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.
Our chickens lay beautiful eggs which need no embellishment but...
Easter is fast approaching and we had an idea.
Dancing Girl blew out the contents of several eggs and we made extra strong brews of matcha, lapsang and hibiscus teas. We dropped the empty eggs into the teas and waited.
After 12 hours the results were subtle but lovely and will look perfect on our Easter brunch table.
Spring is here and that means time to clean out the tearoom, reorganize, breathe a bit of fresh air into the place.
After having a look around with a critical eye, these mismatched tea trays screamed, MAKEOVER! After watching Jennifer Sullivan of Southern Royal Tea in North Carolina, give an instructional demonstration featuring ways to up-cycle items using chalk paint, we had a plan.
On a lovely sunny day, The Three Sisters got busy. Using chalk paint in off white, all the tea trays are now the same color giving our tea tables a unified look.
Fresh and clean...just like a breath of spring!
We don't often review tearooms outside TN but for Peace Hill Farm, we've made an exception. www.historicpeacehill.com/afternoon-tea ~ Charles City, VA.
Dancing Girl and I ventured out for tea on the very last day of our Virginia vacation, a cool and soggy day. The chalkboard sign was a cheery welcome to Peace Hill Farm and so was Louise, our hostess, a beautiful teacup from Bath, England.
We had the place to ourselves that day and chose to sit in a cozy sunroom and despite the lack of sun, it was bright and warm.
Our tea adventure began with a steaming bowl of pumpkin soup, scrumptious and homemade, as was everything we were served that day.
Our afternoon tea was a very generous tray of 4 different, freshly prepared and farm fresh sandwiches, tea cake, scone and shortbread. 4 or 5 loose-leaf tea options were just enough of a selection and our tea was piping hot and perfect.
Darjeeling tea and a rosemary scone.
We could have stayed even longer than we did, in fact, truly we could have stayed because Peace Hill Farm is also a bed and breakfast and events center, but our menfolk awaited our return and alas, we departed with promises to return...
Our quarterly Mid-TN Tea travels took us to Tea on the Mountain located in Tracy City, TN and the drive was cloaked in dense fog as we traversed the mountain pass from Middle TN. After an adventurous 2 hour drive, we arrived ready for tea! The tearoom was housed in a modest home built in the 1950s and located at end of a street on the outskirts of town.
The tearoom was dark and musty-smelling, the tea lukewarm and weak, food fair and overall just not what we had hoped for. However there were 12 of us at the table and we enjoyed each other's company and our time together.
On the coldest day of 2019 I wandered into this whimsical establishment located in Nashville at 935 Woodland St. www.highgardentea.com
Embraced by warmth and a mixture of pleasing, herbaceous aromas, once inside I began to have look around. Four walls of floor to celling teas and herbs in glass jars made this a lengthy process. The employees were first rate, friendly, and extremely knowledgeable. I purchased some loose herbs to take home and Iron Goddess of Mercy tea to enjoy onsite. I wandered deeper into one tiny room after another each with a unique focus; an incense table, a potter's closet, and lastly the fermenting room with kombuchas, of the most creative assortment, miso, and kefir. A few more purchases were made and then my oolong was ready.
I sat down at a small table that seemed to transported one outside under an arched tree canopy one a summer day and enjoyed an exquisite pot of dark oolong perfectly brewed by a really sweet guy who knew his tea stuff. I was not in a rush and lingered a good hour all the while enjoying the singularly distinctive environment of a true Tennessee tea treasure. Check it out for yourself!
Firepot Chai - www.firepot.com/pages/firepot-tea-bar
2905 12th Ave S - Nashville, TN 37204
Amidst the charming Arts and Craft bungalows of Nashville's 12 South neighborhood a fairly new and unique tea bar is tucked under an unassuming canvas awning.
Firepot Chai is a quiet shop where one can find refreshment from a busy day and outstanding, unusual loose-leaf tea steeped to perfection by skilled staffers who love and cherish the beverage themselves.
On a particular Wednesday, when time was not of the essence, I wandered into this little gem and ordered their signature black tea, Firepot Breakfast, and was warmed inside and out. This cheery, fragrant tea was the perfect morning cuppa and a single Energy Bite was the perfect compliment. Served in an aesthetically elegant way, I did enjoy each drop and felt no rush to leave, but languished instead on an oversized, sun-drenched window seat for the better part of an hour reading, writing and talking off and on to Chelsea, the low-key, unpretentious tea champion.
If you've not been, plan to go. I shall be back.
Well, the ball has dropped and the new year has begun. It's time for that beautiful tea-themed calendar your friend sent you last Christmas to make its way into the trash can, but wait! Here's the best idea ever for recycling lovely outdated calendars.
Unfold an envelope and trace it onto your calendar page, cut out, fold together and glue up the sides. In no time at all you have created a unique and interesting envelope sure to get attention each step along its mail journey.
Here are some made with a charming Susan Branch calendar. Just hated to throw that one away. Each envelope contains a poem or recipe for the recipient to enjoy at no extra charge. And with the increase in the price of postage stamps, that's a nice thing!
A sampling of our morning's work. Now go gather those 2018 calendars and get folding!
Today, December 16, 2018, marks the 245th anniversary of the most famous tea party in all history. A group of 60 men, dresses in Indian garb, stormed British ships in Boston Harbor which carried chests of tea from the East India Company. As large groups of cheering Bostonians encourage the men to toss 342 chests of tea overboard, the act was one of rebellion, protesting the duties imposed on many imported British items, of which tea was one.
In part, this event changed the beverage of choice for Americans for centuries to come. Slowly though, over time, we have returned to our first love and Tea is enjoying a renaissance in the US unlike any seen before in history.
This year, Three Sisters' Tearoom is pleased to be a part of the historic reenactment. Some of our tea will be amongst that pitched overboard into the Boston Harbor in the wee hours of the night. We even have a certificate to prove it!
Though each December 16th we commemorate the rebellious act of our Colonial forefathers, take comfort in knowing that tea is gaining popularity once again and we can boldly enjoy our beloved beverage!
Some things just go together, like autumn colors and chai flavors and sometimes, like today, they come together in one beautiful expression of bliss.
After visiting Piper and Leaf in Madison, AL with our tea travelers last week, we've been itching to try a selection of their autumnal tea blends. Today was the day. When we noticed one of the blends was names, Pumpkin Moonshine, we just had to include Tasha Tudor's very first book (by the same name) into the tea tasting.
We brewed the teas hot and strong and added steamed milk and honey. Pumpkin Moonshine was a very jolly tea with an aroma reminiscent of Yankee Candles. All the flavors of pumpkin pie were present and noted. Even dried pumpkin pieces were mixed into the blend giving it true visual appeal. We also sampled Trailblazer Blend which Barefoot Girl and Dancing Girl just loved because this blend is full of smokey lapsang souchong and for Butterfly Girl their Chocola-Tea (with real cacao nibs and cocoa chips) stole the show.
For over 20 years our family was moved by the military about every two years and soon after setting up a new home, my husband would be deployed and my search for fellowship would begin. It can be hard to make friends in small towns and in big cities and I did feel lonesome quite often.
One day, while browsing in a Christian bookstore, I caught sight of a book simply titled, “Tea Leaves.” Since I loved tea, I bought it on the spot. Later I discovered it was a devotional written by several missionary wives stationed around the world. They’d “meet” each morning over a cup of tea and the radio waves for a few moments of conversation. Each page told the story of one woman, her unique situation and how God faithfully met all her needs.
As I read the stories laced with verses - beautiful verses of hope and promise like,
“God has said, I will never leave you, never will I forsake you.”Hebrews 13:5 and “You will call and the Lord will answer, you will cry for help and He will say, Here am I.” Isaiah 58:9 and “Find rest, o my soul, in God alone. My hope comes from Him.”Psalm 62:5. I realized many of these ladies were lonely, just like me and craved fellowship, just like me only instead of joining a health club or the neighborhood game night, they found Perfect Fellowship in their relationship with Jesus Christ. I stopped looking for like-minded women to socialize with and instead sought to walk humbly with my God each day.
Fast forward 20+ years. My husband is now retired from the military and we have lived in the same small southern town for 8 years now. Fellowship can still be hard to come by. About 4 years ago, my daughters and I opened a small tearoom on our property and began to host tea gatherings. I am in awe of how lonely people can really be! Only the Lord could bring one beautiful soul after another to our tea table. Time and again customers become friends and then beloved sisters. We may not see each other often but we are in fellowship because of our faith in Jesus. A small prayer journal was placed on the shelf in the rest room and it is an honor to pray for the ladies as they have requested.
Yes, fellowship can be elusive but remember the Lord is standing by your side strengthening you. (2 Timothy 4:17) Ponder that promise over your teacup and be blessed.
“I have three teacups,” a friend told me after church today, “and each one has a story.” Yes, I’m sure they do, I thought and I asked her to share them with me. Seems that’s often the way it is with tea things, they have stories infused into them much like the delicate teas they hold, and those stories grow dearer with each passing year.
Tea has been called the cup of humanity and with good reason. It brings people together, it warms you inside and out, lifts spirits, cures what ails you and plenty more besides. Tea is good company when you find yourself alone yet it is the perfect beverage to serve to a crowd. You just cannot go wrong when you decide to put the kettle on.
So why such veneration for tea? Well, I think it goes back to my friend’s comment. It’s the stories connected to the cups. When pulling out the delicate white and gold fleur-de-lis teacup Daddy gave to Mum as an anniversary gift over 40 years ago, I think of them both. He is gone now but handling that cup brings him to mind and into my heart.
I smile as I choose a white porcelain cup hand-painted with vibrant blue morning glories that my husband brought back from an over seas deployment when we were first married. Those separations were lonesome times for me and that cup holds those bittersweet yet beautiful memories.
My hand is extremely gentle as I reach for the seemingly eggshell thin lusterware cup in muted shades of steely blue, white and grey which beautiful Barefoot Girl gave me as a birthday gift last year. I use that one a lot, despite its fragility, because I love it and I love her and it feels so good in the palm of my hand.
Yes, I too can say, I have three teacups and each one has a story. As your eye rests on a tea item in your china cabinet, what story does it have to share? Put the kettle on and tell me all about it!
July is National Iced Tea Month and, until I met my southern husband, I never understood why folks chilled a perfectly good cup of hot tea. After nearly 30 years of marriage, I've learned a thing or two about this beverage and I share it now with you.
In the South, many a native would naturally assume iced tea was born right here in the heart of Dixie, but they’d be wrong. Although a few old cookbooks from the late 1880s and 90s have been found to include instructions for this chilled amber elixir, it wasn’t until the dawn of the 20th century that iced tea truly arrived on the scene in this country.
In 1904 at the World’s Fair held in St Louis, MO, the beverage was truly born. A young Englishman, Richard Blechynden, employed by the East India Company, had a plan to bring robust Indian black tea to America. Up until this time much of the tea coming into the US was green and from China. Mr. Blechynden brought a few well- trained Indian servants dressed in traditional clothing, complete with turbans, with him to serve this hot tea with true Indian flair. Sadly, opening day at the fair reached more than 90ºF and no one could bear to try the hot black tea, no matter how delicious it might have been.
Now Mr. Blechynden was a business man and quickly altered his plan to push his product on the public despite the heat. The hot tea was poured over ice and suddenly his stand was very popular. The public loved the bold black tea from Indian and they loved it cold. The beverage was taken home by fair-goers and shared with family and friends and soon Iced Tea was enjoyed from coast to coast. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, iced tea remains a very popular beverage in the U.S. with up to 80% of all tea consumed cold.
Here’s my personal favorite iced tea recipe: 4 tsp strong black Assam loose-leaf tea in one quart of spring water. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning, strain out tea leaves and enjoy! For a far more celebratory beverage, add cream or better still, a bit of sweetened condensed milk. Yum!
This method is called cold brew for obvious reasons and is quite popular right now. So popular, in fact, that tea companies are making all kinds of special brewing vessels just for this type of tea. My favorite pitcher and strainer all-in-one is shown in this photo and if you would like one, please contact The Three Sisters!
Tucked in amongst the tea accouterments are a few oddities worth mentioning. In an earlier post the illustrious "slops" pot was highlighted but here are a few more items sure to make you scratch your head.
This cute little cup is delicate, colorful and very feminine, but wait...it has TWO handles! Have you ever seen a teacup like that? Chances are no, not a tea cup. This is actually a soup cup and the two handles are held for sipping consommé or other clear broth soups. So it's not a teacup at all. Looks can be deceiving!
How about this one? Still looks like a teacup, even has one handle just like it should, but what's the bat wing doing in there? Well, this one is a mustache cup. Yes, you read that right. During Victorian times and into the Edwardian era these were offered to men with facial hair in an attempt to keep the mustache dry. As improvements in razors were made and beards fell out of fashion, so too did the mustache cup. One very amusing fact to point out is that these teacups for men were often so flowery and fancy. Not at all what you would except a man to use!
Hummm, coasters perhaps? That would be an excellent guess. These are called cup plates and they were used for a short period of time by hot tea drinkers in England and the Colonies. When tea was too hot to drink directly from the cup, a small amount was poured into the saucer, given a moment to cool, then drunk. But the bottom of the teacup could not be placed back in the saucer while this was happening and it was unthinkably poor manners to set a cup directly on the table so...the cup plate was created. Like the tea table needed one more item on it! Today these plates are quite collectable and often feature some kind of local historic motif on the surface.
This one is easy. A circa 1950-60s luncheon plate with matching punch/teacup, right? Well, yes but...
6178 Adamson Circle * Chattanooga, TN 37416 *(423)521-4832 *www.pollyclaires.com
We were looking for a tearoom to visit as we planned to celebrate Barefoot Girl's final, final exam at UT Chat and had read about Polly Claire's in the Tennessee Home and Farm magazine. We made reservations and headed out. The tearoom is situated inside the completely renovated historic Dent House, circa 1854, and is just lovely to behold from the exterior.
The interior is beautiful, too! We were seated at a comfortable table by a window and after making a selection from nearly 30 loose leaf teas, exhaled, relaxed and steeped in the beauty which surrounded us.
We enjoyed the afternoon tea, which was classic, fresh, so delicious and well-balanced in flavors... you know, not-too-sweet! The portions looked so small but don't be fooled, we left our table extremely sated and feeling so refreshed. It was a delightful experience! Polly Claire's is family-owned with a well-trained wait staff who really know their teas. In addition to afternoon tea, they also serve daily lunches and dinners and are available for private parties. Behind the house is a charming gift store full of their signature Royal Albert china, books and other lovely keepsakes. We drove about three hours to enjoy this tea and would do it again in a heartbeat!
Each April, when the violets begin to bloom, it's time!
Butterfly Girl gathers cups and cups of tiny violet blossoms in her basket and then the fun begins.
Inside, we steep 4 cups of flowers in 1 3/4 cups boiling water for an hour or so, then strain out the beautiful azure water into a large clear glass and add 1/4 cup lemon juice. Don't look away or you'll miss the magic! (Actually the violet "tea" is just a ph indicator but to think of it as magic is so much more fun!)
Next, bring the liquids to a boil in a large pot then add 1 oz of pectin and 2 cups of sugar to liquids, return to a rolling boil, stirring constantly for one minute and remove from heat, pour into 1/2 pint hot canning jars, place on sterilized lids and rims and water bath 5 minutes. Makes about 3 half pints. Just enough to enjoy but not too much...it's rather sweet, but, oh my, how pretty it looks on classic cream scones! Enjoy this spring treat with a cup of English Breakfast tea with milk or perhaps a small spoonful of...violet jelly!
On occasion, when the tulips are in bloom, Crescent Bend House and Gardens in Knoxville, TN hosts afternoon teas inside their historic home. Mid-TN Tea Travelers made reservations and then trekked east on I-40. The tea was held in a gorgeous, white, sunlit room overlooking terraced gardens and the Tennessee River.
Our tables were elegantly laid in the colors of Easter eggs and three-tired trays held our meal. We enjoyed a fun demonstration on scarf tying, received various door prized and ended the event with a tour of the house and gardens. The tea was catered by a local café and the menu was very traditional and good, though a little too sweet overall. Tea was a selection of teabags with snappy hot water refills. We lingered and enjoyed the beauty of the day, historic location and each other's company before climbing into the car and heading home. Because of all Crescent Bend blends together for this special afternoon tea it is worth the drive and at $25 per person it was very reasonably priced as well.
On a fine, sun-filled April morning our Mid-TN Tea Travelers made plans to journey to McMinnville, TN and enjoy afternoon tea at Falcon Rest Mansion and Tearoom.
This self-described Victorian tearoom was inside a separate, small, dark building with no windows across a gravel lot from the historic mansion also located on the property. Our building was 2/3 musty gift shop and 1/3 pink tearoom.
There were no other guests there that day. All our food and additional hot water was prepared and brought from another building and was very slow in coming. Our meal came pre-plated, as show above, under a domed metal cover. The food was fair and sadly the tea was a selection of teabags with warm water refills from time to time. Overall we were disappointed in this tearoom experience yet, as always, we enjoyed our time together.
John Keats once wrote... a thing of beauty is a joy forever...
Now he may have been speaking of love and perhaps I really shouldn't steal that line for...a teapot...but I will!
You see, these teapots really are beautiful things. Lovely shape, gentle colors, contain a delicious beverage. I think you understand!
In addition to its outward beauty, the main features which make it so noteworthy are:
The cream-colored pot even has a little look-alike. Mother pot holds 32 oz and baby holds 14 oz.
Here Aqua Mint is in action at a recent afternoon tea. Looks like a breath of Spring!
Interested? Stop by for tea and try one out for yourself! The Three Sisters think you will agree this teapot is a thing of beauty!
Butterfly Girl and I share a birthday. She turned ten today and I, well, I turned ten... plus a few decades. Ten years ago she was a marvelous birthday gift to me and I've loved sharing my day with her ever since.
This year, there seemed to be a theme to our gifts. Did you notice? Tea quote, tea pot, tea books and tea. All our favorites!
Barefoot Girl is a Master Herbalist and a master at blending teas. This mix is our special Birthday Blend and it tastes even better than it looks!
Another gift was this little cutie. We have a lot to say about this tea pot. Watch for a full review!
Well, it's been another beautiful birthday. Here we are, the Birthday Buddies, today!
For years, this idea has danced around in our minds. We'd read little snippets about tea dances here and there but did not really understand what they were until picking up yet another tea book. We found just enough information to generate a germ of an idea which grew into a truly enjoyable afternoon.
Seems in the late 1930s and 40s a dance craze swept our country and young people everywhere were looking for any opportunity to get together and dance. Times were hard, though. World War II was in full swing and people seemed focused on more serious things. Enter The Tea Dance! Communities began hosting late afternoon get-togethers for the young people in their towns. From 4 pm to 6 pm, the hours after work but before supper, for 35 cents you could enter a church hall, community center, even a school gym, get a sandwich, a piece of cake and a cup of tea, then spend the rest of the time dancing with all the other youngsters present. This was fun, it was energetic and Dancing Girl just had to host one of her own!
So invitations were sent out, the hall reserved and the menu planned - sandwiches, cakes and tea!
Then, just as in the 1930s and 40s, the youngsters danced the late afternoon away! Oh, and they didn't even have to pay the 35 cents!
618 South Main Street, Springfield, TN 37172
Burdett's Tea Shop is on the historic square in downtown Springfield, TN. Our visit to this tea room celebrated our very first Tea Travel! The tearoom was warm and cozy when we arrived and our party of 8 was seated immediately although we had no reservations. The tea shop had a variety of tea-inspired gifts for purchase such as tea pots, note cards and their own brand of loose tea, Blue Roses. Although they offer a full lunch menu, we all ordered afternoon tea with a variety of loose tea options. Their Russian Caravan was definitely the crowd pleaser with Countess Grey coming in a close second.
The three tiered tray was attractive with the typical tea courses. The sweets included a piece of fudge, which was an interesting idea, but intensely sweet. Finger sandwiches included egg salad and chicken salad and two scones were served. One a savory cheese scone and the other the tea shop's signature raisin scone. Both were freshly bake but dry and the raisin scones were burned on the bottom.
The service was very good and the price reasonable at $16.99 per person. Our group had a very enjoyable tea time at Burdett's and took a leisurely stroll around the downtown square before getting back into the car for the two hour journey home.
Here are a couple of my favorite teacups. Very pretty and feminine and they came from Mum so they have special meaning to me.
Sadly, through the years and constant use, these little beauties have gotten rather dingy inside. So what's a tea drinking girl to do?
With just a bit of baking soda and wet finger tips, thoroughly rub the inside of the cup, hitting all affected areas. Rinse well with warm water and voila!
Just as pretty on the inside as on the out! Mum would be very pleased!
Sometimes a beautifully laid tea table can be elusive but if you keep a few fundamentals in mind you will accomplish your goal every time.
Start at the beginning... a nice round table with a freshly laundered white table cloth.
Add place settings - plates, cutlery, cups, and napkins...
Now add some decorative touches - colorful cloths, coasters, place cards, and flowers, of course!
Last (and best!) of all - the food and beautiful guests. Now that's a perfect table!
"Drink tea and make friends." Chinese Proverb
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