Tea Rooms Here and There
“I believe that it is customary in good society to take some light refreshment at five o’clock.”
– Oscar Wilde, “The Importance of Being Earnest”
We begin in Boston, home of the most famous Tea Party of all time, when a group of patriots dumped tea into the harbor to protest the stamp tax on tea. There are several superior spots for a spot o’ tea, we recommend chief among them the Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library, where you and savor your tea amid architectural splendors. Don’t miss John Singer Sargent ’s “Frieze of the Prophets”, a true treasure. For sheer opulence share in a tradition begun in 1927, tea at the French Room at the Taj Boston, complete with a live harpist. While in Boston be sure sample other Boston favorites like baked beans and Boston cream pie. Park your car and walk the Freedom Trail, which will permit you to visit most of the great places made famous by the Revolutionary War. Do go out of your way to see the Isabel Stewart Gardner Museum. A side trip to Quincy to see Adams National Historical Park, or to Lexington and Concord round out a visit that would suit anyone to a tea.
Tea was first brought to North America by the Dutch in the 17th Century. In the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam they savored their tea and you can still find some special places to sip it today in The Big Apple. In Manhattan have tea at Tea and Sympathy or The Pembroke Room at the Lowell Hotel, one of New York City’s best kept secrets. For tea in the other boroughs: Bellocq or Roebling Tea Room in Brooklyn, the Rose House in Queens (have the Rose Cake), Sugar and Spice (The Bronx, with a nice view), or Teavana Tea Shop and Tea bar on Staten Island. Out on Long Island, Robinsons in Stony Brook, is worth the drive. By the way, even though ancient tea bags were actually hand-sewn cloth bags, the first commercial tea bags were sold in 1904, by a New York coffee shop merchant named Thomas Sullivan who shipped his tea bags round the world. Regarding sites to see in New York, they are all so many and varied that we say, go for it, but remember at half past four to stop for tea.
At the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, the idea of iced tea turned into a national sensation, because they were having a heat wave, and nobody liked it hot. Tea purveyor Richard Blechynden put his brewed tea on ice, and an all American tradition was born. Today’s tea spots in St Louis include The London Tea Room, where you will want to ask about the Naughty Vicar to go with your sandwiches, scones and salads. Miss Aimee B’s in suburban Saint Charles, in a well preserved historic home, has quiche on the menu every day and a selection of several soups, not to mention their famous chicken salad pie. St. Louis has great attractions such as the Arch, so meet me in St Louis!
Iced Tea in the South is always sweet, unless you asked for “unsweet tea”. The South’s best iced tea just may be at Debi’s The Restaurant in Savannah, the location for that scene in Forrest Gump when Jenny was working and saw Forrest running on the TV news. Expect great breakfasts and fried chicken but don’t expect décor here. For another fantastic choice, go to The Tea Room on Broughton Street, which is world famous for its devotion to all things tea (reservations are required for tea time). This shop is a wonderland of tea fancier’s delights, from the tea itself to all the tea making accoutrements. While in Savannah, stroll or take a carriage ride through the historic district, visit the Pin Point Museum for the history of the Gullah Geechee community, and tour Girl Scout’s founder Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace.
Henry’s Tea Room in Lee’s Summit– outside Kansas City, Missouri – is in an historic church building. Upstairs is a great collection of antiques and vintage finds, all for sale. Downstairs is the tearoom itself, with different menu choices each day, along with tea and complimentary shortbread. Enjoy salads, quiches, and amazing desserts. Lee’s Summit is proud to be one of the Top 100 Cities in America, and you can visit to experience why, in the Historic 1880 Downtown District., with its shops of antiques, artwork and gifts. Think of it as your retreat for a tranquil and soothing get away.
While in Lee’s Summit, be sure to see the Longview Mansion & Farm, once called the most beautiful farm in America, and be sure to shop at Country Club Plaza, the first and foremost shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by car.
Clementine’s Garden Tea Room in the Grand Pacific Junction historic area of Olmsted Falls, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, offers traditional teatime choices, as well as great soups, homemade breads, and unusual specials such as the meatloaf cupcake and fruit sandwich. Clementine’s is darling, and offers so many specialty teas as well as tea type gift items. Clementine’s is known for its selection of desserts; have the red velvet cake., See the historic shops and galleries in vintage buildings that are reminders of life here 100 years ago, including the Grand Pacific Hotel. Other attractions include a 1927 steam locomotive, a caboose, views of Plum Creek, a double-tiered gazebo, the Harding Memorial Covered Bridge and the waterfalls for which the town is named, at the junction of Plum Creek and Rocky River.
Julian Tea and Cottage, in Julian California is a gem of a find in a 19th century gold miner’s cottage. The shop is attractive and cozy, with a Victorian ambiance. Not only is the décor charming, there is so much merchandise to browse, as you enjoy a beautiful afternoon tea. Have the fresh made scones. Julian is a quaint old gold mining town famous for its apple pies, just an hour’s drive up into the mountains north of San Diego. The entire township of Julian is an historic district. It is easy to imagine life in a true California frontier town, here, amid the old store fronts. Take a guided tours of the Eagle and High Peak Mines. Enjoy all of the nearby San Diego attractions.
Tea, like Driving the Nation, is all about slowing down, savoring and enjoying the moment.