Destination Tea: East Bay Meeting House

Where:  French Quarter, Charleston, SC
Style:  Traditional
Tea Selection:  12 sacheted loose leaf teas by Mighty Leaf
Teatimes:  Daily 4-7
Reservations:  24-hour notice
Contact:  843-723-3446
Cost: $30 Afternoon Tea

Destination Tea Tips:  If people-watching is your thing, you might request a table at the front, where three sets of glass-paned doors are thrown open in the warmer months.

Destination Tea Notes:  If you’re keeping a destination tea bucket list, we suggest adding East Bay Meeting House to it. For what? The scrumptious food, some of the best we’ve had yet. Upon your curate’s arrival, cantaloupe butterflies and kale doilies hint at something unusual, while mini brass shells tucked amongst the savories hold tiny cards that seem to have directed each savory like an honored guest to its place on the lowest tier. While it’s typical for an afternoon tea to have a few signature items, at East Bay Meeting House, in the entire repast, there is only one item we don’t both agree is outstanding. We also enjoy the atmosphere, with the fresh air coming in from the lively street and our gracious host attentive and friendly, but mainly leaving us to our leisure.

Interior East Bay Meeting House in Charleston, SC
Dark wood tones and floor-to-ceiling drapes create a warmth that encourages friends to gather round, while crisp white tablecloths and the fresh air from the open restaurant front brighten the scene.

Tea Service

teas at East Bay Meeting House
East Bay Meeting House offers a selection of Mighty Leaf teas. Technically “bagged” teas, this line of high quality loose leaf teas in sachets is one we look forward to sampling. We request the Bombay Chai and Orange Dulce – yum!

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

Tea tray at East Bay Meeting Houses in Charleston, SC
We sidle up to a long paned window overlooking the cobblestone alley, ready to explore our tea tray (which is proudly brought to the table before we have even ordered our tea).
Tea sandwiches at East Bay Meeting House in Charleston, SC
The sandwiches are so very good, even those that might appear ordinary surprising us with exceptional flavor. We savor each bite, including egg salad with chopped chives and baby arugula on multi-grain, smoked salmon with citrus cream cheese, roasted red pepper and capers on sourdough, cucumber with manchego cheese and dill on white, chicken salad with curry, apple, celery and golden raisins, and maple glazed ham with grain mustard, swiss cheese and sweet pickles on flatbread.
Scones at East Bay Meeting House in Charleston, SC
Orange cherry scones have a near-biscuit texture (as they should), served with clotted cream and jam. Delicious and so generously sized that we share one.
Dessert at afternoon tea at East Bay Meeting House in Charleston, SC
At dessert, it is the chocolate cake that divides our opinion. It is admirably not overly sweet, but one of us completely loves it and the other thinks it could have more of a rich chocolate flavor. The Mexican wedding cookies and rum cake are perfect, and while an afternoon tea’s dessert course can often be overfilling, this one is the right amount of sweet bites to complete the meal. As we finish sipping our tea, we happily munch on fresh fruit and boldly colored edible flowers. Wonderful!

Destination Tea: La Dolce

Where:  Aiken, SC
Style:  Cheerful Cafe
Tea Selection:  2 proposed loose leaf teas from list of 100+
Teatimes:  Tuesday to Saturday 12:30-2:30
Reservations:  48-hour notice *ages 10 and up
Contact:  803-335-1440
Cost: 
$28 High Tea; $25 Afternoon Tea; $20 Gongfu Cha Chinese Tea Ceremony; $7.50 Cream Tea
Destination Tea Tips:  Consider paying the add-on fee to have owner Lady Kelly MacVean hostess your tea. Certified by both the U.K. Tea Council and the American Tea Master Association as a “Tea Master,” Lady Kelly can give you a thorough introduction to afternoon tea. Even if you are an afternoon tea connoisseur, you may still learn something new from Lady Kelly – we did!Front of La Dolce in Aiken, SC

Destination Tea Notes:  Every now and again we discover a tearoom the likes of La Dolce, where a professional, creative eye attends to every detail in cultivating an afternoon tea service that is authentic and unique all at once. Not only do we love Lady Kelly MacVean’s taste in hats, we also appreciate her love of tradition and history. She’s not play-acting when she calls herself a “lady,” because she is one, having purchased property in the Scottish Highlands during her time living abroad. She sets the tea table with antiques and vintage teaware. As a dual-certified tea master, she recommends tea pairings and hosts tea tastings to help others develop a love of tea. And she wisely teams up with her daughter, Chef Kirstie Wohlfeil, who whips up a scrumptious, made-from-scratch afternoon tea menu.

Table at La Dolce in Aiken, SC
As we take our seats at our sunlit table, we happily explore the china patterns at each of our places, both lovely. We remark at discovering some teaware at the far end of our table that we don’t usually encounter at afternoon tea (more on this fun surprise later).
Table set for tea at La Dolce in Aiken, SC
Admiring my place setting, see the antique cake fork?

Tea Service

Tea is served at La Dolce in Aiken, SC
Lady Kelly recommends an orange blossom oolong to pair with the savory course. She brings a teapot cozy to keep the large pot of tea warm, and asks us to leave the cozy on the side to signal when we would like a second steep. We like this idea, and find that one pot is more than adequate for our party of two.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

Spreads at La Dolce in Aiken, SC
Clotted cream, lemon curd and jam ready to be served with these antique teaspoons
Scones at La Dolce Aiken, SC
Wow! We love our blueberry scone. Because it looks a bit more like a cake, we are surprised to find it breaks apart more like a biscuit (the consistency we seek). It appears that La Dolce bakes extra large scones and quarters them for the tea curate – works for us!
Tea curate tea tray at La Dolce in Aiken, SC
Friends, these are some of the best traditional tea sandwiches we have had yet. Whatever herbs and seasonings La Dolce uses instantly gets our attention – delicious! On home-baked breads, La Dolce serves chicken salad in garlic parmesan cups, egg salad on whole wheat and cucumber on oatmeal — thinly sliced — thank you very much. P.S. It may be customary to cut off crusts, but we are secretly pleased to see them left on (waste not, want not).
Dessert cake stand at La Dolce in Aiken, SC
Firstly, how wonderful is this aqua blue glass cake stand? Dessert includes mini cheesecakes, chocolate cream puffs (our favorite) and strawberry and passionfruit macarons. While macarons typically have a crisp exterior and softer interior, these were more like merengues throughout. Our family macaron-lover enjoyed them all the same, especially happy about the unique passionfruit flavor. Lady Kelly brings out a Belgian chocolate rooibos to pair with the course. It’s a clever choice to couple rich desserts with a dessert-flavored, yet lighter, caffeine-free herbal brew.
Lady Kelly MacVean gong fu tea ceremony
Just when we think our adventure is coming to its finish, Lady Kelly surprises us with a preview of La Dolce’s Gongfu Cha Chinese Tea Ceremony. We so much appreciate her taking the time to introduce us to this custom, and how encouraging she is of us as we attempt to identify the notes of our teas (a white pu-erh and a Keemun). 
Hats for sale at La Dolce in Aiken, SC
After admiring Lady Kelly’s fabulous tea hat, how can you not be tempted to purchase one of your very own? La Dolce sells one-of-a-kind hats in the $60- $150 range that would be a wonderful gift to yourself or your favorite tea sister. I had to see how I looked in the fuschia polka dot beauty.
Tea gifts at La Dolce in Aiken, SC
We thank Lady Kelly for gifting us our own tea tasting sets with aroma cups, so that we can practice what we learned at home. These and other tea accessories are available for purchase.
La Dolce Aiken SC goodbye
How should you drink your tea? The sign scrolls, “Sip by sip, not gulp by gulp.” As if La Dolce hasn’t spoiled us enough already, Lady Kelly gives us promotional gift bags as parting favors, to demonstrate how their bakery is partnering with a nearby spa to promote a day of self-pampering at their two businesses. Great concept, and wait, was that a chocolate coconut walnut cookie slipped into each bag? Whatever its flavor, it was divine. La Dolce’s baking has our seal of approval – scrumptious!

Destination Tea: The Lowell’s Pembroke Room

Where:  Upper East Side, NYC
Style:  Elegant Traditional
Tea Selection:  18 loose leaf teas by Dammann Frères
Teatimes:  Daily 2-6
Reservations:  Highly suggested
Contact: 212-838-1400
Cost: $55 The Classic Pembroke Tea
Destination Tea Tips:  For a cozy afternoon tea, request a corner table, and bring tip money for the coat check. To reach the Pembroke Room, you will take a lobby elevator upstairs.Facade of The Lowell, Upper East Side, NYC

Destination Tea Notes:  As you arrive for afternoon tea at The Lowell, you feel yourself a true New Yorker, imagining you’ve just finished shopping at the high end fashion houses around the corner on Madison Avenue, and afterwards might pop over to Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany’s before strolling through Central Park. Built in 1927 and renovated for its 90th birthday, The Lowell breathes refinement and class without being uptight. The staff is inviting and solicitous and the tea selection from France’s Dammann Frères is a rare treat in an American tearoom. We were surprised at the few missteps in the meal, which, based on others’ glowing reviews, seems uncharacteristic of The Lowell. However, all told, we enjoyed making a holiday family memory and luxuriating in the charming Pembroke Room.

Holiday decorations in the quiet lobby; the elevator to the upstairs Pembroke Room
We pass through the festively decorated lobby to the elevator that takes us to the upstairs Pembroke Room.
Corner table in the Pembroke Room
Striped upholstered armchairs and a tufted loveseat surround a secluded corner table near windows with sheer and floral drapery, that all feels quietly intimate and sophisticated. Taking our places around this table, we know that good conversation is going to be had.
holiday decorations at The Lowell NYC
Glamorous, glittery holiday sideboard

Tea Service

Tea list at The Lowell's Pembroke Room in NYC
Each guest chooses an individual pot of a Dammann Frères tea, from a list that includes The Lowell’s recommended seasonal blends that complement the current afternoon tea savories and sweets. In the French style, many of the teas proffer delicate fragrant, floral and/or fruity flavors.
Tea service at The Lowell in NYC
We each order a different tea and delight in playing hostess to one another so that everyone gets to try several teas. The tea warmers keep our silver pots so hot that we use the provided handle holders (akin to an oven mitt, fits over the teapot’s handle), pouring tea through our individual tea strainers. Two thoughts on this tea service:  1. it can be a bit awkward managing the full, hot teapots one-handed via the handle holders (not pictured); 2. for black teas, the custom of steeping the tea in the serving teapot works best when the ready tea is served in its entirety at once. While herbal infusions and green teas will not suffer from remaining in the pot after brew time is complete, black teas could become bitter or acidic when left to steep beyond five minutes.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

Tea sandwiches at The Lowell
First to arrive are the tea sandwiches:  cucumber and dill, turkey and cranberry mayonnaise, Scottish smoked salmon with crème fraiche, filet mignon with horseradish mayonnaise (a favorite), and lobster brioche. All are delicious, but the bread for the turkey and filet mignon sandwiches has begun to harden, as if left out too long.
Scones at The Lowell in NYC
Servers make several rounds with baskets of warm, large scones, in currant and blueberry flavors. While my daughters rave over the blueberry scones, my currant scone sounds a crisp “crack” when broken in two, having been overdone on its bottom.
Condiments at The Lowell in NYC
A quartet of condiments for our scones, including homemade lemon curd, devonshire cream and two jams
Desserts at afternoon tea at The Lowell, NYC
When dessert comes on its own curate, prepare to indulge. The Lowell offers a very French array of mini desserts, including éclairs, assorted fruit tarts, petit fours and macarons, none too sweet, too rich or too large. Merci beaucoup!
Christmas color at The Lowell in NYC
The Lowell’s cream and steel grey palette creates a lovely backdrop for these pops of Christmas color.