Where: East Point, GA Style: Modern Swank Tea Selection: Prepared seasonal house blends, pre-sweetened, 1 hot, 1 iced Teatimes: Friday-Sunday, 12:30-4:30 Reservations: Advance notice required, tea room open only for reserved teas Contact: Tiffany at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-324-1656 Cost:$18 Afternoon Tea Destination Tea Tips: Be sure to reserve in advance because this tea room opens for reserved teas and special events only. Also, though not required, tea hats are very much the thing at Three Southern Girls. Follow TP Productions on Facebook to learn about upcoming show dates and special tea/brunch events, like their recent Women’s Empowerment Tea (awesome).
Destination Tea Notes: Hostess Tiffany Prewitt is a picture of Southern grace and hospitality from the moment you step inside her tea room and adjoining theater. In the role of tea room hostess, Tiffany dons a lovely tea hat (sometimes of her own design), but she wears many other hats, as founder of TP Productions, writing and performing in the productions she brings to the space’s theater. Know this: when Tiffany invites her guests to indulge, she is not overpromising. Three Southern Girls’ afternoon tea repast just keeps coming, beginning with a large scone and buffet of savory and sweets, moving into a lunch selection and finishing with a dessert, all homemade. Bridal or baby showers, women’s groups and large family gatherings would be at home here, as it feels like your favorite auntie is spoiling you with all her famous recipes and making sure no one goes home hungry. Guests are offered bottomless cups of the seasonal tea, which is prepared with locally-sourced ingredients ahead of time and pre-sweetened, served alongside a palate-cleansing cucumber water.
Yes, I lay claim to a very active imagination, one of whose favorite pursuits is escaping to other worlds. Of course, it should come as no surprise that I particularly delight in shows where taking tea happens on the regular, with a varied cast of tea sets playing a starring role. I also won’t say no to a little murder mystery and period costume. Here are five shows I’ve viewed on Hulu or Netflix that fit the bill – hope you find you enjoy them!
1. “Lark Rise to Candleford” from BBC One: “Adaptation of Flora Thompson’s memoir of her Oxfordshire childhood, set in the small hamlet of Lark Rise and the wealthier neighbouring market town, Candleford, at the end of the 19th Century.”
2. “Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple” from ITV: “Agatha Christie’s crime thrillers featuring the author’s much-loved spinster sleuth Miss Jane Marple.”
3. “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” from ABC TV: “Our glamorous lady detective, The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, swans into early 1929 Melbourne, fighting injustice with her pearl-handled pistol and her dagger-sharp wit.”
4. “The Forsyte Saga” from ITV: “Epic series spanning three generations of the upwardly mobile Forsyte family at the turn of the 20th century, based on the classic novels by Nobel Prize-winning author John Galsworthy.”
5. “Lost In Austen” from ITV: “A thoroughly modern heroine threatens to ruin one of the world’s greatest literary love stories in this ingenious reinvention of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice.”
This summer, just as I was trying to understand why a place without an afternoon tea service would be called a “tea room,” I discovered my answer inside this treasure: Jan Whitaker’s Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn, A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America (copyright 2002).
I can now explain how “tea room” became a bit of a misnomer in American culture, but more importantly, get this: the independent American tea room gave women entrée into the restaurant industry, both as proprietresses and patronesses. Pretty great, right?
You see, as Ms. Whitaker explains, “The restaurant business was closely associated in many people’s minds with catering to appetites of all kinds, including sexual appetites. For a woman to enter this business at the turn of the century, even as an unescorted patron, was a risk to her reputation…Women’s exclusion from many public dining rooms in the 1900s and 1910s was undoubtedly a factor in their attraction to female-friendly tea rooms. Most women were reluctant to challenge the widespread rule in hotels and fine dining rooms that unescorted women would not be served.”
Yikes. We owe a debt of gratitude to the women who changed those social mores!
Here’s how they did it: they seized the opportunities presented by 1. high society’s love of afternoon tea, 2. the burgeoning motorist population and growing road infrastructure, and 3. the national prohibition of alcohol.
As afternoon tea was coming into fashion in the U.S. around the turn of the 19th century, independent urban tea rooms competed with the palm courts and tea salons of hotels and department stores, catering to the upper classes.
“Hotel tea rooms were managed by men for the most part, but the small independent tea rooms that began in the 1910s were usually owned, operated and fully staffed by women, often times middle-class women… Because men would not work under the command of a woman, the owners had little choice but to hire all-women staffs — quite a novelty.”
When the city-dwelling elite classes repaired to their summer homes and resorts, some city tea rooms would relocate to the country for the summer season. Likewise, rural roadside tea rooms, often located within driving distance of a big city, began springing up to cater to recreational driving parties.
“During the 1920s, at the height of the tea room craze, these little businesses were virtually synonymous with female self-expression.” Whether her tea room was a dining room set up in her own home, an outbuilding connected to a gas station, or a free-standing establishment, female proprietresses took advantage of their captive audience by using the dining area to showcase wares for sale, such as handmade items like textiles and jewelry or antique furniture and dishes.
Tea rooms became increasingly popular as they developed a reputation for simply-prepared, home-cooked fare with fresh ingredients. Then in 1920, when the temperance movement culminated in prohibition, diners looking for an alternative to the bar scene began flocking to the tea room. “Even before it was banned outright nationwide in 1920, alcohol consumption was viewed with disfavor by the teetotaling middle class who patronized tea rooms, (some of which borrowed the abbreviated T from the temperance campaign, calling themselves T-houses).”
“Contrary to what their name suggests, tea rooms didn’t necessarily revolve around tea, the beverage, nor tea, the repast…In the beginning, some tea rooms did serve only one meal, afternoon tea, which did indeed feature the beverage tea…These establishments could not make enough money on afternoon teas alone; Americans simply weren’t all that devoted to drinking tea or taking an afternoon break…Indeed, American tea rooms were in fact small restaurants, serving mainly lunch and, secondarily, dinner.”
Atlanta has two such historical tea rooms, icons of successful female entrepreneurism: one memorialized in a cookbook and one still operating today.
Frances Virginia Wikle Whitaker opened the Frances Virginia Tea Room in the late 1920s, and “by 1931, was serving 1,000 people a day…which meant 1 percent of Atlanta’s population was eating at the tea room each day!” (Thank you Angela of “Tea with Friends” for these details). The Frances Virginia remained open for nearly four decades, and is now memorialized in The Frances Virginia Tea Room Cookbook by Mildred Huff Coleman.
From Mary Mac’s Tea Room website: “Mary Mac’s Tea Room doors first opened in 1945 when Mary McKenzie decided to use her good Southern cooking to make money in the tough post-World War II days. In those days, a woman couldn’t just open up a restaurant, so many female proprietors used the more genteel Southern name of “Tea Room.”…And there were at least 16 other Tea Rooms around in-town Atlanta with Mary Mac’s being the only one of them left.”
Destination Tea salutes these first tea room proprietresses, who had the guts and ingenuity to change our world. Ms. Whitaker tells us that the August 1923 issue of Tea Room and Gift Shop deemed, “The success of a tea room is dependent not only upon the quality of the food served, but also up on the way it plays upon the imagination of its guests.”
Tomorrow when our family gathers for my cousin’s bridal shower, I hope they will love these favors I put together, of course featuring tea, this time from local tea shop ZenTea in Chamblee, GA. Whether you are hosting a tea party, a shower or another fête, these will be a hit with tea lovers and foodies alike (who can repurpose the tea strainer as an infuser for soups, stews or sauces).
I like party favors that are part consumable, part useful, part keepsake, and environmentally conscious. Well, yes, I realize that’s a tall order, but these did a fair job of filling it. These favors treat your guests to delicious teas and afterwards may provoke memories of your occasion, whenever the strainer is put to use.
MATERIALS (per favor) – 1 tea strainer, try any grocery store with a varied kitchenware section
– 4 tea sachets, or 1-2 ounces of loose leaf tea
– 1 zip-loc bag
– 1 printed tag, on plain printer paper
– 1 card stock square
– 1 6″ ribbon
– 2 tulle circles
– permanent marker
– hole puncher
STEP ONE: Prep Your Tags Choose colors that echo your theme. In this case I used the color palate of the bridesmaids’ dresses, with metallic green card stock as a backdrop. After printing the tags on regular printer paper and cutting them out, cut the card stock a bit larger than your paper tag, line the two papers up such that the card stock forms a border for your tag, then hole punch the two papers in one punch.
Cut diagonal tips on 6-inch lengths of ribbon that are narrow and pliable enough to be pushed through the split keyring near the strainer’s latch. Anything from a quarter-inch to half-inch ribbon should work.
STEP TWO: Portion Your Teas I chose to use teas in sachets to provide for guests who may be unfamiliar with loose leaf tea brewing techniques, but certainly loose leaf teas accompanied with a simple how-to brewing guide would also be perfectly paired with these strainers. To properly store the tea, it is important to seal it in an air-tight container. I used zip-loc bags, which are admittedly unattractive. We’ll address that in the final step.
Each favor had four pyramid tea bags, all of the same tea, because mixing flavors, unless individually wrapped, would likely blend and ruin the flavor of each. I marked each zip-loc bag with the tea type and brew time. In honor of my cousin the international traveler, I chose teas that called to mind a variety of countries, including Green Moroccan Mint, Green Cherry, Pu-erh Scottish Caramel and Herbal Piña Colada. Whichever teas you select, I suggest including a caffeine-free option. For bridal and wedding events, I highly recommend Harney & Sons Wedding Tea, which is too delicious.
STEP THREE: Assemble Your Favors To conceal thezip-loc bag, tightly wrap it around itself and pinch two tulle circles around it, before settling it into the tea strainer. Allow some tulle to poke out of the top, fanned a bit, but not uniformly, as you latch the strainer closed.
Now to finish, write the type of tea on the back of the card stock tag, loop your ribbon through both pieces of paper, then push through the tea strainer ring, and knot. One caution as you are working with the strainers – they are delicate! It is easy to lean on them and press them out of shape while you are affixing the tags.
This project, for a quantity of 15, took me about four hours, from start (designing the tags) to finish, and cost about $5 each. Ask a friend to help you assemble over a pot of tea, and the time will pass quickly and enjoyably. Et voilà! I would love to hear from anyone who uses this idea or improves upon it.
Also, if you have a favorite tea-themed favor, please share in your comments or email me at email@example.com.
Where: Buckhead, GA Style: Elegant Traditional Tea Selection: 12+ loose leaf teas Teatimes: Friday-Sunday, 2 or 3 Reservations: 24-hour notice Contact: 404-237-2700 Cost: $60 The Ritz Tea; $44 Buckhead Classic Afternoon Tea;$21 Children’s Tea – sample menu here Destination Tea Tips: Dress is business casual, remember to bring cash for a tip if you plan to valet your car, and ask your server to validate your valet ticket. Upon entering, turn left to enter the Lobby Lounge, where tea is served.
Destination Tea Notes: Afternoon tea at the Ritz is an institution. Not surprising, given the Ritz is one of the original hoteliers to offer an afternoon tea service, both in the United States and abroad. In part, you are treating yourself to the Ritz’ luxurious ambiance, with a pianist playing softly as you relax into smooth leather armchairs or couches around the fireplace. Because we were a party of four, including two children, you’ll see the children’s menu items in the bottom tier. Our eleven-year-olds really enjoyed being included in this adult world, in which they dressed up, practiced their manners and happily munched and sipped everything they were offered. After making our way through the wide array of homemade savories, scones and sweets, we all agreed that the dessert course impressed us most with its deliciousness.
Where: Candler Park, GA Style: Eclectic Book Nook Tea Selection: 75+ loose leaf teas Teatimes: Tuesday-Friday 3-5:30; Saturday-Sunday 12-5:30 Reservations: 24-hour notice for high tea only Contact: www.drbombays.com/reservations; for parties of 8 or more – firstname.lastname@example.org; 404-474-1402 Cost: $20 The Caroline Tea; $17.50 High Tea; $15 The Ivan Tea; $10 Cream Tea – menus here Destination Tea Tips: Dr. Bombay’s is a great place to drop in for a spontaneous spot of tea because only their high tea requires advance reservation. You can pop in anytime and pick and choose your own tea and goodies for a DIY tea; or sample the Cream Tea or Ivan Tea (includes quiche) served all day; or from noon to 5:30, enjoy the Caroline Tea, which is an afternoon tea menu.
Destination Tea Notes: Dr. Bombay’s is a vibrant, cozy haven, reminiscent of a shop you might find in the wizarding world’s Diagon Alley. Ensconced amongst book-lined walls, paper lanterns and hanging origami, friends visit while others type away busily on laptops. The scene is lively without being loud. Not only do you feel part of the local community, you are part of a global community, simply by patronizing Dr. Bombay’s. Favorite words from their thank you card: “Make Food. Serve Love…Thank you for being a part of this movement we call humanity.” As home to The Learning Tea, Dr. Bombay’s uses a portion of its proceeds to house and pay college tuition for female scholars in Darjeeling, India. YES! Oh, and their family recipe clotted cream is divine.
Where: Historic Sweet Auburn District, Downtown Atlanta, GA Style: Market Cafe Tea Selection: 40+ loose leaf teas Teatimes: Monday-Saturday 8-5; Sunday 12-5 Reservations: 24-hour notice Contact: 404-314-6261 Cost: $24.50 Afternoon Tea Destination Tea Tips: Park in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market lot and bring in your ticket for validation. Use the main entrance and find the cafe directly on your left.
Destination Tea Notes: Hostess Brandi Shelton has brought afternoon tea to the Sweet Auburn Curb Market; most fitting for an establishment that opened in 1924, when American tearooms were coming into their own. At her Just Add Honey Tea Cafe, you enjoy afternoon tea metro-Atlanta style, in a cafe nestled within the bustling activity of a city market. After perusing the shelves of teas to choose your favorite, you’ll pull up a barstool to enjoy tea at the counter of this open-air shop. Brandi personally visits her growers and blends her own teas using natural ingredients for flavoring, and her knowledgable server was happy to guide our tea selection. If any in your party has difficulty hearing, consider reserving a private party after hours, when table and chairs are set up inside or on the patio. While you may also reserve a tea tasting here, we recommend going for the afternoon tea repast, which is made by local caterer Lovable Foods. It is a creative, made-from-scratch delight!
Where: Buckhead, GA Style: Elegant Traditional Tea Selection: 12 loose leaf teas Teatimes: Friday-Sunday 2:30-4 Reservations: 24-hour notice Contact: 404-563-7799 Cost:$40 Caroline Astor Afternoon Tea; $22 Children’s Tea – sample menu here Destination Tea Tips: Pull up to the main entrance of The St. Regis to have your car valeted (bring cash for a tip) and have your ticket validated at the hostess stand before you leave. Reserve afternoon tea during different seasons or holidays throughout the year to experience The St. Regis’ changing afternoon tea menus and specialty tea blends (i.e., the Mother’s Day tea with roses).
Destination Tea Notes: At the St. Regis Atlanta hotel, fashionably dressed afternoon tea guests wind their way up curling staircases to luxuriate in armchairs in the second-floor Astor Court, which acts as an indoor balcony, overlooking the beautiful lobby chandelier. In this setting, lovers of historical novels and period films should not be surprised if your first thought is, “if only I had worn a proper tea gown.” Here you can easily imagine yourself in the company of 19th century high society hostess Lady Caroline Astor, whose son founded the St. Regis. And when an executive pastry chef is in the kitchen, you know your afternoon tea repast will be a treat worth every penny.
Where: Historic Roswell, GA Style: Warm Traditional Tea Selection: 15+ loose leaf teas Teatimes:Tuesday-Sunday 11:30-3:30; 5:30-9 Reservations: 48-hour notice Contact: 770-643-5813 Cost: $25 Light Tea; $30 High Tea – peruse menus here Destination Tea Tips: Note that this is the only venue in the Metro Atlanta area that offers a tea service during both regular lunch and dinner hours, allowing you to enjoy high tea at its (historically) proper time: in the evening, perhaps after you get off work.
Destination Tea Notes: Newcomer to the afternoon tea scene, Tafa’s Restaurant is a family-run Syrian-Greek restaurant, opened in late 2015 in the historic home that housed the former Roswell Teahouse. Tafa’s must have known that the only way to help us get over the loss of a beloved teahouse was to delight us with an afternoon tea menu the likes of which Atlantans have never seen. Especially for world travelers, foodies and cuisine explorers, Tafa’s should not be missed. Mediterranean specialties, flavors and spices abound in every course of this menu — from tea through dessert — which we happily explored with our server as our gracious guide. In place of the scones and spreads you’d find in a typical British tea, Tafa’s offers two tiers of sandwiches, making this ample meal deserving of the “high tea” moniker.
Where: Downtown Woodstock, GA Style: Southern Whimsy Tea Selection: 50+ loose leaf teas Teatimes:Tuesday-Saturday 10-4 Reservations: Strongly suggested; Walk-ins welcome Contact: 770-516-2609 Cost: $13 Light Afternoon Tea; $16.50 Classic Afternoon Tea; $22 Queen’s Tea; $12 Mad Hatter’s Children’s Tea; $21 Children’s Character Tea – peruse menus here Destination Tea Tips: Seasonal teas and special events are posted on their website. This popular teahouse does book up, so be sure to call ahead to reserve your teatime. Everyone in your party may individually choose whether to order from the lunch menu, a tea menu, or a combination of the two!
Destination Tea Notes: Tea Leaves and Thyme Hostess Kim Jordy has been serving up a homemade afternoon tea repast for more than 18 years, and it shows. In a historic home opposite the railroad tracks, you pass a board in the foyer welcoming reserved tea guests by name, as you make your way to a tea table in the enclosed front porch or one of four rooms with tables tucked around fireplaces. Here, you’ll easily convert your friends and family into afternoon tea lovers, because this experience comes with all the trappings. Gracious, knowledgable servers who are attentive without rushing you? Check. Bottomless pots of quality and flavored teas? Check. Scrumptious, made-from-scratch tea tray goodies? Check. Vintage flair that takes you back in time — from tea cups to tea dresses to antique decor? Check. While afternoon tea can feel like an extravagant treat, it is so reasonably priced here that your wallet won’t think so. Simply, Tea Leaves and Thyme is the quintessential teahouse.