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.

 

Destination Tea: Bulloch Hall

Where:  Roswell, GA
Style:  Antebellum
Tea Selection:  Choice of black or decaffeinated tea
Teatimes:  Select dates in December
Reservations:  Pre-paid reservations required (teas sell out weeks in advance)
Contact:  770-992-1731
Cost: $50 Christmas Tea (includes historic home tour)
Destination Tea Tip:  Keep an eye on our Metro Atlanta directory around early fall so that you can reserve your seats as soon as dates are posted. Be sure to allow time for the post-tea historic tour, included in the Christmas Tea fee.Bulloch Hall in Roswell, GA

Destination Tea Notes:  Non-profit organization Friends of Bulloch gracefully hosts a well-planned annual Christmas Tea at the 1839 childhood home of Mittie Bulloch, mother to President Theodore Roosevelt, and grandmother to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Half of the pleasure of taking tea at Bulloch Hall is imagining American historical figures enjoying the holidays in the very same rooms. Tea here is all about the food — which is plentiful and homemade — and the conversation, as small parties share community tables, which of course, leads to shared stories. We know we are blessed to be seated with an octogenarian whose daughter graciously allows us to pepper her mother with questions about her views on longevity, marriage, career and life balance. Her advice is the true gift of the afternoon. As the tables are gradually cleared away, we gather in the foyer for our home tour led by a knowledgeable docent, marveling at her detailed accounting of family life in this 19th century home.

Tea tables at Bulloch Hall in Roswell, GA
Decorated for Christmas, each ground floor room sports several cheerful red tables set for tea. Volunteers lead us to our table, which we share with two other parties.
Tea tables at Bulloch Hall in Roswell,  GA
China place settings surround cranberries-and-candles centerpieces.
Remarkable women exhibit at Bulloch Hall
Each festive room also honors one “remarkable woman of the 19th century,” displaying and describing her contributions.

Tea Service

Teas at Bulloch Hall in Roswell, GA
Guests are offered a choice of black or decaffeinated tea.
Docent pouring tea at Bulloch Hall in Roswell, GA
Volunteers dressed in period clothing kindly keep our tea cups full. This wonderful docent expertly led the house tour after our tea.

Savories and Sweets

Savories at Bulloch Hall Christmas Tea
After tea is served, the generous savories course pours forth from the back of the house. Plates are arranged with individual servings of egg salad roll up (yum), pimento cheese thumbprint cookie, chicken salad sandwich, pumpkin bread & cranberry sandwich, cucumber bourbon benedictine, apricot, ham & brie phyllo cup and a mini cheeseburger bite. We take our time sampling each item as we visit with our tablemates.
Desserts at Christmas Tea Bulloch Hall in Roswell, GA
For dessert, we have fun identifying which was which, agreeing that the pound cake with orange marmalade and ginger hazelnut shortbread cookie were the standouts, amongst the toffee pear scone, lemon tart, sugar plums, fruit cake cookie and Christmas trifle. So many Christmas treats!
Touring Bulloch Hall
After taking tea, we meet in the foyer to commence our docent-led tour of this 1839 home, and especially admire the sample inventions woven throughout the home’s decorations, to display the accomplishments of 19th century female inventors.
Bulloch Hall in Roswell, GA
We can understand why these teas sell out so quickly, as this event invites friends and family to gather for a leisurely, festive repast in a historic home that harkens back to the original era of afternoon tea.

Destination Tea: Montpelier Mansion

Where:  Laurel, MD
Style:  Georgian
Tea Selection:  2 loose leaf teas
Teatimes:  Monthly teas with multiple seatings
Reservations:  Reserved with credit card (teas can sell out weeks in advance)
Contact:  301-377-7817
Cost: $30 Holiday Tea (ages 18 and up); $26 Members (includes gratuity and self-guided tour)
Destination Tea Tip:  Upon entering the Montpelier Mansion grounds, follow signs for the mansion, winding around to the parking lot and then walk up a brick path to the house. Be sure to allow time for a visit to the gift shop and your self-guided tour of this historical home.Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, MD

Destination Tea Notes:  The volunteer staff at Montpelier Mansion has thought of everything to make their afternoon tea events special, from decorations to favors, from gracious service to a masterfully catered menu provided by The Tea Trolley in Delta, Pennsylvania. Celebrating a holiday by taking tea at this 18th-century estate feels like we are properly ringing in the season. A light snowfall envelopes the mansion as we settle in for a scrumptious tea by a bedecked fireplace. Afterwards we dip a toe into the past during our self-guided tour and find locally made gifts at the mansion’s holiday Artists’ Boutique. Wisely, while bidding us farewell, Montpelier Mansion staff announce upcoming teas for the year, and if we were locals, we would be making every effort to miss not a one of them!

Walking to Montpelier Mansion from the parking lot
Approaching the mansion from the parking lot
Entering Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, MD
Entering through the gift shop
Table for tea at Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, MD
We step back in time at our fireside table for two beautifully decorated with wintry greenery. An unexpected treat:  favors sit at our places – handmade soaps infused with tea — cleverly labeled with upcoming tea dates at the mansion. 
Tea room at Montpelier Mansion
The cheerful yellow tea room decorated with Christmas colors is brightly lit by the sun reflecting off the snow outside.

Tea Service

For this winter tea, mansion volunteers serve two options — a Montpelier blend (Darjeeling) and a Coconut Almond Snowflake black tea (fabulous). We enjoyed copious amounts of our favorite, thanks to the servers’ diligent attentions.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

Sweet scones from the Tea Trolley in Delta, PA
The Tea Trolley’s signature sweet scones have perfect texture, and are a bit sweet for us, so we share one between us.
It’s the little things that make afternoon tea special, like these tiny teapot handles on our condiment spoons.
Tea sandwiches at Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, MD
The Tea Trolley hits the mark with creative and tasty sandwiches that counter the winter chill with a taste of the tropics, with pineapple-ham, spinach cream cheese, mango chutney and chicken salad with grape sandwiches. Yum!
Desserts at Montpelier Mansion afternoon tea
The desserts are too good. We savor our mint chocolate cupcake, white chocolate orange truffle, pecan tartlet and — saving the best for last — an eggnog cheesecake (yes!).
Tour pamphlet at Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, MD
Time for our self-guided tour of this 18th century home
Touring Montpelier Mansion
Tea service laid out in the family living room
Gift shop finds at Montpelier Mansion
Children’s tea sets, loose leaf teas, locally made gifts and other tea paraphernalia are for sale in the mansion gift shop.