Tag Archives: California

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 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 Summer Morning Moment – Finally

Yes, I live in Southern California, and yes, it is typically beautiful weather most of the year. This summer, however, has been suffering from an ongoing case of June Gloom. For those of you unfamiliar, June Gloom is the presence of a marine layer that hangs around for most of the month of June, leaving the skies looking overcast. More Seattle than San Diego. The gloom has persisted for much of July, and finally we’re seeing trace glimpses of what summer days (and in particular, mornings) are all about.

To celebrate, I took the dog on a walk to enjoy the sunshine-y brightness, that beautiful morning light where everything seems clearer, more brilliant, and more dazzling than any other time of day.

Ed (our dog) was terribly excited at the prospect of being out and about in the early morning hours. There was apparently a lot of doggy news he had been missing out on, and he had a lot of sniffing up to do.

We took our time, soaking up the sun and the quiet. We saw bunnies racing up the hills and darting under bushes, birds of every size and shape chasing each other and singing their morning songs.  And then we also saw a couple of signs pleading with the good people of the neighborhood to be on the look out for a lost, small, black and white lap dog. Ed and I looked at each other sadly and shook our heads. “Coyote snacks,” we agreed. The circle of life.

With a summer morning soaked into my June-Gloomy  bones, I was ready to continue my path on my green tea journey.  As luck would have it, I had just received a shipment of Tamayokucha from Two Leaves and a Bud, a tea company I was recently introduced to. This tea is described as an ‘extremely green’ tea. However, it was still from China and  is a Gyokuro style tea, which means it is covered for its last weeks of growth to bring out the floral notes of the tea.

I opened the package and was hit by the scent of pure summer. Early morning memories from my childhood of the neighbor’s lawn being mown at 7 in the morning. The fresh cut grass, soaked with dew. I brewed the tea, and the steeping liquid was still infused with that summer scent, but was much more mellow and slowly turned more earthy. The first sip. It’s much brighter than the greens I’ve been exploring. A hint of sweetness and bitterness at the same time. It’s… intriguing. An acquired taste. And I’m hell-bent on acquiring that taste.

I’ve spent my last few mornings now with this tea, and each day it becomes more familiar, no longer a stranger, not so abrasive. My palate is changing with this journey. I’m appreciating the new nuances, profiles and earthy flavors that I ran from in the past. And so my journey continues. I seem to keep gathering new companions along the way. But I’m also glad to have my old companions continue on, who are tried and true.

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A Mother’s Day Moment

What better way to spend Mother’s Day than with my dreamy husband and sweetest daughter at a First Ever service of High Tea at American Tea Room. Edie was on her best behavior for most of the time, and I got to enjoy my favorite people and favorite pastime all in one exceptional spot.

David and Valerie hard at work

David and Randy, the owners of ATR, greeted us fondly and we were shown to our table. We were also introduced to one of my new favorite people, Valerie Gordon, the artisanal confectioner preparing all the sweets and treats to accompany the glorious selection of teas.

High Tea started off with a most beautiful Amuse of the most delicate and decadent chocolate filled with a lovely cream filling. It was accompanied by Bao Zhong Royale, an Oolong with just the lightest hints of jasmine and narcissus. Edie dove headfirst into both, and I couldn’t blame her. Delicious!


And now came the potentially difficult decision of tea. A hand-picked selection was offered on a tea menu, but David came to my rescue – knowing my love of black teas – suggesting a new arrival not listed on the High Tea menu: Ruby Black. The history of this lovely Assam is the stuff of novels, but let me pique your interest by saying that this tea has been in production for less than 3 year and can only be found in the U.S. at our own American Tea Room. David, you know me too well…

Next, we were served Creme Fraiche Scones with the largest pat of real butter I’ve ever seen, and a mouth-watering selection of strawberry-creme fraiche jam, strawberry rhubarb jam, and a marmalade. I loved how the scones were a little bigger than an Oreo, light, fluffy, warm, and manageable. There was no worrying about whether or not to cut off chunks – just the luxury of slathering the whole thing in butter and jam-of-choice and nibbling away.

The tea sandwiches were next – a selection of three per person.  Curried Chicken with Muscat Grapes; Breakfast Radish, Butter and Lemon Confit; Crab Salad with mint and Lime.  All open-faced, all designed to be consumed in two or three heavenly bites. The Curried Chicken came out the crowd favorite – I even heard one patron request additional Curried Chicken sandwiches because they simply couldn’t get enough!

And last, but definitely not least, the sweets. Oh, Valerie. You are a Master of your Craft.  An Earl Grey Petit Four; a Lemon Curd and Creme Fraiche Tartlet; Matcha Shortbread Cookies; and the most divine chocolates I have ever tasted. Gene and I tried to name our favorite of the assortment, but we just couldn’t. The petit four had a simple sweetness with that gentle bergamot (and perhaps lavender) of the Earl Grey, but the tartlet had everything that is best about a lemon meringue pie without the meringue.  And the chocolates… Well, they are just a category on their own that can’t be compared. Toffee squares coated in chocolate, topped with either an almond or what appeared to be some kind of rock salt. The toffee was not the kind that you will be excavating from your teeth for years to come, oh no. This is real, buttery, nearly melting in your mouth toffee like nothing I’ve ever had before. And caramels. I love caramels. I didn’t know how much I loved caramels until I tasted these.  The liquid caramel is lovingly hidden in dark chocolate domes. I suddenly realized I had never really had caramels before.

Thank you to American Tea Room and to Valerie Confections for providing such a lovely opportunity for me and my family to enjoy tea together is such a setting. And thank you to my husband and daughter for making my Mother’s Day quite a special moment. While the High Tea was incredible, sharing it with my family was priceless.

Enjoy High Tea at American Tea Room
Saturdays and Sundays
401 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Reservations strongly recommended
310.271.7922 or  tea@americantearoom.com

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A Tea House on Los Rios Moment

Is there anything better than sharing afternoon tea with dear friends?

It’s been 10 years since Gene and I relocated from Boise, Idaho to Southern California with nothing but two cars stuffed full of our belongings. We could never have dared to hope for the life, opportunities and friendships that this adventure would lead us to.

These were my thoughts as I met two of my dearest friends for afternoon tea at one of my favorite local tea spots in southern California, The Tea House on Los Rios. I couldn’t believe that in the nearly 8 years I’ve known S and 6 years I’ve known B, I had not yet exposed them to this gem!

These are the women who have known all the ups and downs of my work life, pursuits of dreams and hobbies, and most important, my foray into motherhood. With 5 children between the two of them, they were my adoptive sisters who cheered me along the way, giving the best advice anyone ever told me, “Do what works to keep your sanity.” There were and are days when that mantra has helped me keep my marbles.

So here we were, on a Saturday no less, getting together for tea and conversation. While we once all worked together and lunched together weekly, we are now strewn across the length of Orange County, so these moments are even more rare and precious.

It was a chilly Saturday, but we sat on the wrap around porch and admired the blooming flowers, sipped pomegranate mimosas, enjoyed our current scones with jam and clotted cream, nibbled on our tiny sandwiches, and of course, drank copious amounts of tea. (I always go for the Los Rios Tea with a pot of Queen Catherine blend)

The tea, as always, was excellent. The food was delicious. But the friends… They were, and are, the best part of the moment.

The Tea House on Los Rios
31731 Los Rios
Los Rios Historic District
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

Open 11:00 am -5:00 pm Wed thru Fri
Sat & Sun 9:30 am-5:00 pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Reservations Recommended
(949) 443-3914

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A Golden Lily Moment

It’s been a busy week. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I hopped in a rental car and made a not-unpleasant journey to Fresno for a speaking engagement. Because of all the rain we’ve had, the hills and valleys were green, green, green, and there were explosions of purple and yellow wildflowers everywhere. At one point, I came over a pass and as I descended into the valley, I saw a literal sea of purple lupine on both sides of the highway. It was breathtaking!  Fresno, itself, was not so breathtaking, but my contacts were nice, the event, successful. After that 3-hour engagement, I hopped back in the car and made my way to Concord, where I was comfortably installed in a Hilton. 8 hours of driving and 3 hours of speaking would wipe anyone out, and I was down for the count by 9 pm.

The next day, another speaking engagement, another hour of driving, and then a flight home with approximately 100 high school cheerleaders. I watched the parents chaperoning these girls and pondered my future in their shoes. Hmm…

This morning was a scramble of wrap-up emails, follow-ups to those who gave me business cards, and finally I decided…

ENOUGH

Time for tea. But not just any tea. Something special.And I knew just the thing.

After learning of my new love affair with milk oolong, Lawrence of Naivetea introduced me to their premium oolong, Golden Lily. This milk oolong was purported to have a hint of pineapple. Intriguing.

After a good steeping, the resulting liquid was a bright sunny yellow. The fragrance is the floral oolong scent that I am getting more familiar with, a creamy undercurrent, and just the slightest hint of something sweet. Yes, it is a bit pineapple-y.

The first sip. Ahhh. Just what I needed. A full mouth feel, a subtle creaminess, there is nothing thin or weak about this tea. I had wondered how much of the pineapple sweetness would appear here, but the sweetness carried by this tea is played in light notes. They appear and then fade gently into the background. I sense an essence of pineapple, but not an actual pineapple taste, much to my relief. Nicely balanced, refreshing and peaceful. I down one cup, then another. A third? Yes, please.

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A Saturday Tea and Sushi Moment

Saturday mornings have turned into my private getaway day. Gene takes on Edie, and I escape for a couple of hours to do any exotic thing I desire. This has typically meant that I sneak away to the library to check out 3 books, and then sit in the attached coffee house, The Neighborhood Cup, for a cup of tea or coffee and a bit of reading.

These days, however, I have had a strong hankering for sushi. The reason? I can’t explain. I’m originally from the Northwest United States. Sushi in that region is considered g-r-o-s-s amongst the majority of the population. But since our move to California 10 years ago and an abrupt introduction to it during one of my first annual review meetings with my boss (in which I was desperately trying to act mature and sophisticated), I have come to enjoy and even crave it.

So, on my Saturday mornings, I have become a regular at Kan Pai sushi. They bring me my beverage without even having to ask. They know I will always order a crunchy roll and a tuna or salmon roll. The waitress, who I suspect is also one of the owners, made the observation, “You’re always reading.” Yes. Yes, I am. I am escaping into someone else’s world, just for an hour or so, re-energizing so I can dive into the new week. And keeping me and my book company is always their pot of tea. A bagged oolong, it doesn’t matter really. Because a tea moment can often be about the moment itself. What is happening there, what is being discovered or soothed or mulled over. The quality of tea can be something special. But on these Saturday sushi and tea moments, the point of it all is to just be.

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