babies, brought me dinner, to save me the trouble of cooking during those sleepless weeks. First I was moved by the thoughtfulness of this kind act, and then it hit me: is this something one does for new moms? Oh dear, I certainly hadn’t brought this friend dinner after she gave birth. And just like that, my friend taught me a lesson in grace.
Well, guess what? It happened again, this time at the tea table, in Woodstock’s Tea Leaves & Thyme, where I joined the ladies of the Southern Tea Time Getaway on Day 2 of their 10-day tea tour of the Southeast. This group of women from Michigan, Ohio and Georgia taught me several lessons in grace and left such an impression on me that I want to share with you what I learned.
Lesson One: Tea Sisters Are Real.
I met a group of vivacious, laughing, intelligent and thoughtful women who happily roadtripped together for ten days, bedecked in tea hats and lovely dresses. When I write about the beauty of the custom of afternoon tea, I only imagine that such a society exists. No longer! Here they were, a blend of old friends and new, some family, all connected in different ways, happily taking tea together. As is her tradition, Linda Pudlik set the tone by opening the tea with an inspirational reading that began, “You are now in the circle of wise women…” and trip organizer Phyllis Barkey led a prayer to bless the meal. I especially enjoyed meeting my fellow Georgians from the online afternoon tea world, Facebook friend Joy Breedlove and Angela McCrae whose blog “Tea with Friends” I have been following for years. Our conversation was so rich and interesting that we rightly didn’t want the meal to end.
Lesson Two: We Unify Around the Tea Table.
I marveled at Phyllis Barkey, the grand organizer of this amazing destination tea adventure, eternally smiling and enjoying herself. Having myself planned several family reunion trips, I know that the planner can become very stressed, in my case, wanting to make sure everyone is having a good time and getting along. To the contrary, while the women gathered surely had differing views on politics, religion and the like, it had no bearing on their ability to enjoy each other around the tea table. I felt a spirit of friendliness in these women who were eager to listen to and support one another, intent on finding commonality and cheerful connection.
Lesson Three: When Tea Sisters Travel Together, Bring Remembrance Favors for All.
As you read through Phyllis’ account of the trip on her blog, Relevant Tea Leaf, you’ll see that these women are incredibly creative and generous, assembling gift bags, afternoon tea-to-go, hotel tea parties with favors, tearoom journals and more to celebrate and commemorate their time together. Surprising the three of us Georgians who had met up with their group for the afternoon, the Ohio ladies gave us Ohio tea towels and mints, and the Michigan gals bought us matching teacups from the gift shop. This was my first time experiencing gift-giving at tea, and I lamented that I hadn’t brought enough of my token favor. (Destination Tea Tip: make sure that you know how many people you’ll be meeting, and bring more favors than you think you’ll need).