5 Shows That Transport You to A World of Taking Tea

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.”

Lark Rise to Candleford

Lark Rise to Candleford

2. “Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple” from ITV:  “Agatha Christie’s crime thrillers featuring the author’s much-loved spinster sleuth Miss Jane Marple.”

Agatha Christie's Miss Marple

Agatha Christie’s Miss 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.”

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

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.”

The Forsyte Saga

The Forsyte Saga

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.”

Lost in Austen

Lost in Austen

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The Rise of the American Tea Room: Serving Women’s Rights with a Cup of Tea

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).

(c) 2002, Cover of "Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn" by Jan Whitaker

(c) 2002, Cover of “Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn” by Jan Whitaker

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.

Tea at Charters Towers, 1880, Courtesy of New Old Stock

Tea at Charters Towers, 1880, Courtesy of New Old Stock

“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.

Riverside Tea Room, Thousand Islands, NY, courtesy of Jan Whitaker "From Patrons to Chefs, a History of Women in Restaurants" Boston Hospitality Review

Riverside Tea Room, Thousand Islands, NY, courtesy of Jan Whitaker “From Patrons to Chefs, a History of Women in Restaurants” Boston Hospitality Review

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; American’s 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.” 

1920s tea room menu

1920s tea room menu

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.

Frances Virginia Tea Room, courtesy of Fulton County GAGenWeb

Frances Virginia Tea Room, courtesy of Fulton County GAGenWeb

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.”

mary-macs

Mary Mac’s Tea Room, Atlanta

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.”

Tea-Themed Party Favors: Tea Strainers (Steeped in Love)

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).

Tea Strainer Party Favors

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
– scissors
– permanent marker
– pen
– 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.

Tags Steeped with Love

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.
Tag ready to assemble

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.

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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 the zip-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.

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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.

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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 angela@destinationtea.com.

 

Destination Tea: The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead

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. Ritz-Carlton Exterior

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.

Tea Service

Ritz-Carlton Lobby

Upon entering, turn left to reach the Lobby Lounge for tea

Warm, rich tones invite you to tea

Warm, rich tones invite you to tea

Ritz Carlton Tea Service

Elegant china service

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We were invited to choose two teas to share over the first course, then a third with dessert. Rather than leave a teapot on the table, your server makes sure to refill your cup as needed.

Scones and Spreads, Savories and Sweets

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The scone here is less like a biscuit and more like a pancake in its consistency and flavor, served with jars of the traditional strawberry preserves, clotted cream and lemon curd.

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Sandwiches included cucumber with dill and lemon ricotta cream, Georgia shrimp profiterole with tarragon and basil, smoked salmon with caviar on pumpernickel, open face turkey canapé with orange marmalade, prosciutto and melon canapé with mint (a favorite) and traditional egg salad with truffle. The children had some of our items on their tier with an added ham and cheese sandwich. 

Adults' treats included opera cake with passion fruit and edible silver, double chocolate cupcakes, key lime profiteroles, orange macarons, pistachio biscotti and the standout:  mint chocolate torte. The children's tier included thumbprint cookies with gumdrops, double chocolate cupcakes, brownies, sugar cookies with lemon frosting and rice krispies.

Adults’ treats included opera cake with passion fruit and edible silver, double chocolate cupcakes, key lime profiteroles, orange macarons, pistachio biscotti and the standout: mint chocolate tortes. The children’s tier included thumbprint cookies with gumdrops, double chocolate cupcakes, brownies, sugar cookies with lemon frosting and rice krispies squares.

 

 

Destination Tea: Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party

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 – events@drbombays.com; 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.Dr. Bombay's Exterior

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.

Tea Service

Mix-n-match china on a colorful tablecloth designate our high tea seating at one of Dr. Bombay's long communal tables.

Mix-n-match china on a colorful tablecloth designate our high tea seating at one of Dr. Bombay’s long communal tables.

Bright colors and Christmas china cup

Bright colors and Christmas china cup

Too many tempting and interesting teas! We finally settled on two of their exclusively blended "Vampyre Teas" - Jazilla (vanilla black with jasmine green tea "that could make you want to stomp around the city like a 16-story badass") and Sunrise Sinsation (white tea with lemon, ginger and ginseng). Smartly, we also later paired the perfectly refreshing and summery white cucumber mint with our dessert course.

Too many tempting and interesting teas! We finally settled on two of Dr. Bombay’s exclusive “Vampyre Tea” blends:   Jazilla (vanilla black with jasmine green tea “that could make you want to stomp around the city like a 16-story badass”) and Sunrise Sinsation (white tea with lemon, ginger and ginseng). We were grateful to our waitress for recommending the perfectly refreshing and summery white cucumber mint, which we paired with our dessert course.

One pot of tea per two guests; additional pots are $4.25 each.

One pot of tea per two guests; additional pots are $4.25 each

Scones and Spreads, Savories and Sweets

Giant coconut hibiscus scones were dense without being dry. A generous pot of clotted cream made with a family recipe was the showstopper.

Giant coconut hibiscus scones were dense without being dry. A generous pot of clotted cream made with a family recipe was the showstopper.

Housemade savories included cucumber butter and pimiento cheese (with a delicious kick) sandwiches, as well as a flavorful leek radish goat cheese quiche.

Housemade savories included sandwiches of cucumber butter and pimiento cheese (with a delicious kick), as well as a flavorful leek radish goat cheese quiche.

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Our favorite of the desserts was the carrot cupcakes, which were accompanied by chocolate chip cookies, brownie bites and a mini scoop of green tea ice cream.

Books for sale to support The Learning Tea

Books for sale support The Learning Tea

Order at the counter for sandwiches, vegetarian dishes, scones, cakes, ice cream, tea or coffee

Order at the counter for sandwiches, vegetarian dishes, scones, cakes, ice cream, tea or coffee. Purchase tea packs sourced directly from Dr. Bombay’s Darjeeling partner.

Destination Tea: Just Add Honey Tea Cafe

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. Just Add Honey Exterior

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!

Tea Service

Colorful cafe counter

Colorful cafe

One of three countertop seating areas

One of three counter seating areas

Creative teas with creative names

Perusing the tea shelves for our favorites

We were very happy with our choices:  green caramel and raspberry lychee.

We were very happy with our choices: green caramel and raspberry lychee. Each guest chooses one tea and may request a second steep.

Scones and Spreads, Savories and Sweets

First course is a mixed green salad with heirloom tomatoes, pistachios, apple sticks, fennel fronds and vinaigrette.

First course is a mixed green salad with heirloom tomatoes, pistachios, apple sticks, fennel fronds and vinaigrette.

Come hungry! Sandwiches include cucumber with herbed cream cheese, pimiento with pear, and chicken salad with capers on pretzel rolls.

Come hungry! Sandwiches include cucumber with herbed cream cheese, pimiento with pear, and chicken salad with capers on pretzel rolls.

Large blueberry scones are accompanied by lemon curd and strawberry preserves. Dessert includes fabulous lemon bars and multi-flavored macarons.

Large blueberry scones are accompanied by lemon curd and strawberry preserves. Dessert includes fabulous lemon bars and multi-flavored macarons.

Loose leaf teas, gifts and tea accessories for sale

Loose leaf teas, gifts and tea accessories for sale

Immediately on your left,  pop in for a tea before you go to market.

Perfectly situated by the market entrance so you can pop in for a tea before you go to market. Large afternoon tea parties are hosted at long tables on the covered patio.

Destination Tea: Astor Court at The St. Regis Atlanta

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).

Exterior St. Regis

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.

Tea Service

The hostess greets you at the top of the stairs.

At the top of the left staircase, a hostess greets afternoon tea guests. Go straight up!

Afternoon tea tables hug the balcony railing or bask in the sun from floor to ceiling windows

Afternoon tea tables hug the balcony railing or bask in the sun from floor-to-ceiling windows.

Uniquely, our server welcomes us by sharing the historical significance of the Astor Court's afternoon tea, then familiarizes us with all twelve teas and the seasonal Mother's Day tea by passing around samples of each

Uniquely, our server welcomes us by sharing the historical significance of the Astor Court’s afternoon tea, then familiarizes us with all twelve teas and the seasonal Mother’s Day tea by passing around samples of each.

Each guest selects one tea and may request a second steeping

Each guest selects one tea and may request a second steeping. We tried several and shared, including the St. Regis’ own blend with black currant and peach essence.

Scones and Spreads, Savories and Sweets

Lemon curd, clotted cream and jams await the scones

Lemon curd, clotted cream and jams await the scones.

Lemon poppy seed and violet scones arrive. One of our party declares the violet scones are the best she's ever had. We wonder at how the violet flavor is so thoroughly infused throughout the scone.

Lemon poppy seed and violet scones arrive. One of our party declares the violet scones are the best she’s ever had. We wonder at how the violet flavor is so thoroughly infused throughout the scone. Magic?

"Springtime savories" include roast turkey and spinach wrap with brie and apricot mostarda, green goddess chicken salad on whole wheat with heirloom tomatoes, smoked salmon flatbread with crème fraîche and caviar, and cucumber sandwich with watercress lemon aioli. All delicious and perfectly portioned for an afternoon tea.

“Springtime savories” include roast turkey in spinach wrap with brie and apricot mostarda, green goddess chicken salad on whole wheat with heirloom tomatoes, smoked salmon flatbread with crème fraîche and caviar, and cucumber sandwich with watercress lemon aioli. All delicious and perfectly portioned for an afternoon tea.

Two tiers of confections? If we must. Giving thanks to the expert hands who crafted these sweets, we oohed and aahed our way through a linzer cookie, chocolate cremeux with mocha, lemon blueberry tartlet, strawberry basil petite four and (the crowd favorite) a salted caramel and chocolate cone.

Two tiers of confections? If we must. Giving thanks to the expert hands who crafted these sweets, we “ooh and aah” our way through a linzer cookie, chocolate cremeux with mocha, lemon blueberry tartlet, strawberry basil petite four (great in-season flavor combination) and (the crowd favorite) a salted caramel and chocolate cone.

Plenty of time for old friends to catch up and for new friends to meet

Plenty of time for old friends to catch up and for new friends to meet

Destination Tea: Tafa’s Restaurant

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.

Tafa's Exterior

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.

Tea Service

Tables surround a fireplace in our sunlit room of this 1920s home.

Tables surround a fireplace in our sunlit room of this 1920s home.

Thankfully Tafa's teas include bottomless pots, allowing us to adventure freely amongst their unique tea menu

Thankfully Tafa’s high tea includes bottomless pots, allowing us to adventure freely amongst their unique tea menu, which tempts with flavors like papaya, marzipan, aniseed and grenadine.

Tea is served in cast iron teapots and glass teacups

Tea is served in cast iron teapots and glass teacups.

Savories and Sweets

Very generous bowls of soup accompany the high tea. We shared a spinach soup and a tomato rice soup.

Very generous bowls of soup accompany the high tea. We shared a spinach soup and a rice soup.

Comforting rice soup with tomato puree

Comforting rice soup with tomato puree

Tafa's tea tray

The only items Tafa’s does not make in-house are its breads, which they source from a local bakery. They actually make their own cream cheese and yogurt for their tea sandwiches which include hummus, black olive, cucumber and labneh salad (yogurt with tomatoes, red onions and herbs). Everything was delicious!

Thankfully the tea sandwiches are open faced, so that you aren't overwhelmed with bread before you reach the croissant tier which includes chicken salad, sautéed spinach and Syrian croissants. While they were each scrumptious, the standout for us was the Syrian croissant which featured the traditional za'atar spice blend in its spread.

Tea sandwiches are open faced, so as not to overwhelm you with bread before you reach the croissant tier which includes chicken salad, sautéed spinach and Syrian croissants. While they were each scrumptious, the standout for us was the Syrian croissant which featured the traditional za’atar spice blend in its spread.

Desserts at Tafa's

Each of the three desserts was new to us, including date balls, coconut balls (YUM!) and biscuits au chocolat (with not-too-sweet dark chocolate).

Sneak peek at the next seasonal tea: Mango & Friends. Loose leaf teas and artwork are for sale.

Sneak peek at Tafa’s next seasonal tea: Mango & Friends. Loose leaf teas and artwork are for sale.

Outdoor seating beckons for a tree-shaded outdoor tea.

Outdoor seating beckons for an al fresco patio tea.

 

Destination Tea: Tea Leaves and Thyme Tea House

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!

Exterior Tea Leaves and Thyme

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.

Tea Service

Sunlit enclosed porch

Sunlit enclosed porch

A group of friends held a baby shower in this room while we were at tea

A group of friends held a baby shower in this room while we were at tea.

Our server pointed out the crowd favorite (Snowflake) and her own favorite (Strawberry Cream) from this extensive menu. All our teas were delicious.

Our server pointed out the crowd favorite (Snowflake) and her own favorite (Strawberry Cream) from this extensive menu. Her recommendations and our adventurous choices were all delicious.

Our first pot of many...

Our first pot of many – steeped and filtered in the kitchen, then poured through the antique strainer for ceremonial effect before settled on its warmer

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

The cream of artichoke soup was a seasonal and delicious treat. When we heard this was the soup of the day, we couldn't resist adding it à la carte to our afternoon tea menu.

When we heard cream of artichoke was the soup of the day, we couldn’t resist adding it à la carte to our afternoon tea menu — a wise move on our part.

With the Classic Afternoon Tea, you may select either a Chicken Salad Croissant, Chicken Salad on Lettuce or Sundried Tomato Tartlet (our favorite)

With the Classic Afternoon Tea, you may select either a Chicken Salad Croissant, Chicken Salad on Lettuce or Sundried Tomato Tartlet (a delicious savory-sweet quiche-like concoction).

We enjoyed the fresh grapes in this homemade chicken salad.

Fresh grapes moisten the homemade chicken salad.

Afternoon Tea tray at Tea Leaves and Thyme

“We don’t bake bread” is the simplest way for Kim Jordy to explain that nearly every item on Tea Leaves and Thyme’s menu is made in-house. Fresh fruit accompanies scones served with a whipped almond cream and lemon curd. An edible orchid graces the sandwich tier, which includes classic cucumber mint, pimiento cheese, pineapple cream cheese on raisin, and ham striped sandwiches. The dessert tier treated us to crème de menthe brownies, blueberry muffins with amaretto cream, chocolate chip fruit bars (our favorite) and (luscious) lemon bars.

Watching the trains go by, as we sip from dainty china

Watching the trains go by, as we sip from dainty china

Fun hats and dresses stand by for those inclined to dress the part

Fun hats and dresses stand by for those inclined to dress the part.

You pay your bill inside the gift shop, which is hard to traverse without being tempted to browse, so leave a little extra time to enjoy yourself here.

You pay your bill inside the gift shop, which is hard to traverse without being tempted to browse, so leave a little extra time to enjoy yourself here.

Destination Tea: Vineyard Cafe

Where:  Historic Marietta Square, GA
Style:  Southern Cafe
Tea Selection:  35+ loose leaf teas
Teatimes:  Sunday-Thursday 11-3; Friday-Saturday 11-4
Reservations:  Walk-ins welcome; 24-hour notice for 6 or more guests; Advance reservation for private parties
Contact:  678-581-3771
Cost:  $8.95 Dessert Tea; $17.95 Full Teasample menu
Destination Tea Tips:  Look up! Enter via the (separately owned) Tiny Bubbles Tea Bar and Gift Shop and walk to the back of the gift shop to find the stairs to Vineyard Cafe. Request a window seat when you reserve to get the full effect of tea on the square. If parking on the square is full, head to the free public lot on Mill Street between the tracks and North Marietta Parkway, and it’s a short jaunt to Vineyard Cafe. Join their VIP Text Club at 51660 for 10% off purchase.

Vineyard Cafe exterior

Destination Tea Notes:  Having recently come under the ownership of hostess Penny Brand, Vineyard Cafe offers homemade lunch fare with healthy leanings. Though truly, while you are perched in their second floor dining rooms overlooking historic Marietta Square, how can you not complete the picture by enjoying the tradition of afternoon tea? Because they bake onsite, if you are with two or three friends strolling through the square, you can pop in on a whim for your afternoon tea without reservations, or if you are tempted (and voracious), choose to augment your tea with items from their lunch menu. You may also reserve Vineyard Cafe dining rooms during and after business hours for private parties or catch a local production at their new dinner theater.

Tea Service

Request a window seat when you reserve to sip your tea overlooking the square.

A beautiful day for tea on the square

Your server lets you know how long to let your tea steep before you press, and will replenish your hot water for a second serving. If your French press lets some leaves into the cups, wait a moment for them to fall to the bottom, then enjoy!

Your server lets you know how long to let your tea steep before you press, and will replenish your hot water for a second serving. If your French press lets some leaves into your cup, wait a moment for them to fall to the bottom, then enjoy!

Each guest may choose one tea from the list of loose leaf teas. The fitting Southern Pecan was a delight.

Each guest may choose one tea from the list of loose leaf teas. The fitting Southern Pecan black tea is naturally-flavored and fabulous all at once.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

A generous sampling of fresh fruit is accompanied by an optional add-on of homemade soup, which changes seasonally. The flavorful broccoli cheese soup was neither overly salty nor too heavy.

An assortment of fresh fruit is accompanied by an optional add-on of homemade soup, which changes seasonally. The flavorful broccoli cheese soup was neither overly salty nor too heavy.

Each guest receives a half Classic Harvest sandwich --  a delicious turkey club served on walnut raisin bread -- as well as a standout chicken salad croissant.

Each guest receives a half Classic Harvest sandwich — a delicious turkey club served on walnut raisin bread — as well as Vineyard Cafe’s standout chicken salad croissant.

House baked scones and  sweets share a plate. Vineyard Cafe's secret recipe honey cream spread perfectly complemented their just-right scones in cranberry-orange, blueberry and cinnamon (our favorite) . Dessert included a cream puff and two homemade cookies that were a nice blend of soft, chewy and sweet. We agreed the cherry almond cupcake earned our top dessert vote.

House baked scones and sweets share a plate. Vineyard Cafe’s secret recipe honey cream spread perfectly complemented their just-right scones in cranberry-orange, blueberry and cinnamon (our favorite) . Dessert included a cream puff and two homemade cookies that were a nice blend of soft, chewy and sweet. We agreed the cherry almond cupcake earned our vote for the afternoon’s top dessert.

Mother-daughter teas are often held in this lovely secret space apart from the two main dining rooms, where dress-up accoutrements await

Mother-daughter teas are often held in this lovely secret space opposite the two main dining rooms, where dress-up accoutrements await.