Tea Rooms – Two to Celebrate and Enjoy

Visiting tea shops is one of my great pleasures – whether alone or with friends.  I try to find at least one in every town I visit and more in cities.  Early on, I wasn’t very picky but now, quite frankly, I want my time and my money to be spent in a terrific experience. Whether it’s basic or elegant there are a few things that are important to me.

The shop needs to be comfortable – the chairs, tables, and overall space all have to feel good.  I’m not interested in sitting with my friends for one to two hours and not being comfortable. I’ve been in ‘adorable’ places with wonderful antique furniture but have found myself feeling cramped and squished in, the tables too rickety. It’s fine, and even quite charming, to be shabby chic but if my table is not stable or my chair makes me feel like I’m not sure it will hold up, oh my, suddenly even a great cup of tea is not so great.

Please provide a good selection of tea, not just one, two, or three, but a good number to choose from. I may not be in the mood for English Breakfast or the establishment’s special blend.  A good selection of both caffeinated and decaffeinated is a must these days. And the tea needs to be hot, really hot, not just very warm.  Tea cozies are welcome if it’s a shared pot and we will be lingering over our food.

Speaking of food, it’s more fun if the food is interesting and even adventuresome. I love English afternoon style tea with tea sandwiches (please not all white bread), scones, and small tidbit desserts but to me, it’s even more delightful to find something different to savor with my hot tea. Alice’s Tea Cup in NYC does a wonderful job of serving hearty sandwiches and soups as well as the traditional 3-tier services.  I visit the one on West 73rd Street when in town.  It has a wonderful rambling feel with folks stopping in for lunch, snacks, traditional English tea, etc.  If you want a hearty dessert to share or to hoard, their cakes are beyond wonderful.  Yes it is a trendy place but the overall quality is well worth it.  For those of us who cannot get enough of a good thing, their cookbook is a delight – a great gift for a tea loving friend.

Harney & Sons has two wonderful tea rooms, one in Soho and one in Millerton, NY, about a 2 hour drive north of New York City.  While I love the Soho venue, the Millerton shop is so warm, intimate, and delightful.  I had the great pleasure of having tea and lunch with a childhood friend, my brother, and his wife at the Millerton tea room earlier this year.  It was my childhood friend’s Mom who introduced my family to Jackson of Piccadilly Earl Grey tea that started my long love affair with tea, making this an even more appropriate place to meet.  We talked for several hours, savoring the tea, the food, and the company.

The food at this shop is wonderful, I particularly like the smoked salmon with capers and cucumbers on baguette.  But more than that, it has everything I like, a tea shop to sample and buy tea, a tea bar to sit and savor, wonderful tea products and tea accoutrements to browse and buy, fabulous food, and a warm inviting staff.

Both of these shops represent the best characteristics of a good tea room for my taste – warm, comfortable, interesting food, great tea, good shopping and the freedom to relax and savor the moment.


8 thoughts on “Tea Rooms – Two to Celebrate and Enjoy

  1. Diane, I still have a silver tea strainer that you gave to me one Christmas long ago when we worked together. I do confess I enjoy my morning cup(s) of coffee, but the ever-persistent Dr. Weill is starting to convince me that tea is better for my health…so i’m going to try to make the switch. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Martha, totally delighted that you still have the strainer and that you ‘refreshed’ my memory. I love tea strainers and have a very small collection of them. Hope that you do make a partial switch as the evidence does seem to point to the many merits of tea. So many choices and totally subjective. Although tea is my drug of choice, still drink coffee, wine, and the occasional cocktail. Diversity is a good thing.

      Thanks for reading and for the comment.

  2. Passions like yours for tea – are a wonderful thing to share. Your writings remind me – to “smell the roses” and to queue up my passions – especially for reetirement years ahead. But also “why wait” enjoy this life, family and friends along the way – of course!

  3. What a wonderful idea! There seems to be a strong link between your tea habits and mine. My Dad was one of the tea inspirations in my famil, and my grandmother was the other – but they had tastes that were at opposite ends of the spectrum as it existed then. She was an oolong drinker, preferring British brands brewed for less than a minute. He loved Lapsang Soochong, served in large cups and brewed quite strongly. Neither, however, drank tea from a mug – - cups with saucers were the norm. Both took sugar but no milk or cream. I prefer Harney’s Palm Court in the morning with a stiff dose of sweetner and milk in the morning and revert to my father’s fave in the afternoon.

    • And I like Harney’s Supreme Breakfast or their Queen Catherine in the AM and anything goes after that. It was your mom who introduced us to Jackson of Picadilly Earl Grey so your family had one of the earliest influences on my tea tastes. I love Lapsang Souchong and also love Russian Caravan and Alice’s Tea Cup’s Mt Everest Breakfast Tea, which also has a smokey flavor but milder than either of the other two. And I have moved to plain tea – often with honey and very occasionally with lemon. All depends. Look forward to our next outing at Harney and Sons in Millerton – still my fave.

      • Have you discovered Tupelo honey? It’s made from hives located in a very small area near the Tupelo River and has a wonderful, light and aromatic aura that just floats on one’s tongue. It comes in several brands and your local gourmet shop may have it.

        • Kathy, thanks for this suggestion. My local Whole Foods has some Tupelo Honey but I have not bought it and will jump on it now. The Cadia Brazilian organic wildflower is yummy. Which leads me to honey cake which will be one of my topics fairly soon. I have so many recipes and look forward to trying them. Of course the honey used will impact the flavor. Suspect one could do a whole cook book on that subject.

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