TEA is truly elusive and there is not one recipe for making a tea experience outstanding. However, when you have an outstanding tea experience, you know it! Recently I found myself with 6 hours to fill in Chattanooga while I waited for Barefoot Girl to complete her final exams. Tea is a good way to fill those hours and so I made my way to Polly Claire's, a tearoom in the historic Dent house on the east side of the city.
I was by myself and so I did overhear other patrons talk about the special occasions they were celebrating that day; a graduation, a birthday and even an engagement! Most had been there before and recounted their previous experiences to their table mates and the waitress using words in the superlative like, best ever and so special...
Aesthetically, Polly Claire's is a symphony to the eyes. The crispest white linens adorn the tables while comfortable chairs encircle them. Fresh flowers and candles enhance the tablescapes in an elegant, understated, French country sort of way. No detail is overlooked and one can prepare for a refreshing, enlivening tea experience. All the food is made fresh, in-house and you can taste it. I feasted on a special three-tired afternoon Mother's Day tea only after my pot of orange blossom oolong arrived, steeped to perfection, and a piping hot vanilla bean scone arrived with jam, lemon curd and cream. Teas like this don't happen every day, and I settled in to enjoy it. All of the desserts were recipes from former First Ladies and a charming little recipe booklet was left for me at my table. I hated to leave and my tea champion waitress, Addie, allowed, even encouraged, me to linger as long as I desired.
I was able to speak with the beautiful (inside and out) owner of Polly Claire's and thank her for this perfect tea experience and I told her I will be back, not soon enough, but I will be back. So, if you find yourself in Chattanooga with a few hours to spare, you know where to go!
Just on the boarder of East TN, in the small town of Ooltewah, the old courthouse on Church Street is now a tearoom and wedding chapel. Dancing Girl and I planned our trip and arrived on a brilliant, 75 degree May day.
We did not have a reservation as the website stated one was not needed. We were seated right away at a table for two in the Garden View Room which displayed layers of Victorian decór, heavy drapes, glass covered table cloth, and a faux tulip in a vase. The tea menu was medium sized at 8-10 loose teas, most of which were flavored. Dancing Girl selected Earl Grey and I chose English breakfast. Our server brought out delicious, well-prepared pots of hot tea and we ordered soup, quiche, and scones a la carte since there was no afternoon tea option. We were a little surprised to see "bologna sliders" as an item on a tea menu.
Over all, the food was fair and we did wonder how much was made in-house. The scones were a disappointment. They were not warm and did not appear freshly made. We talked with the owner for a few moments and learned some of the history of the building and that they host monthly themed afternoon tea special events then left feeling we'd had an satisfactory tea experience.