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 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.
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!
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.
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.
106 N Anderson St, Tullahoma, TN 37388
Dancing Girl and Butterfly Girl were my guests as I journeyed east to The Celtic Cup in Tullahoma, TN. The girls love anything Irish so they were excited. We found a charming bungalow-style house converted into a tea/lunch room by day and an Irish pub by night, in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
Sadly, once inside we were informed that afternoon tea was only served between the hours of 2pm - 5pm and since we were there at about 1 pm we had to be content with just a pot of tea and a scone. They had a large listing of teas, all in bags, and we each chose our favorite- oolong for me and Lapsang for the girls. Tea arrived in individual pots with charming white teacups laced with green shamrocks. Scones were large and fresh but unadorned. So we had to purchase a pot of lemon curd in their gift store to top them off.
It was a nice warm day and we chose a table in the sun on their side porch instead of sitting inside, which was a bit dark with large leather booths that did not say TEA TIME to us! Overall, we had a nice time despite the detached staff and the disappointment of arriving before afternoon tea was served.
1401 Market Street
The English Rose Tearoom is located on the ground floor of an old historic building on the corner of an artsy neighborhood just 2 miles from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. The big teapot sign and flying British flag make it easy to find. Plenty of street parking available. Once inside one quickly realizes this is a traditional English tearoom. Queen Elizabeth’s portrait hangs over the fire place, a life-size cut out of a palace guard is positioned at the rear of the dining room and Downton Abby memorabilia accent the decor. A small gift shop comes first; clotted cream and lemon curd are for sale in tiny glass jars along with Weetabix cereal and digestive biscuits. Several tea-inspired gift books, cook books, note cards and tea cozies are also on display for purchase. Lilting instrumental piano music fills the entire shop lending a refreshing note to the tea experience. We did not have a reservation and at 2 pm we were seated promptly in a comfortable corner at a table for two. Approximately nine tables, seating 2-6 guests, were attractively arranged to create intimate corners for couples as well as central tables for larger groups. The menu offered English-style pub lunches; bangers and mash and Yorkshire pudding, in addition to tea with scones and a full afternoon tea. We ordered two afternoon teas. The tea selection was small, only about six loose teas, but offered a sampling of everything. Barefoot Girl chose an Assam and I ordered Darjeeling. The tea arrived very quickly, to our relief, as we had been caught in a deluge and were wet and chilly upon our arrival. Loose tea was steeped in disposal bags and left in the pot. We did not know this and got a weak first cup, perfect second and stewed third. A little extra hot water corrected the problem and we didn’t let it happen again! The three-tiered tea tray arrived quickly and contained the traditional chicken salad, egg salad and cucumber sandwiches, all freshly made on nice bread followed by a large scone on the middle tray served with lemon curd, jam and clotted cream. Although a little dry, the scone was flavorful and enjoyable especially with various spreads liberally applied. The bottom tray had a selection of commercially prepared English biscuits; some fruity, some buttery and some plain but all delicate and crisp and the perfect accompaniments to tea. The service was warm and friendly and we were left to linger over the last of our tea and generous portions of delicious food. We left our tea time refreshed and very full!
Over all our assessment is, The English Rose Tearoom is a perfect place to experience British-style afternoon tea. The menu is very reasonably priced at $16.99 per afternoon tea and the food well balanced in flavors and attractively presented. Be sure to print off coupons from their website before you go!
5348 Hickory Hollow Parkway
Dancing Girl and I found Shineworthy Tea in Antioch, TN located in a strip mall with ample parking and a large illuminated sign making it very easy to find. Once inside, the shop is large and open with minimal seating - 2 couches facing each other and 3 square tables positioned along floor to ceiling windows. The center of the room is spacious and open. The inside wall of the store housed shelves of silver tea tins, a small glass pastry case and a bar with seating for 6 patrons. A small smattering of tea paraphernalia such as books, pots and cups, are on display for sale. The steely gray, black and white color scheme is modern and monochromatic.
We ordered afternoon tea for one with and extra pot of tea. Choosing the tea was delightful! With over 40 teas to choose from, it took a few minutes to read the descriptions and smell some from a display on the counter. The tea was definitely the highlight of this afternoon tea experience! It quickly arrived at our table, which had been beautifully laid for us after placing our order. The loose tea was perfectly brewed using correct water temperature and steeping time and served over glass warmers. I enjoyed each sip of my countryside blend and Dancing Girl loved her Lapsang Souchong.
Despite the 25 minute wait for our three-tiered tea tray to arrive, the service was friendly. We found chicken salad, egg salad, pimento cheese and Nutella sandwiches, which were all fine, on the top tray. Next tier was a plate of grapes and a few sliced strawberries followed by the bottom tier dessert plate. This was the least appetizing portion of the meal; a selection of commercially prepared, bland tasting cookies and tiny “cake cubes” with thick sugary glazes. Scones were not included in this afternoon tea.
When the tea tray had been removed, we were served a glass flute of chilled Jasmine tea, a square of caramel chocolate and a chocolate truffle. The presentation was very attractive but the tea was floral and sweet and difficult to get down after the sweetness of the food and chocolates.
Overall, our assessment is that Shineworthy Tea is a tea bar which also serves an afternoon tea upon request. The cost was $30 for afternoon tea for one guest, which we shared, and $10 for an additional pot of tea. The total price seemed high for the quality of food and ambiance of the shop.