Friday, December 28, 2018

Enjoy a rich experience at the Pour House! Downtown Lewiston's new coffee, tea (and more!) shop.

Sitting at my favorite spot at The Pour House, near the cheery fire, with a cup of tea.

The Pour House is a great place to meet up over coffee, tea, sandwiches or sweets and its warm and cheery environs will make you want to stay longer for another cup and maybe just another cinnamon roll.

Located in  Lewiston, a small town in northeastern Michigan currently experiencing an exciting  downtown redevelopment, The Pour House's interior is a blend of contemporary and rustic décor with its stone and wood embellished walls and its exposed rafter ceiling. It makes for a cozy spot to welcome all its guests. My favorite spot is near the fireplace, seated on the cushy chairs and sofa.

The Pour House, new to downtown Lewiston this year, is located on Kneeland Street and opened all year round.

The menu offers a great variety of soups, quiches, sandwiches and paninis. In my last few visits, I've tried one of each and every one has been a winner.

The coffee is delicious and you can customize it with special flavors. The Pour House also offers a great selection of espresso drinks. We tried the Dirty Chai latte this week and it was fabulous - the perfect drink to sip on near the fire on a chilly December afternoon.

The Pour House currently sells and serves Fraser Tea.

We met up with co-owner, Zac Weaver, on our recent visit and he tells us they are still working on their tea menu. Currently, they serve Fraser teas in three different varieties. Looks like there will be more tea to choose from in the future, so we'll stay tuned!

Contemporary and rustic décor make The Pour House a cozy place to meet up for breakfast or lunch.

In addition to food and drink, The Pour House also sells merchandise (we love the "I'm a Pot Head" shirts and mugs, featuring - of course - a graphic of a coffee pot!).  You can also take  home some of the menu items, including The Pour House brand whole bean coffee and, yes, those great cinnamon rolls!

You bring home The Pour House experience with their signature coffee and cinnamon rolls.

The Pour House is open all year round and is located at 2850 Kneeland Street, Lewiston, Michigan.

For more information, check out their website,  or visit them on facebook, at 

Save me a seat by the fireplace and a cinnamon roll, please! 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Caffe Florian in Venice: Our visit to this magical Venetian venue featured in Tea Time Magazine

January/February issue of Tea Time Magazine features our visit to Caffe Florian in Venice, Italy

A year ago  last October, we visited Caffe Florian, a three-hundred year old coffee and tea shop in the heart of Venice. Caffe Florian, like the city itself, is magical and its history is as delicious as its afternoon tea and you can find the tale of both in the January/February issue of Tea Time Magazine.

Enjoying afternoon tea  with Anna Rita, Corner Shop Manager at Caffe Florian

I first heard of Caffe Florian from my good friend Pam B., fellow tea and travel-enthusiast and member of the BTS team. She highly recommended we take tea in this historic venue in St. Mark's Square when we began planning our trip to Italy early in 2017.

I arranged afternoon tea for three (my husband, Chris, daughter, Rachel, and myself) courtesy Corner Shop Manager, Anna Rita Panebianco. She is warm and bubbly and we became fast friends over Caffe Florian's signature teas and scrumptious sweets and savories. Ann Rita shared the story of Caffe Florian from its humble beginnings in the late eighteenth century to its current lavish accommodations which feature gilded frames and mirrors, plush velvet seating and marble tables - the latter are not only beautiful but, with their swivel design for easy access,  practical as well.

Afternoon tea at Caffe Florian

The footprint of Caffe Florian extends beyond the brick and mortar to an outdoor patio that borders the famous city square. An orchestra stationed between the patio and the square plays throughout the day and evening, adding some musical icing to the exquisite "café cake".

There's so much to take in besides afternoon tea at Caffe Florian. There's a full menu to select from and a great deal to view, including the infinity mirror that allows you to, if positioned correctly, see yourself and the café several times over.

The infinity mirror inside Caffe Florian

Anna Rita demonstrates the practical design of the marble tables.

The personality and ambiance are all part of the charm of this unique tea room.  It's magical  and one-of-a-kind like Venice itself.

The outside of Caffe Florian

For more of the incredible history and account of famous visitors throughout the centuries (including Casanova and Hemingway) be sure to pick up the most recent edition of Tea Time Magazine.

Caffe Florian, like Venice itself, is magical and unique!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Tea-rrific gifts for the tea enthusiast! BTS' Top Ten.

Though the Calendar may have served its purpose, Adagio has a lot of holiday tea gifts to choose from.

With only a week before Christmas eve, there's not much time left to shop, but  BTS is here to assist! Here's our top ten tea-rrific gifts, ranging from $1.99 to "sky's-the-limit".

1. Adagio's Christmas teas. Prices range from $9.00 - $39.00.  Although the Advent Calendar may be obsolete by Christmas, there's still fun to be had trying a different tea every day, be it leading up to Christmas or starting the new year. However, Adagio also has a variety of Christmas tea gifts ranging from $9.00 to $39.00, including seasonal teas and festive mugs.

Twelve Etiquette Essentials: Dining Manners has something for everyone!

2. Twelve Etiquette Essentials. $10.99  Written by Barbara J. Gulley and illustrated by Barbara R. Gulley, this book has something for everyone! Not just about afternoon tea - although that is certainly a part of it - this book includes etiquette for business dinners (think about your recent college grad starting their new career), proper place settings (so your table will always look fantastic!) and proper instruction for difficult-to-eat foods.

Tea tasting at Light of Day, an enjoyable & educational time with friends.

3. Light of Day Teas tea tasting! $10.00 per person. Once you're up in Traverse City, treat your favorite tea enthusiast(s) to a sample of five different teas at Michigan's only tea farm. Teas are outstanding and you'll learn a lot about the variety of teas from the well-informed staff.

Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea, feature's Michigan's own Light of Day!

4. Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea. $75.00.  While at Light of Day,  you can pick up the latest book from tea guru, Jane Pettigrew. This tome covers the global history, geography and culture of tea and includes Michigan's own Light of Day! (Also available at bookstores.)

Afternoon tea at The Wolseley. Now you can experience a bit of it at home.

5. Vintage teapot from The Wolseley. Prices starting at £229, plus shipping.  These are vintage teapots from the early 1900's that have graced the tables at The Wolseley in London. Enjoy a bit of British history and an extra serving of luxury with these exquisite pieces. Even if this doesn't arrive by Christmas, I will  (*ahem*) your recipient will understand!

This issue features our article on our visit to a tea room in Rome.
Tea Time is a MUST!

6.  Tea Time Magazine subscription. Current special is $18.00 for a yearly subscription. This is a MUST have for anyone passionate about tea. Each bi-monthly issue features recipes, tablescapes, events and articles on tea room travels (a few from yours truly!).  The magazine is stuffed with amazing information accompanied by beautiful photographs.

7.  IKEA tea accessories. Prices range $1.99 to 29.99.  IKEA offers a collection of tea accessories that won't break the piggy bank and come with those amusing names we're not quite sure how to pronounce. We were especially fond of the tea canister, Blomning, and the  Vardagen teapot, $1.99 and $9.99 respectively. (And, ya, the mjolk still goes in last.)

An afternoon of luxury in our own backyard. Tea at The Townsend!

8. Afternoon tea at The Townsend Hotel.  Prices start at $19.99 for a cream tea, $45 - $65 for afternoon tea, $99 for Gentlemen's tea.  The Townsend offers teas for little princesses, ladies' groups and even the gents (the latter comes with flights of bourbon or wine).  Take the opportunity to partake in a luxurious tea experience close to home in downtown Birmingham.

                                            At the JA Festival with bags of Bingley's

9. Bingley's Teas.  $12.00 for a 60 gram pouch of loose tea. It's a truth universally acknowledged that many Jane Austen fans are in need of a good tea. Bingley's teas fits the bill! Delicious blends with pretty packaging and clever descriptions.  We're very fond of Mr. Knightly's reserve, with "balance in both flavor and opinion".

10. Michigan Home and Lifestyle Magazine.  $17.00 for a year's subscription (four issues). This is ESSENTIAL reading for Michiganders. This lovely magazine covers a variety of topics and, although not a tea magazine, the latest issue includes an Afternoon Tea article and an interview with the author of Twelve Etiquette Essentials!

Any of these items would be sure to delight the tea enthusiast on your list. But, most assuredly, the gift they would most love would be to share a cup of tea with you! Get the kettle going, throw some Earl Grey in the vintage silver teapot (or the Vardagen) and enjoy the company of friends and family over a hot cup of tea - mjolk in first or last!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from Barb's Tea Service!!!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas (and Downton Abbey) at The Townsend Hotel!

The Townsend Hotel tea lobby beautifully decorated for the holidays.

Last week I had a wonderful time presenting a Downton Abbey-inspired Afternoon Tea at The Townsend.

Although, I love tea time at The Townsend Hotel any time of the year, there is something very special about visiting during the holidays. The downtown Birmingham venue has recently undergone a décor update with more contemporary furnishings, but still retains its luxurious ambiance. Add the glittering gold trees and frosted greens garland over the blazing fireplace and you have one of the prettiest places to enjoy afternoon tea in the area!

Presenting a Downtown Abbey-inspired Afternoon Tea donned in an Edwardian tea gown

If you haven't had the opportunity to enjoy a holiday afternoon tea at The Townsend, I highly recommend making the time while there still is time! There are  two "Princess Teas" scheduled for the month of December - which are great to enjoy with the little ones - but you can make reservations throughout the month for a lovely holiday tea time treat. 

The tea lobby is decorated with garland and sparkling gold Christmas trees.

Whether taking time for afternoon tea as one of the Crawley family members, or with your little princesses or even your favorite gent (see Gentlemen's Tea), you are sure to be delighted at The Townsend Hotel. 

For more information, The Townsend's Afternoon Tea page.

P.S - save me the seat by the fireplace!

Save the seat by the fireplace for me!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Countdown to Christmas with Adagio Teas' Advent Calendar: Treat yourself to a new tea everyday!

Adagio Tea Advent Calendar: a new tea for each day until Christmas!

Is there a better way to count down the days to Christmas than with a different cup of tea each day?

 Adagio Teas has created an advent calendar that reveals a new tea packet under each numbered "drawer" in a beautifully packaged box that fits right into the season's décor. It's a grown-up version of the advent calendars which hide a tiny treat or chocolate behind doors that have delighted children, including my own, for years.

When my kids were growing up, my Mom would purchase a new advent calendar every December. The days to Christmas seemed so interminably long to my two young boys and little girl, and opening those tiny doors to get a piece of candy, and see one more day out of the way, helped the days go by faster for them.

Behind each door is a new tea - mine started with Gingerbread tea.

Of course, as adults, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas feels like it moves at warped speed and we'd actually like to see it slow down just a little bit to help us get to all the shopping,  baking and decorating.  While the Adagio Teas' Advent Calendar doesn't buy us more time, it does serve as a reminder to take a break for ourselves and have a little fun to boot!

Each "day" has a different single-serving tea bag hiding behind a numbered door. In the interest of true reporting on the Adagio advent calendar - and also because I couldn't wait to try it! - I went ahead and opened up the first day. I was treated to gingerbread tea. With a festive photo of gingerbread cookies on the wrapper, it got me started on holiday spirit right away.

Adagio Advent Calendar is a treat for tea lovers and a reminder to take a tea break for ourselves.

Although each day will bring a new tea, the gingerbread tea was a great way to start. It's a black tea with ginger, cinnamon and orange pieces - a spicy tea just perfect for sitting next to the fire and gazing at the twinkling tree lights. I rarely add milk to tea, but I decided to try a little in my gingerbread tea because I was pretty sure this hearty blend could handle it. Plus, I wanted to make this break - if only for ten minutes - a special one, with "milk and cookies".

I'm looking forward to opening each new tea. And, I promise to stay with the program and not get ahead of myself. 

Santa's jolliness is due to tea

I love everything about this tea calendar:  the pretty box with a reindeer featured prominently among the twenty-four doors, the surprise tea waiting for its daily reveal and the bold note on the side that proudly proclaims, "The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he drinks tea".  That makes so much sense!

The Adagio Tea Advent Calendar is not only a treat for oneself, but sure to be a welcomed delight to any tea enthusiast on your holiday gift list. Why not surprise someone early with present sure to be enjoyed throughout December? They'll no doubt be jolly throughout the season - and with the attractive packaging, all you'll need to do is add a bow.

Adagio advent calendar is a great gift for any tea enthusiast - with such nice packaging, you only need to add a bow!

The Adagio advent calendar is available on the Adagio website at  While there, be sure to peruse the seasonal items for more ideas for holiday gift giving and stocking stuffers!

Product review disclaimer:  I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free or a discounted price. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Holiday Tablescapes: Let 'Twelve Etiquette Essentials, Formal Dining and Tea Time' help!

Twelve Etiquette Essentials, Formal Dining and Tea Time can assist with tablescapes and gift giving

The holidays are upon us and Barb's Tea Service's Twelve Etiquette Essentials, Formal Dining and Tea Time is here to help -  not only in place settings but gift giving as well!

Guests can read up on proper dining etiquette
This time of year, many of us are busy hanging wreaths on doors, draping garland over the mantle and placing twinkling lights on anything that doesn't  move to welcome all the friends and family who come to visit. For me, it's also a welcomed opportunity to bring out some of the fine china, crystal and silverware I've inherited (or otherwise acquired) and create tablescapes that are worthy of my husband's gourmet cooking!

Twelve Etiquette Essentials by the Barb Gulleys

We kick-started the holiday season, - and festive table settings -  this week when we had the family over for Thanksgiving dinner. Although I (literally) wrote the book on dining etiquette, Twelve Etiquette Essentials, Formal Dining and Tea Time, I found further inspiration for table arrangements from my mother-in-law's drawings in the aforementioned tiny tome.

Chapter Two illustrations, and all others in the book, are by Barbara R. Gulley

Also a Barbara Gulley, my mother-in-law provided the illustrations to the dining etiquette book. Chapter Two covers place settings and my mother-in-law drew an attractive arrangement of plates, utensils and glassware in our guide to all of their proper placements. 

Holiday place settings inspired by Twelve Etiquette Essentials illustrations

Like my readers, I turned to page six to make sure the spoons and glasses were lined up correctly, but the pretty green bordered plates in the illustration reminded me of my own mother's very lovely fine china, so I added that to this year's Thanksgiving table.

Once you know where everything goes, the creative juices can go to work! This year, we found a fall-hued table runner and candles on sale at Sur la Table and added that to our much loved (and used) brown leaf-motif tablecloth. My grandma's gold and cream-colored china joined my Mom's green bordered dishes, along with her full array of  silverware. 

Twelve Etiquette Essentials will have something for all of our your guests!

And, of course, all our guests got a copy of  Twelve Etiquette Essentials. (In the picture above, the author is seated between her editor, Matt, and formatting expert, Rachel).

At the start of this blog, we mentioned Twelve Etiquette Essentials can help not only with your tablescapes, but gift giving as well. Our book will be useful not only in  place settings, but proper etiquette for business dinners or afternoon tea. What a great stocking stuffer for college grads just starting a new job or friends who have expressed an interest in attending an elegant tea, but are unsure of proper protocol. And, for all of us, what foods can we eat using only our fingers and which require utensils? Also, there are instructions for proposing - and accepting -  toasts!

Twelve Etiquette Essentials, Formal Dining and Tea Time is available on Amazon. This book will help with your holiday tablescapes and (almost) everyone on your gift list!

Not everyone is interested in etiquette, some are just looking for leftovers from the Chef

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Tea Shoppe: Delightful Afternoon Tea in Morgantown

Lisa Biafore and Barb Gulley at The Tea Shoppe in Morgantown, WV

Morgantown, West Virginia has a lot going for it:  university life, Barney Fife and a delightful tea shop with the name of, not surprisingly,  "The Tea Shoppe".

Lisa Biafore, with daughters, Gina and Rachel, who are part of the family tea business.

What is surprising is the impressive tea selection (over 140 blends on the menu) the scrumptious meals, and the Victorian/Vintage-chic décor all tucked neatly and unexpectedly inside the Seneca Center,  an old glass factory turned shopping mall.

Impressive tea menu boast over 140 blends
Footprint of tearoom extends out to the mall lobby

Owned and operated by Lisa Biafore, The Tea Shoppe was first thought of as a "fun retirement" endeavor. After 30 years in the corporate world, Lisa and her husband purchased the small tea shop. In the five years since they bought it, they've expanded the footprint and made it truly a family affair with daughters, Gina and Rachel, the latter who puts her culinary training to work as the tea room's pastry chef.  (We at Barb's Tea Service, certainly appreciate a Mother and Daughter tea business!)

My brother, Ed, (who "discovered" the Tea Shop for our trip) and sister-in-law, Sandy, join Chris and I for afternoon tea.

Along with my husband, Chris, (specially decked out in bow tie and pocket square), my brother, Ed - who actually found the Tea Shoppe on-line while planning our travel itinerary - and sister-in-law, Sandy, I ordered afternoon tea. The savories, scones and mini-desserts were delicious and beautifully plated. 

Delicious afternoon tea fare, beautifully presented

Although tempted, this visit we didn't don hats, but there are plenty that dot the walls of the tea room which guests are encouraged to try on.

The Tea Shoppe also has several special events throughout the year (there was a "Moana" tea just before we arrived), including tea tastings.

Statue of Don Knotts, Mayberry's Barney Fife

Though this was my first trip to Morgantown, I know it won't be my last. It's a bustling college town (home of West Virginia University) with several quaint shops along main street. If that isn't enough, there's also a statue of Don Knotts, the actor who played the anxious, but lovable, Barney Fife, on the "Andy Griffith Show" (and anxious, but loveable, landlord on "Three's Company").

And, of course, we know a great place to have tea in town. The Tea Shoppe in Morgantown is worth the trip!