Category Archives: Tea Room

A Sussex Tea Pot Tea Room Moment

There’s so much to be said for old faithful friends. After living in Orange County for nearly 11 years now, I feel so blessed to have made some deep and rich friendships. My longest standing California friend is someone I worked with for several years, and now she and I find ourselves on opposite ends of Orange County in completely different roles than where we first started. We each have families now, with increasingly complicated schedules as kids get older, husbands’ work gets more demanding (and more precious), and then we have our own selves to manage!

So, when S suggested connecting through a two-person book club, I was delighted at the thought! This would be a way for us to do something together, though separately, and also give us a great excuse to escape our families for an hour or two to discuss our thoughts on the book.  Brilliant!

We chose ‘Eat. Pray. Love.’ mostly because of the timing of the movie release. We ambitiously thought we might be able to plan a girls’ movie night to tie in with our reading. And while that didn’t quite turn out as planned, we did manage to meet for lunch. Or, at her suggestion, for afternoon tea. She knows me oh-too-well.

Imagine my surprise when she suggested a tea room that I had not yet discovered! The Sussex Tea Pot Tea Room and Thistle British/Irish Grocery and Gift Shop. (Say that five times fast!)

Located in a business park of sorts, this little slice of Britain is as authentic as it gets! I’ve been to a handful of tea rooms in England over the years, and this transported me to those moments – right down to the two grandmotherly, no-nonsense ladies who oversee the premises. 
While S and I caught up on all the latest and discussed snippets of the book, we also thoroughly enjoyed the traditional fare of an English Tea Time.

It started with a salad dressed with a sauce that I have only ever tasted in Europe. Almost a mayonnaisse -y vinaigrette. (They carry it in the connecting grocery store!) Then a plate of 4 sandwiches and chips. I chose cream cheese and cucumber and egg salad. Delicious! Then came the scones with jam and cream. I had forgotten that in England, the scones arrive at the end, not at the beginning as I’ve found so often in the states. The pot of tea was a strong English Breakfast. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

And of course, while the setting and the food warmed the cockles of my heart, it was the company that made the moment so special. I took for granted all the weeks, months and years that I could grab S for lunch when we worked in the same office. Now, lunch together is a rare treat that can take weeks or months of planning!  And that’s why there is so much to be said for old faithful friends. Regardless of the amount of time that can pass between visits, phone calls or emails, whenever we’re back together it’s as if no time has passed at all.  Those are moments that I treasure.

The Sussex Tea Pot Tea Room
12752 Valley View Street, Suites P&Q 
Bridgecreek Business Park 
Garden Grove
714-897-9442

http://sussexteapot.com/aboutus.htm

Tea Room Hours
Wed through Sun – 11a-4p
Mon & Tues – Closed

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A Neighborhood Cup Moment

The town where I live is a very small town in the sprawling landscape that is Orange County, California. Some might describe it as a bedroom community. It’s a new town, and as such, there hasn’t been much opportunity for quaint spots to be carved out of history. This is where The Neighborhood Cup comes in. It’s a little neighborhood cafe that is connected to our modest – but – modern library. One half of the floor space is taken up by homey, wooden tables, the other half by squishy couches and comfy chairs. It’s also the lifeblood of the local artistic community, providing live concerts, embroidery bees, yoga classes and family karaoke evenings. 

It serves light fare in addition to its menu of fun coffee drinks, smoothies and a wide variety of loose leaf tea, courtesy of Lindsay’s Teas. It is such a rare occurrence that a neighborhood cafe has loose leaf tea, that I love them particularly for the fact of it.

On the rare occasion that I have a free hour, I will cruise over, check out a book at the library, order a cup of tea, sink into the corner of the man-eating couch, and then not think about how I am going to get up again until the hour is over.

For this veg session on an unusually warm November day, I chose Summer Melon Oolong. I don’t often go for fruity teas because of the sickeningly sweet aftertaste so many of them have. Lindsay’s Teas do it right, however. A lightly perfumed oolong with the bright sweetness of melon. The fruit flavor doesn’t stay, it fades into a scent. Perfect. Just the thing for a quiet moment.

The Neighborhood Cup
1 Journey
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

949.716.5100

An International Tea Moment now has a Facebook Page! http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/An-International-Tea-Moment/160567147290939. Share your tea moments with me there!

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A Mother Daughter Tea Moment

Being a fairly new mother myself, I increasingly value any time I can have with my own Mom. And the fact that I moved 904 miles away from her 10 years ago makes the moments with her more precious, and more rare! And so, it’s a treat that for the past several years, my Mom comes to stay with me for nearly a week each August while Gene is away at a trade show.

This year, as an early birthday celebration for her, we visited a tea room that I had only recently learned of from a friend. I can’t believe I had not yet discovered Paris in a Cup, as I love all things French!  And this Salon du The does not disappoint.

My Mom and I oooh’d and ahhh’d over the richly appointed tea salon, with its deep golden walls, elegantly upholstered banquettes and wrought iron, curlicued chairs. Each accent was perfectly chosen for its beauty and 1940’s Parisian touch. I loved it. Did I mention how beautiful the place was?

As if the theme, atmosphere and (of course) company wasn’t perfect enough, we were presented with a food menu and separate tea menu! Be still my beating heart! Here was a tea menu filled front and back with not only Paris in a Cup Signature Teas, but some of the premier names in the tea trade. There were white teas, greens, blacks, and blends. I read each selection, savoring each description. But, because it was afternoon tea, and I am still somewhat stuck in my tea room ways, I opted for a black blend that boasted a caramel finish. Mom found a decaf black tea blend that sounded delicious, and we chose the Gigi Afternoon Tea for the food menu.  The tea arrived first, each of us receiving a small pot of our individual teas, perfectly brewed. Throughout our stay, when offered a refill, we were brewed brand new pots of tea. This is a tea salon that takes their teas seriously. Fantastic!

And then the food arrived. A lovely tiered tray of scones, assorted tea sandwiches and petit fours. The sandwiches were hearty and delicate a the same time. Savory treats, including the requisite cucumber sandwich. The scones were accompanied by two glass domed services of Devonshire cream and confit (fruit jam or preserves).  The desserts were rich a decadent and met anyone’s fruit, cream or chocolate requirements.

As always, there’s no better tea moment than those spent with kindred spirits, and my Mom is the most Kindred Spirit of them all. What an overwhelming luxury to share such a treat with such a person. We talked and talked, laughed and ate, admiring our surroundings and the spread before us. I couldn’t think of anything to make it better. And then something better happened. I had mentioned that we were having an early birthday celebration for my Mom, and so as we were preparing to leave, our server stopped us a presented a little memento as a gift. A beautiful, Parisian inspired pocket mirror. How lovely!

While there are a few photos here as a remembrance of a lovely tea moment, there are infinitely more snapshots of that day treasured away in my heart. These are the moments I can’t get enough of.

Paris in a Cup
119 S Glassell St
Orange, CA 92866
ph: 714-538-9411

Lunch and Tea Fare are served daily in the Grand Salon. Reservations recommended

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A Huntington Library Moment

It’s a rare gift when one of your best couple friends suggests a family outing to a tea room. But this tea room was not your average, every day tea room. It was the Rose Garden Tea Room at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

The tea service itself is a unique experience. Once seated, we were served a basket of small scones with the requisite pots of butter, jam and Devonshire Cream, as well as our choice of hot tea, iced tea or lemonade. Being as hard core as I am, I defied the fact that it was near 100 degrees F outside and ordered a pot of English Breakfast. Everyone else opted for the iced tea (and really, I can’t blame them).  We were then instructed to make our way to the buffet at our leisure.

On one side of the buffet there were a variety of sandwiches and salads: Watercress with horseradish cream cheese, Egg salad, Tuna, Salmon and cucumber, and more. (For the more adventurous palates, there was caviar as well. On the other side was an assortment of fruits and desserts. For my fruit lover, Edie, this was her preferred side. 

M and Baby M enjoyed the coolness of the iced tea, and T and Gene showed off their more refined sides between discussions of how punk rock is not dead and which current rap and pop stars are freemasons.

After tucking into several rounds of sandwiches, fruit tarts and chocolate delights, we ventured outside to indulge in the second course – a feast for the eyes in the botanical gardens. In this case, words can do no justice, so I’ll leave it to M’s beautiful photography skills (mine are the slightly fuzzy ones!).

M and T were our first couple friends that we made when we moved to Southern California, and in those nearly 10 years we have shared Easters and Thanksgivings, their most beautiful wedding in France, the birth of Edie and then Baby M, and we couldn’t be more grateful for their presence in our lives.

So whether you have the type of friends you like to hike around and have tea with or not, a day trip to the Huntington is definitely worth the trip. But as with all moments, the best ones are shared.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA  91108
626.405.2100

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A Hamburg – Shanghai Milk Oolong Moment

One of my greatest joys is when someone shares their own international tea moment, and when I received this one, it was especially lovely. Abadia has been a long-time reader and provides some of the greatest tips when I’m on the lookout for something in particular. So, please enjoy this tea moment, provided by Abadia and her daughters, Sara (13), Maren (10) and Isabel (8). All photos are courtesy of Sara (well done!)

Dear Jen,

I found it! Milk Oolong!
And it’s wonderful!

I was in Hamburg with my girls and we visited a tea house, Shanghai Yu Garden, that’s a replica of a famous tea house in Shanghai. This house is also a cultural centre and a bridge between both cities (Hambug and Shanghai). 
The tea house has a website, but unfortunately not in English. www.yugarden.de

We had there “Yum Cha”, that’s the chinese tea time, and they served us incredible “Dim Sum” with the tea.

I tasted their Milk Oolong.

The nice woman (all the employees come from Shanghai) gave me a little bag with some Milk Oolong, and I’m wating for a special moment to drink it.

Next time I will try their the “Dragonwell”!

Greetings from hot (really hot) Germany!

Abadía

To Visit:

Shanghai Yu Garden
“Hamburg-Shanghai Europa Tourismuszentrum”
Feldbrunnenstraße 67
20148 Hamburg
Germany

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A N’Awlins Ritz Carlton Moment

The last time I landed in New Orleans was September 9, 2001. Though I was only scheduled to be there 3 days and 2 nights, I did not actually leave until September 14th on the first flight allowed to leave the New Orleans air space. Because I was trapped in New Orleans on 9/11, it has a very special place in my heart. And really, if you’re going to be trapped anywhere, this was not a bad place to be. I drank the city in. Yes, I did Bourbon Street, but I also did a swamp tour, walked the River Walk, took the St. Charles Streetcar, had chickory coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde, and even was able to offer walking directions (in French!!!) to a couple I encountered who looked rather lost.

So, nearly 10 years later, I found myself back in The Big Easy it was kind of trippy. Driving in from the airport, I got a lump in my throat when I saw the Superdome before my eyes and tried to imagine the terror, grief and near inhumane condition so many residents had to endure there while awaiting help during Katrina.

The French Quarter seemed like its same celebratory self. Folks drinking Hurricanes and wearing beads. Everyone I ran into was helpful and hospitable. I only wish I had time to revisit more of this iconic city. But I was there for work. It was the National Apartment Association Education Conference and Exposition – the largest conference for the apartment (or multi-family housing, if you want to know the lingo) industry. My company was exhibiting, and my boss and I were panelists for one of the education sessions. Here’s a link to an interview that took place right after my session with a reporter from MultiHousing News:

So after a day of travel, 2 days straight of being on my feet for the trade show or education sessions, and 3 evenings of networking events, by the time I reached Saturday you could stick a fork in me because I was DONE. Unfortunately (and inexplicably), trying to get from New Orleans to Los Angeles is not as easy as it sounds. You can fly out at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m.  Well, 6 a.m. just wasn’t going to happen, so I had a full day to revisit all New Orleans had to offer. Only, I had nothing left to offer it. After bidding adieu to work colleagues and industry pals, I poured myself into a cab and asked to be delivered to the place that is known for taking customer care to the highest level: The Ritz-Carlton. I have never done anything like this before, but I marched into their spa and asked for the first massage they had available. The staff was lovely. Simply lovely. And they welcomed me with the equivalent of a spa’s open arms: a sinfully soft white robe and the most comfortable spa slippers I’ve ever worn. (Those of you who know my love of all things white terrycloth can understand how happy I was in this moment.)

I had the best of intentions to go to afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton. It was truly the only real activity on my personal agenda. And yet, I absolutely could not summon the energy or appetite to indulge in their magical, culinary wonderland. You know for sure that I was at the end of the line when not even Tea at the Ritz-Carlton can tempt. However, I did need something for fuel, and the idea of a pot of tea and a little scone was appealing.

One day I will experience the full tea service at the New Orleans Ritz-Carlton myself, because what I observed was truly lovely. A bridal shower with a table full of tiered trays, pots of tea, and attentive servers. The table was lovely, the obvious bride even lovelier. A mother, father and two young girls out for a mini celebration of their own. The dad putting on an extraordinary game face and making his daughters feel like princesses. A couple of old friends laughing together. A couple who could have been my grandparents seated together in amicable silence, absorbing the scene and the music. Because you can’t dismiss the music. A live harpist (is that the correct term?) playing light classical music. She even whipped up a little, “Here Comes the Bride,” as gifts were being opened.

I requested a small pot of tea and asked if it was possible to just have a scone. The server looked at my run down face, smiled, and said of course. A few minutes later, tea and a small plate of 3 tiny scones and the accompanying toppings of preserves, Devonshire cream and lemon curd arrived. Although the food was delicious, the feast I truly enjoyed was the surrounding scene before my eyes. Beautiful, relaxing, and no one wanted anything from me. And then I requested the check. The server placed it on my table and said, “We had extra scones today, so there’s no charge for those. I hope you enjoyed your time here.” I was speechless. It’s the unexpected and unnecessary small acts of kindness that stop you in your tracks, especially from business establishments that you would normally expect additional service charges and included tips when it came time to pay. It was the perfect end to my hectic week that drained me of all I had. I’ll be back, Ritz-Carlton. And I’m bringing friends.

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A Heavens-to-Gooseberries Moment

Yes, you do see sugar cubes!

Travel seems to occur in cycles for me. One year I may find myself in Toronto several times for various reasons. Another year it will be Orlando or Atlanta. This year, it is is Minneapolis and Phoenix. On my last day trip to Phoenix, I decided I would carve out an hour to see what I could find on the order of tea. And here is where I discovered Gooseberries Tea Room and Boutique.

Located in an unassuming strip mall, this treasure of a tea room has been quietly entertaining legions of fans for 30 years, though the current owners have been in place for just the past few. Who’da thunk that one could find such a peaceful, cool, relaxing oasis of tea in the hot, hot, heat of Phoenix?  I had made the required reservations in order to have the full afternoon tea, and was led to my own private table that had a little personalized sign welcoming me. Deb, the server, brought out the tea room’s signature rose water and took my order for tea. When it comes to afternoon tea, I must, of course, have the English Breakfast. Soon, my tea arrived and was placed on the cutest teapot warmer I have yet encountered. (Gooseberries – where can I get one of these for myself?!?)

The first course was brought out: a tiered tray of sandwiches. A feast for the eyes as well as the appetite! All open-faced, and in fun shapes (the turkey and cranberry sandwich was cut in the shape of a tea pot!), there was plenty of savory goodness to satisfy the hungriest of patrons.

Then came the basket of scones and a plate of sweets. I loved that the scones were served in a linen-lined basket to keep them piping hot. This was a first in my tea room experiences, and I loved it! Along with the scones, there was plenty of Devon cream, jam, and even lemon curd. If you have not experienced lemon curd before, I highly recommend it. Imagine all the lemony-goodness of an entire lemon meringue pie (without the meringue) packed into one  bite. Intensely wonderful.  At this point in my meal, I was already reaching capacity. And there was still dessert!!! A delicate chocolate butterfly balanced in a tiny pastry cup of chocolate and cream, along with two other mini desserts.  I had to actually request a to-go box.

Yes, I enjoy tea. And I certainly enjoy the variety of styles and personalities of tea rooms I have visited over the years. But one of the things I enjoy most is discovering the story behind the tea moment. Who created this space? What is important to them? What do they enjoy most?

Enter Debbie Parnham.  She has that certain air and grace about her that I often hope to achieve when I grow up someday. Beauty, style, and down-to-earth warmth and hospitality. We quickly found that we both have been involved in public speaking, though hers has been focused on women in prison. I found it hard to imagine this lovely and soft-spoken creature before me standing and speaking to roomfuls of hardened criminals, and yet I could see that her absolute approachability would make it work beautifully. She shared that her greatest joy in having this tea room is to be able to have tea parties for women and girls who might not otherwise have such an opportunity.

She has hosted a tea party for women in shelters, who have few or no possessions. This was a rare opportunity for these women to share a day of fellowship and beauty together – hopefully a day without worry or care. On this particular occasion, each woman was able to go home with her own tea cup that had been donated. Debbie shared that when she announced everyone would be able to keep her tea cup, the room erupted in screams and shouts of joy. Such small gifts and treasures can have such a special impact.

In another tea party, she brought the event to girls in juvenile detention. Though discouraged from bringing fine china and utensils, Debbie was adamant about “doing it right.”  In addition to the full tea service, she brought blouses for each girl to wear to the party. One girl commented, “I feel so weird!”  “Why?” Debbie asked.  “I haven’t worn real clothes in years.” Some of these girls have been incarcerated for so long, they don’t have any real grasp of the outside world, street clothes, and so many of the things we take for granted. Despite the warnings of the danger of bringing the real tea party to a bunch of hooligans, Debbie shared that the girls behaved extremely well and seemed to really enjoy this time to have fun together and be… feminine.

These are events she hopes to continue. It was all very inspiring and got my mind reeling on the possibilities of what it could look like if more communities got together and hosted events such as these  – to let the struggling women among us know they are not forgotten or unimportant.

This sneak peek into Debbie’s joys and passions provides the best sense of how you feel when you visit the place of rest and beauty she has created for the whole community of Phoenix.  A visit to Gooseberries is a must!

Gooseberries is located in the AJ’s Shopping Center – 7th Street and Thunderbird -at the Southwest Corner
13216 N 7th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602)789-0622
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
The Tea Time Menu is available by reservation only, so be sure to call at least a day before!

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