Destination Tea: Mount Juliet Estate

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.Entrance to Mount Juliet Estate Manor House

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).

Secret garden entrance at Mount Juliet Estate Manor House
Secret garden entrance
Foyer of the Manor House in Mount Juliet Estate
Gorgeous!
Afternoon tea is served in the Major's Bar at Mount Juliet Estate
Afternoon tea is served in the Major’s Bar, with a variety of upholstered armchairs gathered around low tables set with bright white tablecloths.
Floor-to-ceiling windows offer a lovely view of horses crossing the sprawling lawns at Mount Juliet Estate
Floor-to-ceiling windows offer a lovely view of horses crossing the sprawling lawns. If we had been a smaller party, this would have been my preferred table.
The library at Mount Juliet Estate
We are hosted in the darker toned library, seated in an array of leather and velvety armchairs and loveseat.

Tea Service

Tea menu at Mount Juliet Estate
We appreciate knowing a bit about the teas served, and that they are hand-picked, organic, loose-leaf offerings. Each guest may choose a tea, coffee or hot chocolate.
Tea is served at Mount Juliet Estate
Silver teapots and pretty china pattern
Iced mint tea at Mount Juliet Estate
For this summertime tea, our server graciously offers to ice any of the teas (my daughter requests iced mint tea).
Prosecco at Mount Juliet Estate
An important addition for moms only:  Prosecco aperitif

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

Tea curate at Mount Juliet Estate
We sit up straight when this curate arrives – amazing!
Generously portioned tea sandwiches include smoked salmon (so fresh!), chicken, ham (baked and sliced), egg mayo (aka egg salad) and cucumber on brown bread (a whole wheat bread made with molasses and wheat germ).
Scones and spreads at Mount Juliet Estate
Scones done perfectly with cream, jam (so good!) and lemon curd
Dessert tray at Mount Juliet Estate
Playful lemonades with passionfruit topping preside over the dessert tier which also includes strawberry custard cup, opera cake, madeleine, almond pound cake and outstanding passionfruit choux (aka cream puff).
Children's afternoon tea at Mount Juliet Estate
The Children’s Afternoon Tea includes Nutella with brioche, bagel with chive cream cheese, breadsticks, ham and cheese sandwiches, cupcakes and cookies, which would be plenty…
Dessert for children's tea at Mount Juliet Estate
…and it’s topped with vanilla milkshakes, white chocolate cake pops, marshmallows, rocky road and mini knickerbocker glory (fruit jello parfait with cream). Clearly, the children had an excellent time.

 

Destination Tea: Vintage Tea Tours

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.Vintage Tea Tours 1960s Double-Decker

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!

Entering the lower deck of our Vintage Tea Tour bus
Finding our seats at the front of the bus
Table setting at Vintage Tea Tours
Our tables are set with china plates cleverly kept from sliding by sitting on mini rug pads. Beautifully illustrated keepsake guides give an in-depth explanation of the sights we’ll see.
Hosts on the Vintage Tea Tour bus
Both tour guide and server, our hosts Jack and Jack keep us full of hot beverages, and interested in Dublin trivia with pop quizzes. They are consummate hosts, taking time to chat with us and advise us on our itinerary.

Tea Service

Tea cups on Vintage Tea Tours
Tea is served in souvenir screw-top insulated cups, kept secure in cup holders set into the table at each place setting. Guests have a variety of teas to choose from, as well as non-tea options. The kids love their hot chocolates, though one daughter does opt for a fruity pomegranate tisane. I enjoy my Earl Grey from Robert Roberts, fittingly a century-old Dublin-based tea company.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

tea tray at Vintage Tea Tours
Scrumptious afternoon tea tray at the ready, again kept secure by a rug pad underneath
Clotted cream at Vintage Tea Tours
After following Rodda’s Cream Tea Society on social media for a couple years, we are a bit starstruck to be trying their Cornish clotted cream for the first time. Looks like butter, but spreads so easily that we understand how the Cornish can put it over their jam. We spread gourmet strawberry preserves over fruit scones that are a bit more dense than we’d like, but tasty all the same.
Tea sandwiches at Vintage Tea Tours
Tea sandwich selection includes egg salad (called “egg mayo” in Ireland), ham and cheese (a favorite) and jam, all good and of generous portions.
Because we added another person at the last minute, they are so gracious as to give us an extra plate of sandwiches, this one with a chicken curry (so good!).
Desserts include a strawberry cheesecake (fabulous), chocolate brownie and fruit custard tartlet.
Back of Vintage Tea Tour bus
We agree: tea is liquid therapy. P.S. How fun would it be to book the whole bus for a bachelorette party or bridal shower?

Lessons in Grace, from the Ladies of the Southern Tea Time Getaway

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.

new mom days
Fussy baby when you’ve got dinner to cook? Bring out the baby wrap!

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.

ladies of Southern Tea Time Getaway Tour
The ladies of the Southern Tea Time Getaway Tour welcome me for the afternoon.
[Photo courtesy of RelevantTeaLeaf.blogspot.com, authored by Phyllis Barkey]

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.

start of afternoon tea at Tea Leaves N Thyme
Ready to open the meal with an inspirational reading and a prayer

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).

tea notecard from Joy Breedlove
Joy Breedlove of Georgia gave us each one of these beautiful tea notecards, hand-painted by a friend of hers. So lovely!
Teresa from Ohio — who luckily sat on my left because I instantly loved her, full of curiosity, wit and friendliness — surprised me with this gift box. I was so touched!
teacup from Lori of Michigan
Finally Lori from Michigan — who I could tell I would have loved getting to know better — knocked my socks off with this pretty Grace’s Teaware cup and saucer, with scalloped edges. I don’t have another like it, and I will cherish it and each of these mementos of my tea with these special ladies.