Tea for two...

by - Friday, August 09, 2013

Our travels continue to take us along the high tea road! And I have so much more to share with you! Going with the flow, allow me to pour part two of Summer Sips - a first hand look at the 'Downton Abbey' experience of taking the ritual of afternoon tea at some of New Jersey's tea (and this time, coffee) establishments. Between the beverages and banquets, Brenna and I have certainly gotten a taste for some quiet time, a new habit adopted to quell the stresses of the everyday.
While listed as a tea room, Victoria's in Teaneck is actually more of a luncheon place tucked into Queen Anne Road. Here, they serve afternoon tea daily from 3-6 pm, so Brenna and I decided to give it a try. I drove by the first time, missing the parking lot, but simply went around the block successful the second time around. We were the only ones in the tiny place, feeling really comfortable seated by the window overlooking the courtyard in back. Since only there for tea, we simply glanced at the dessert menu and our waiter listed the simple teas offered. While their limited tea selection was disappointing, the sweet options certainly made up for it! Brenna ordered the tiramisu and I had a crispy apple pillow paired with vanilla ice cream. Both dolloped with fresh whipped cream, they were absolutely delicious! We decided to most definitely visit again, only next time a bit earlier to include lunch as well.

The next place we tried is a trendy spot on Kinderkamack Road in Oradell, called Cool Beans. Often passing on our way back and forth in Bergen, this is a place we've been eager to sample since it really looks, well, cool, and being that both Brenna and I love coffee, it is a no-brainer. What I had found out was that they not only have a great selection of coffees, but a tremendous selection of international teas, as well as smoothies and a variety of other blended drinks. So one afternoon, after perusing a couple of area shops, we popped in for lunch. We were pleasantly surprised. It is easy to see why so many people meet here for local live entertainment, Java Date and Open Mic Nights. After the casual vibe draws you in, select from their easy blackboard menu of salads and sandwiches, and you can't help but linger and relax. Brenna and I both ordered the daily chicken foccacia sandwich special, and found a table in one of the front windows so we could watch the passers-by. Okay, so we took a break from tea and ordered iced lattes - it was a hot, hot day! While up at the counter ordering our lunch, we couldn't help but eye the dessert case and vowed to try something no matter how stuffed we got. So we ordered the key lime pie and chocolate layer cake, both HUGE pieces we wound up taking home to finish. Oh, we'll be back again, next time to try some tea.

From easy to elegant, our road trip took us to Mahwah, where we entered the posh decorated Bon Appetit Tea House on Franklin Turnpike. The website stated the hours were Wednesday through Sunday, 11 am until 4 pm, so we dropped in at 1:30 pm in hopes of enjoying high tea as a Wednesday afternoon treat. We were greeted by the owner and asked if we had a reservation as we stood in the completely empty tea room. Surprised to learn that there was a special 2 pm seating of a fixed price High Tea with 'complementary' massage included, we hesitated at first, but decided to stay and were seated at the only table for two near the window. Now this event was not mentioned anywhere on the website, and honestly, Brenna and I didn't feel completely welcome. This place was the most costly one we have visited by far, and while the tea room is decorated rich and beautifully, it lacked the comfy, welcome feeling we experienced up until now, emphasized by the uppity attitude of the owner. It was a shame, because the food was very good - the spinach quiche was really outstanding, as a light, melt-in-your-mouth perfection. But the tea was served in china pots over bright gold votive candle warmers and we were told that the candles must be extinguished once we finished the tea as not to crack the pots. After our shoulder massages, we eased up a bit, but the inadequacy returned as we nibbled on the finger sandwiches and sweets. Of course, we wouldn't like to be rushed, but we experienced the opposite here - we waited almost forty five minutes for the check, finally flagging the only waitress down and then had to wait longer for the owner to bring it. Well, I guess when you visit so many different establishments you are bound to run into one you are sure not to visit again. C'est la vie!

But I am happy to say our travels end with a very pleasant note... Just a half hour from home is the High Societea House in Wayne. I called earlier, messaging to make a reservation, and was confirmed by Bernadette, the owner, promptly before we hit the road. What a delightful place! The minute you walk in, the gift shop area is filled with an array of carefully selected tea-themed items - everything from their signature teas to beautifully crafted tea pot sets and books. We were seated at a quaint table dressed with fringed crochet and brought three special teas of the day to sniff in addition to the extensive house menu. Even though Brenna and I already ate lunch a couple hours prior, we each opted for the Queen's Tea, a six-course offering of soup, quiche, scones, finger sandwiches, assorted sweets and a plated dessert. Brenna's tea selection, Tibetan Tiger, was a smooth and flavorful blend of caramel, chocolate, butterscotch, and vanilla, all of which came through for an exotic taste experience. I opted for one of the specials, a white tea blended with passion fruit and pear, another sensory sip. The tomato-basil soup and asparagus Swiss quiche were savory, and the red, white and blue scones hit the spot. We were so filled with the generous portions of hot and cold finger sandwiches, we took the key lime pie slices home to satisfy the craving should one arise later in the evening.

All in all, our tasty journey has opened our eyes and tickled our palettes with an array of distinct flavor. We've come to learn what we definitely like, what we can live without, and where we want to spend more of our time. One thing is certain - while we may forget some of the details over time, we will never forget how we felt along the way as we sampled tea for two... xoxo-Sonya

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