Sunday, August 14, 2016

In honor of Afternoon Tea Week in England: Our top five tea favorite tea rooms in London

Gorgeous and scrumptious pastries are part of Claridge's afternoon tea

According to the Mirror, my special Denver tea lady, Penelope C, and my husband's "share" of Harrod's facebook status,  it's "Afternoon Tea Week" in England.

Although this is the last day of Afternoon Tea Week in the UK, it doesn't mean  the celebration must end. Quite the contrary, whether at the London Ritz or in the northern woods of Michigan, getting together for tea with friends and family is always a special occasion.

However, with all the recent notifications of this delightful week, the end of Afternoon Tea Week coincided with yet another media alert - my facebook "On This Day".  It popped up this morning with pictures of my trip to London in 2011 with my daughter, Rachel. Of course, it included our trip to The Orangery, a lovely tea room on the grounds of Kensington Palace.

I needed no further prompting. In honor of Afternoon Tea Week, it is time to list BTS' favorite tea rooms in London.

1. The London Ritz

Delicious tea far, fine music and wonderful pomp and circumstance
It doesn't get much better than this. This was the first tea room I visited in London (over ten years ago) and it still ranks as my all around number one. To me, it is the quintessential afternoon tea venue with all the right pomp and circumstance.

Formally attired waiters parade around tables with silver tea pots on trays as a string quartet plays soothing tunes in the background. Everyone is at this luxurious venue for a jolly good time, guests and staff alike.  Back before the days of Instagram and selfies, I was hesitant to ask our waiter to take our picture in such a tony place. Taking a cue, however, from a little less self-conscious group at a neighboring table who held up their camera, I summoned a request for a photo op and was granted one from our warm and courteous server.

If you are looking for great food, fancy decor and elegant ambiance with a nod to a bit of fun and theater, the London Ritz has it all.

2.  The Orangery at Kensington Palace

Dessert table, filled with tasty treats, is at the center of The Orangery tea room
Located on the grounds of Kensington Palace, former home of Princess Di and now the residence of Prince William and Kate, this gorgeous tea room is sleek, modern and bright. Rachel and I came here in 2011 when she spent a summer in London for a study abroad program.

The tea fare is delicious and there is an emphasis on rich, indulgent desserts - which, in my opinion, is a good place to focus. It's also the first tea venue where we sampled tea from Tregothnan, England's only tea plantation. Like the tea fare, it was very good, indeed!

Rachel  outside the gardens of Kensington Palace, the Oragery is left of the palace.

3. Brown's Hotel

Browns Hotel is all luxury and refinement
Luxury and refinement define this lovely tea room. Dark paneled walls, heavily upholstered seats and impeccable tablescapes exude a hushed sophistication that draws from its history of serving high society for decades. In the Gilded Age, the Browns Hotel, along with Claridge's, were the places to stay for wealthy American mothers scouting Lords for their daughters. I came here with Rachel the summer of her study abroad, but I assured her, it was only for afternoon tea.

Sophisticated ambiance and a dessert cart!

Another great feature of this hotel's afternoon tea, is the dessert cart. Brown's Hotel serves a full afternoon tea, which consists not only of scones, savories and tiny pastries, but also your choice of slice of cake or torte which comes to the table via a pastry cart.

4. Claridge's Hotel

Soaking in the rich history of the hotel with Matt, Rachel and Chris
Claridge's Hotel houses another tea room that is of the same ilk as Brown's:  beautiful, elegant and rich with history - and  also with a history of the rich. The tea fare presentation was exquisite, almost too pretty to eat (although we managed quite well).  Service is first class and, although the venue's vibe is a bit busier than Brown's, it's still a tea room that delivers an experience worthy of any Lord or Lady.

We visited Claridge's last September and were charmed by staff, decor and the tea room's distinctive mint green and white striped china.

5. The Wolseley

Enjoying a cream tea at The Wolseley after social media notification
Through the magic of social media, we were directed to The Wolseley last September after I posted pictures of our visit to Buckingham Palace on facebook. My great Denver tea lady friend, Penelope C, made a comment to that post that we should go to The Wolseley.  We checked our map ap, and we weren't too terribly far. Although it was a bit impromptu for a full afternoon tea, we stopped in for a cream tea and were not disappointed.

Scones and tea were devine

The decor is a mix of modern and classic with black walls, crystal chandeliers and dark marble table tops. Silver tea services are brought to the table with gleaming white china plates and cups. Our scones were devine as were the colorful macarons.

Pretty and delicious macaraons came with tea

I loved every tea room I visited in England and I enjoy afternoon tea no matter where I'm at. Afternoon Tea Week serves as a reminder:  tea time is always a memorable occasion whether at the Ritz or in the middle of woods in northern Michigan. It's all about time together with family, friends and lots of good tea!

Celebrating Afternoon Tea Week in the woods of Michigan 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Afternoon tea at Heavenly Scent

Heavenly Scent Herb Farm in Fenton offers afternoon teas in the garden

Delicious scones, tasty tea and sweet desserts served on pretty, vintage china in a colorful garden with a nearby waterfall and faeries all around.

If that sound like paradise, it is - more specifically, afternoon tea at Heavenly Scent Herb Farm in Fenton.

This month, my cousins, Dianne B. and Kathy F., and I had the pleasure of taking part in an outdoor tea event at Heavenly Scent. Our hostess was Kathy Matthews, who, along with husband, Steve, own and run the working farm.

Sipping our refreshing iced tea in the cool shade of the outdoor pavilion

We were served a full afternoon tea, by Kathy, and her top-notch assistants, in an outdoor pavilion that provided shade and comfort on hot August day.

Dianne enjoying her tea next to the waterfall

Because of the heat, iced tea was served which was delicious and refreshing. Tea fare included two types of scones, a mint fruit salad, a chicken salad croissant and a divine parfait dessert that had my name on it!

Delicious mint fruit salad and chicken salad croissant.

Cream and curd for scones - all divine!

Two different types of bumptious scones were served

Dessert - so good, I put my name card on it!!

The outdoor repast concluded with a fun craft activity. We were all given ribbons and beads to make a friendship bracelet.  Kathy demonstrated the "magic" that makes the ribbons lock together. It requires two people to twist the strands, hence the name of this special bracelet.

Kathy demonstrates how to make a friendship bracelet

My cousins Kathy & Dianne, sisters as well as friends,  team up to make a bracelet

After our afternoon tea, we strolled the grounds which includes a faerie garden and an outdoor reception area perfect for weddings (which they do host here!).

Sign as you enter the faerie garden

Faeries and their tiny accommodations are hidden all over

Lovely grounds filled with blooming flowers

Great site for a special event, even weddings!

There's a wonderful gift shop inside that is stocked with a full-range of miniature accessories to outfit your own faerie garden. There's also a lot of fun tea products and unique home decor items.

Do your faeries need a Ferris wheel? Heavenly Scent has you covered.

The gift shop sells a variety of items, including tea

 My cousin, Dianne, had suggested our visit this month after she had been to their holiday tea last winter.  It was an absolutely wonderful afternoon in paradise. Gardens of flowers and herbs, scrumptious food and tea, and excellent service - Heavenly Scent has it all!