Destination Tea: Calabash Garden Tea Room and Gift Shop

Where:  Calabash, NC
Style:  Forest Cottage
Tea Selection:  60+ loose leaf teas
Teatimes:  Wednesday to Saturday 11:30 or 1:30
Reservations:  24-hour notice
Contact:  910-579-9500
Cost:  $25.20 Ultimate Tea; $21.95 Light Tea; $12.95 Children’s Tea (ages 4 to 9); Cream Tea
Destination Tea Tip:  This popular tearoom has three cozy dining rooms, which can be reserved in their entirety for a group affair, so we recommend reserving your teatime here well in advance.

Destination Tea Notes:  Your attention please, afternoon tea lovers, for it is time for us to gush! If you are remotely close to Calabash Garden Tea Room at any point in your foreseeable future, do not miss afternoon tea here. It is not often we issue imperatives like this, but hostess Kathy Cody is in a class all her own, applying her background in catering to craft one of the top afternoon tea menus we have ever had. She says that she puts “a lot of detail and a lot of love” into her made-fresh-daily and seasonally changing scones, savories and sweets, and we can confirm, we felt the love! It is very rare to be enamored of every morsel served on the curate (three-tier tray), but here, in this fairytale cottage, afternoon tea dreams become reality.

Floral patterns, hearts and frills abound inside the tearoom. We loved having a dining room to ourselves.
Fresh flowers make a beautiful centerpiece.

Tea Service

Mix-n-match china with tea napkin and a teapot warmer are arranged at each setting.
Endless combinations create a unique place setting for each guest.
Our server was an expert in Calabash’s extensive tea list, helping us each pick a favorite.
While our teas are brewing, we are invited to choose our tea hats from this generous display.
Every guest selects her own pot of tea or a glass of refreshing iced tea.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

The first course is a light and flavorful summer salad with mandarins, tomatoes and vinaigrette.
Our curate’s arrival puts smiles on our faces. As our server presents one scrumptious item after the next, we prepare to feast!
Our first plate of savories includes marbled rounds with smoked salmon and capers, horseradish roast beef on whole wheat and phyllo cups with pecan chicken salad, all fabulous.
A second plate of sandwiches includes cucumber radish with dill and cracked black pepper, Kahlua maple walnut cream on blueberry swirl triangles (wow), ham salad with honey mustard hearts (yum), deconstructed summer BLT and satin ribbon-tied apricot pecan sandwiches.
Generously sized scones are the perfect consistency, served with cream and homemade lemon curd – so good!
Dessert includes black and blue fruit skewers with olive oil and thyme, dark chocolate cupcakes with raspberry buttercream frosting, chocolate dipped strawberries and the standout: fig halves dipped in white chocolate and pistachios. We appreciate that desserts here have savory elements to balance the sweetness of this course, a lovely finish to an excellent meal.

Destination Tea: Whitney’s Tea Room & Cafe

Where:  Garden City, SC
Style:  Dainty Vintage
Tea Selection:  40+ loose leaf teas by Tea Forté
Teatimes:  Monday-Saturday 10-4
Reservations:  Walk-ins welcome, reservations strongly recommended
Contact: 843-651-3071 or reserve here
Cost:  $22 High Tea; $16 Child’s High Tea (ages 12 and under)
Destination Tea Tip:  Over the summer this tearoom had a change in ownership, but loyal customers of the former Just Because IYQ should know that the new husband-wife team carries on the tearoom’s favorite recipes.

Destination Tea Notes:  When Steven Neeves emerges from the kitchen to chat with us for a bit, he shares a story that brings a smile to my face:  about when his wife Whitney, upon learning this tearoom would be closing, came to him to say, let’s do this! In only three years since Eileen Cyrus opened Just Because IYQ, she had garnered a loyal following of afternoon tea-goers, Whitney among them, who weren’t ready to say goodbye to their beloved local tearoom. In its second chapter, the now Whitney’s Tea Room & Cafe still offers its favorite recipes, passed on from Eileen to Steven (who, as a chocolatier, knows his way around a kitchen). This is one of those afternoon tea experiences that leaves you feeling happily spoiled, from the graciousness of the staff to the delicious meal, naturally preceded by a bit of dress-up. Having introduced a brunch service and clever vintage “sound system” (see below), the Neeves have already begun to inspire creative additions to the tearoom. We wish them every success in their new venture!

Pretty birdcage centerpiece adorns our table. And see that vintage radio against the wall?…
Steven gave this antique radio new life by putting a bluetooth satellite radio inside it. I loved listening to music from the old days during our tea. Very cool.
Before we sit down to tea, we wind our way through these colorful chairs to choose our hats and boas at the back of the tearoom.
Cousins at tea, in their finery and frippery

Tea Service

Each guest chooses her own large pot of tea, which the girls loved sharing around the table. The handmade tea menus include detailed explanations of the tea varieties and flavors.
Cherry marzipan tea for me? Obviously, and yum! A first for us: drip-catcher contraptions on our teapots, with tea charms and tags. Labeling the pots is something we have seen before, and a smart idea for a larger party or anyone who forgets what they ordered (don’t laugh, it happens).
Continuing with the bird theme, each place setting has a bird lemon squeezer for us to flavor our water and teas.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

Steven says he knows he cannot remove this Just Because IYQ favorite from the menu because it has its own fanbase, and I understand why. This creamy crab and cauliflower soup is a delicious, creative flavor blend.
This “high tea” is earning its moniker by serving us a very full meal, including three salads we pass around the table: tomato basil, creamy cucumber dill (a favorite of ours) and sweet & sour cole slaw.
Love the attention to detail and the fancifulness of our sandwich display. Hearts, stars, flowers and teapots form our chicken salad on wheat, cucumber dill on English toast and pimiento cheese on rye and pumpernickel.
Heart-shaped cinnamon date, blueberry and cranberry orange scones are served with lemon curd, Devonshire cream and fresh strawberries.
Desserts elicit happy sounds all around the table, and are not overly sweet: triple chocolate brownie, warm cinnamon apple cake with caramel drizzle and lemon drop truffle with strawberry stars for summer.
Those lucky girls! After gasping over each new delight and munching on one treat after the next, the children are treated to a mini cookie-decorating party to finish the meal. They loved it! (How could they not?)
The walls are lined with teas and gifts for sale, but of course my eye is drawn to this tea cup display. So fun. Makes you want to return again and again, until you’ve sipped from all your favorite cups!

Destination Tea: TWG Tea Salon

Where:  Vancouver, BC
Style:  Traditional Luxury
Tea Selection:  500+ loose leaf teas
Teatimes:  Daily 12-6 pm
Reservations:  Recommended, walk-ins welcome
Contact: 604-692-0071 or via OpenTable
Cost:  $48 West Coast Tea Set; $48 Jubilee Tea Set; $42 Summer Tea Set; $39 Fortune Tea Set; $32 Chic Tea Set; $19 1837 Tea Set
Destination Tea Tips:  VERY SPECIAL — this is the only TWG Tea Salon in North America! Although teatime hours are listed as 2 to 6, they welcomed us earlier with a reservation. This would be the ideal place to win over the gents to the pleasures of taking tea, as several of TWG’s tea menus feature the hearty fare of a true high tea (supper).

Destination Tea Notes:  Outstanding. One of the top 3 best afternoon teas we have had yet. Gods of afternoon tea, thank you for our “finding” TWG Tea Salon completely by chance, when passing it on the street. If one is not sufficiently blown away by TWG’s wondrous never-ending tea list, just wait until the food arrives, that should do it. There are half a dozen creative tea menus, some with tea pairing recommendations, each presenting sophisticated concoctions, locally sourced ingredients, and recipes infused with TWG teas. It was bittersweet discovering this recent addition to the Vancouver afternoon tea scene. We were so enamored of our experience that we immediately wanted to share it with all of you, but because TWG (The Wellbeing Group) is Singapore-based, their locations are logically prevalent throughout the Eastern hemisphere, with this being their only tea salon on our side of the globe. We’ll certainly keep our peepers peeled for any news of TWG Tea salon additions in North America. In the meantime, you’ll just have to make do with this visual feast.

TWG’s space is divided in two, with the dining area encased in mirrored walls on one side and stacks of tea on the other.
The girls already in deep conversation at the teatable set with TWG teaware

Tea Service

Every “tea set” as TWG calls its afternoon tea menus, comes with a $10 credit toward your tea selection. The choosing is quite a challenge with tea from every tea-producing country on the menu.
Our hostess expertly navigates us through the tea list, fetching tea tins to allow us to smell some of her recommendations. Looks like I am developing a thing for Milk Oolong…
A first in our tea travels: a teapot with its own tailored jacket! TWG sells these porcelain pots and fitted gold warmers with inner felt lining in the retail shop.
Two of the girls ordered iced teas which they appreciated for their pink colors alone and one loved her Creme Caramel Tea so much that she dipped into her savings to buy her own stash for home. My milk oolong was delicious.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

The Fortune tea set began with a warm croque monsieur topped with greens, followed by a scone with TWG Tea jelly and whipped cream, one patisserie from the dessert trolley and a choice of macarons. All were perfectly done.
The Summer Set Menu is akin to a proper high tea, with a choice of two main courses followed by dessert. Every bite of my dish was fabulous: Thai green curry with BC spot prawns, local sablefish and kanpachi, purple fingerling potatoes, fresh hearts of palm and gem lettuce topped with a White Earl Grey infused savory granola.
In honor of Canada’s 150th birthday, TWG’s Jubilee Tea Set opens with tea-infused savories: Wagyu beef slider with maple bacon and Moroccan Mint Tea infused BBQ Sauce, salmon confit and Lemon Bush Tea infused panna cotta, miso maple sablefish infused with Caramel Tea, tourtiere with Weekend in Hong Kong infused rhubarb chutney and Imperial Lapsang Souchong infused chicken cone. Next follows four tea-infused desserts: Red Balloon Tea macaron, petite maple éclair, Napoleon Tea infused croque-en-bouche and Passion Fruit Tea infused passion fruit and mango tartlet.
Try and choose just one of these desserts for the sweet selection that comes with some of the teas.
In addition to its teas, TWG’s shop sells its macarons, teaware, samovars and tea tins (some of which are originally hand-painted). It feels like the tea-lover’s version of the candy shop in 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
Pitchers for iced tea and fun canisters of blended teas