Some of the places I’ve been to tea — although generally I am a fan of caffeine in all forms: coffee, tea, chai, and hot chocolate. My mum and I though share a love of taking tea, because after I graduated high school and before I went to university we went on a tour of London and the countryside together.
Harrod’s in London. My travel journal from 1988 notes, we took the bus to get to Harrod’s and people nearby heard us talking, and they were nice and helpful directing us to the correct stop. We had tea in the formal restaurant on a upper floor — dimly remember long, draped tables and it was very quiet.
Wren Coffee House. Per my journal I noted Piccadilly at St. James’s Church. Remember it was attached to a pretty church. We had been walking around and saw they had an outdoor craft market so we popped in and bought a very cute little Mrs. Hedgehog pincushion made out of dried brambles. Then we went into the cafe, my accounts noted I paid f1.50 for tea both my mum and I. Remember we were just ahead of the rush, and we were sitting a table, but then folks all came in and queued up. Per online searching not sure if I made an error on the address or if the location has changed — church adjacent still remains. Although via JSTOR(dot) org, I found a reference to the cafe and the Friday and Saturday outdoor market in a book published about the history of the Episcopalian Church back in 1993.
The Hawthorne Hotel, Salem, Massachusetts. Moving forward, over the years, I’ve attended several “Pink Teas” at the Hawthorne Hotel. This historic hotel was built in 1925, by George Poor, the original founder of the Sylvania Lighting Company, and is located near Salem Common. We attended the pink teas and often brought other friends, via an acquaintance who organized the tea to raise money for a local hospice and outreach services — held in the pleasant, sunny, large function room on the main floor. For many years, this woman always volunteered for the tea, dressed in a lovely gown, would come and play the harp, so beautifully almost made you want to cry. Sadly, she passed away, and sometimes there was other entertainment such as Irish step dancing or a demonstration on scarfing tying. The dress code isn’t mandatory but mostly pink, everyone breaks out their fancy hats, gloves and even a few cheeky boas. Few times over the years, I’ve walked around selling raffle ticket for the donated gift baskets — my mum and I also contributed a few themed baskets as well. Sometimes at the Hawthorne, the staff have put the pastry and mini sandwiches on the table on one of those pretty tier dishes, other years because of the size of the crowd and a good year for fundraising, it was more of a buffet — switching between the savory and dessert courses.
Tea and Sympathy, Greenwich Village, New York. This tea shop was founded in 1991. Had tea here with two college friends, somewhere in the mid to late 1990’s. Think we went for one of their birthdays. Remember the tables were small and they did give us a one of those tiered serving dishes of little sandwiches and pastries and I remember thinking we were sort of relieved of how they served, because we weren’t sure how everything was going to fit on the tiny table! They also have a small shop and online store where they sell jam, curds and other imported goods. The same owners have a fish and chips shop a few doors down on Greenwich Ave., and an authentic black British cab they rent out (actually didn’t know about the cab just learned that from their website).
The former Ritz Carlton Hotel on Arlington and Newbury Streets, Boston MA. The former Ritz is now a Taj — to note, for several years now the Ritz Carlton has a new location on Tremont Street in Boston. On one of my mum’s special birthdays I took my mum and one of my mum’s dearest friends (one of my “auntie’s”), out for the day. We rode on the Swan Boats and then went to the Ritz for tea. The room was very old world elegant with pretty chintz couches and formal service, there was also a harpist playing. Was very relaxing and pleasant and we enjoyed it. Haven’t been the to the Taj for tea yet, but only for lunch. Had invited several of my “aunties” to attend a Women’s Equality Day event sponsored by the Women’s Suffrage Celebration Commission at the Swan Boats (a long time woman owned business), and we went afterwards to the Taj, and I treated them for lunch, which was lovely.
The Four Seasons Hotel, Boston. For another one of my mum’s special birthdays a few years back, with two of her dearest friends or my “aunties.” Was a little different we sat at a table, a little bit more modern type of tea and service. The room was very elegant and there was a nice view of the Garden across the way.
George H. Wightman House, Wheelock College, Brookline, MA, and catered by Vintage Tea and Cake Company, Belmont, MA. Have attended a couple of teas hosted by JASNA Massachusetts. The Wightman House was built was a private residence from 1902-1930, when it was sold to Gordon College, Hebrew College and finally to Wheelock College in 1999. JASNA MA chapter was meeting there regularly in a comfortable, lecture room since I joined, but the teas were held in a special formal room, with a fireplace which I suspect was their original parlor or drawing room. The teas were catered by Vintage Tea and Cake Company with lovely tables set up for us to select our own vintage tea cup and saucer. Different teas also clearly marked in vintage teapots and a nice selection of scones, pastries and treats. Sadly, Wheelock is merging with Boston University, but they have generously offered JASNA MA a new meeting place on their Boston Campus. To note, the Wightman House is in Brookline, and is on the national register of historic places, which has me quite relieved it won’t be torn down to make more awful luxury condo towers.
As for the Vintage Tea and Cake Co., I really wish this catering company existed back when I threw a tea party for a very special birthday at my auntie’s for my mum. The local caterer I used back in 1998, skimped on the sandwiches so my auntie and I whipped up tuna salad sandwiches to fill in. The mini-tarts I got though from a local french bakery (Peaches and Cream, in East Boston–now located 2017 in Chelsea, MA), were a big hit. They were beautiful mini-works of art like stained glass, and I had ordered larger fruit tart for my mum to blow out her candles — which my grandmother thought was just awful. She did not understand why I did not have a cake but everyone had fun dressing up, and I took along extra hats for those who did not have them or forgot — which we hung on the vanity in my aunt’s front hall entry. The Vintage Tea and Cake Company also has a small store front shop too, in Belmont, MA.
Gore Mansion (Gore Place), Waltham, MA. This was a special event I attended with a friend and fellow Janeite via JASNA MA. We had our lecturer/special speaker in the carriage house and then attended a lovely tea in the mansion. Christopher Gore was a Harvard educated revolutionary who served as a MA governor and senator, and he married Rebecca Amory Payne in 1785, and they were quite a large part of society. JASNA members were treated to a tour of the mansion after the tea. Gore Place is a museum open to the public as well as a working farm.
The Cozy Tea Cart, Brookline, NH. My latest tea outing, was also a recent JASNA MA event, held a little further north in Brookline, NH. This was a small tearoom with long tables with an extensive menu including a lot of gluten free items. There was a full tea available, and also a lovely shop were they sell their own tea blends, as well as honey and other locally made items, and other tea-related merchandise.
And I’ve also thrown exactly two (2) parties at work in both our old and new conference rooms. The first was for a friend when she left to work out the Mass. Supreme Court — causing me to have to tape together multiple tablecloths from underneath — tricky business although I hid the seam with a “faux runner” made out of colored paper. And this past summer was my second attempt which was a bit more casual, for a volunteer attorney leaving us for a new job — with mango chutney from my aunt in Hawaii and pepper water crackers as our savory and my Alice in Wonderland teapot — which was part of my gift from the Division when I briefly transferred out to another part of the office.