Saturday, December 18, 2010

First Ladies Tea Room

Canton, Ohio

We had the privilege of partaking in the fanciest "First Ladies Tea" in celebration of Lindsey's college graduation! As we previously reviewed First Ladies' "Martha Washington Tea," this review will focus on the delightful unique aspects of the "First Ladies Tea."

Entrance: In the entrance to the First Ladies Tea Room, is a darling gift shop offering a variety of tea cups and tea accessories.  New additions to the gift shop since our last visit are a variety of jewelry.

Service: We had a lovely tea hostess for our afternoon tea.  She began by explaining the loose leaf tea offerings and letting us smell a selection of the teas.

Presentation: The tea room was decorated in festive Christmas decor and our serverware featured charming Christmas designs.

Tea quality: Our tea selections were Artic Berry, Creme Brulee and Chocolate Rooibos. All of the teas were delicious.

Food quality and variety:  The "First Ladies Tea" certainly encourages a leisurely afternoon as there is quite the variety of food to enjoy. Our tea began with a sparkling beverage, followed by a choice of soup or salad - Chicken Orso soup or Pear and Pecan salad. Breanne and her mother selected the Chicken Orso soup which was delicious and Lindsey tried the pear and pecan salad which was equally tasty.  For the second course we all selected the spinach and cheese quiche - one of our First Ladies Tea Room favorites!

For the next course, our tea hostess brought out a three-tiered server featuring bread and scones, finger sandwiches and a variety of desserts. 
Finger sandwiches: prosciutto wrapped asparagus, vegetarian wrap with hummus, cucumber sandwich, carrot and cream cheese on raisin bread, and cranberry and walnut on pumpernickle that was tied with a darling red ribbon.
Bread and scones: apricot and cranberry scones served with lemon curd and devonshire cream, and chocolate biscotti.
Petite desserts:  chocolate covered strawberries, raspberry mousse with blackberry garnish in a chocolate cup, cherry cheesecake, tri-color cake with chocolate frosting, and Christmas tree, gingerbread man and bell frosted sugar cookies.

Our mother's favorite dainty was the raspberry mousse with blackberry garnish in a chocolate cup, Lindsey's favorite was the prosciutto wrapped asparagus and Breanne's favorite was the vegetarian wrap with hummus.  All around favorites were the spinach and cheese quiche and the not-to-be-missed lemon curd!

Price: The "First Ladies Tea" is the most expensive tea that the tea room offers, but the delicious variety of tea and tea treats offered is worth the cost.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Puer Tea


We wanted to share one of our favorite teas that helps aid digestion for those of us who have indulged in a little extra eating over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Puer Tea (also spelled Puerh) is packaged in round cakes.  Lower quality Puer tea has an earthier taste while the finer varieties are smoother tasting.  The quality and value of Puer tea improves with age.
Puer tea has been revered as a medicinal tea in China for thousands of years and is said to help aid digestion, lower cholesterol and detoxify the body - the perfect after-Thanksgiving tea!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Royal Tea House

Beijing, China

We passed this darling tea house on the walk back to our hotel after visiting The Forbidden City.  Sadly, we were rushing straight to the airport, otherwise we would have stopped for a lovely tea. We thought the sign was so charming: "Enjoy Fine Tea With Best Friends" so we took a few quick pictures to remember The Royal Tea House and will look forward to partaking in a leisurely tea here on our next visit to Beijing.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Dalian, China

Entrance: The first thing we noticed when we entered Shambhala was the soothing sound of water trickling in a small fountain.  There is a beautiful stairway to the right of the entrance and three tables by the windows to the left.

Greeting: Upon entering we were immediately greeted by several of the tea servers.  And since our sister Nicki is a regular, they showed us the private rooms that were available.  We had the priviledge of enjoying tea at Shambhala on three occasions and selected two different private rooms on our first two visits and sat at a table on the main floor on our third visit. 

Service: Our tea server gave us a menu and lemon water upon arriving in our room.  In each room there is a sing call button so that you can page your server should you need anything.  The server kindly waits with you while you select your tea.  We are certain our server would have reviewed the tea options with us if we spoke better Chinese, but thankfully there is some English on the menu.

Presentation: One of our favorite pieces of the tea service are the doileys with embroidered fabric coasters resting on top - each is brightly colored and ornately stitched.  We loved the infusion process with the Shambhala Chinese black tea - pouring the tea from the tea pot through a sieve and into a serving pitcher - it added a fun element to the tea experience. 

Table decor: All the tea accroutrements were delightful including the bowl where we rested the sieve and the darling stir spoons with porcelain floral handles.

Aesthetics: There is not enough space on our blog to discuss the Shambhala aesthetic.  The Shambhala has four floors of tea rooms and each private room is uniquely decorated in Tibetan decor.  The two private rooms we were seated in were amazing.  The walls in one of the rooms are covered in beautiful gold floral fabric with an accent wall in red floral fabric.  The ceilings have ornate gold detailing as do the cupboards. No detail has been missed in the tea rooms.  The Tibetan decor made us feel like we were having tea in a grand museum.

Tea Quality: The Shambhala Chinese Black Tea was delicious even after several infusions.  The looseleaf tea held its flavor well. The Chinese Date Tea was excellent and as an added plus it is good for your skin. 

Tea Variety: Shambhala offered 16 varieties of tea - 5 Chinese teas, 5 English herb teas and 6 Shambhala health teas.

Food: Shambhala appears to offer a selection of food which is listed in the menu in Chinese characters, so we did not partake in the food.  We noticed other tables with delicious fruit platters, but were content with the light tea biscuits we brought from Bread Talk (another of Dalian's delightful shops).

Music: The private rooms allow you to control the volume of the Tibetan music that is playing - you can turn the music off entirely or listen at your desired volume.  We loved the Tibetan music and it added to our overall enjoyment of the tea.  Nicki purchased a Tibetan cd since she loved the music at Shambhala so much - she tried to purchase a cd at Shambhala but unfortunately they do not sell cds of their music :(

Lighting: You can control the lighting in the private rooms and make the lighting as dim or bright as you like.  There are curtains in the windows that you can draw or open as well.

Bathroom: We were able to experience a traditional Chinese water closet with beautiful marble floor.  The lovely Tibetan decor extended into the lou.

Take Aways: The sweet manager gave us each a set of four book marks designed with different Tibetan artwork and decor.

Price: The tea is priced by the pot or cup.  The price per pot of tea ranges from low to high depending on the type of tea you select.

We wish Shambhala sold their teas or had a gift shop because we so loved everything in their tea house and wanted to buy a souvenir.  Luckily we were able to find pillow covers and coasters that were reminiscent of Shambhala's decor at Da Cai Shi (an endless indoor Chinese market where you can find any and every Chinese souvenir you could ever want!).

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Dalian, China

Shambhala definitely makes our list of the most amazing tea venues!  Once we edit our review down to a manageable word count, we will be thrilled to share our tea experience. We loved the place so much we found ourselves relaxing at Shambhala on three occasions during our stay in Dalian.  We must note that our older sister has the luxury of visiting Shambhala weekly and we are unable to supress our jealousy.

TWT, Breanne and Lindsey

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chinese Jasmine Blooming Flower Tea

We had the luxury of sampling a variety of teas while in China.  My favorite tea purchase was a jasmine blooming flower tea.  Not only is it beautiful to watch brew, it has a light, delicious flavor that lasts through several refills.

I purchased the tea at Xin Heng Bao Tea, an adorable shop in Dalian's Peace Plaza.  The shop has a wonderful selection of tea and tea accessories.  They also have a cozy table and chairs where you can sit and drink the tea you purchase.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Traveling to China

looking forward to learning about Chinese tea traditions and having some delicious tea!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Heathman Hotel

Portland, Oregon

Best Homemade Marshmallow Pastry and Most Beautiful Tea Room Furnishings

Entrance: When you approach The Heathman, the first thing you will notice is the festive doorman, decked out in full costume including a delightful hat.  The main hotel entrance has beautiful marble floors and leads you into the Tea Court.

Greeting: We walked up to the hostess stand and were offered a selection of seating areas for our tea.

Service: Our server was very polite.  He reviewed the tea selections with us and was prompt in bringing out our tea and treats.

Presentation: The food was presented beautifully on a tiered server.

Table decor: The tea service was classic white porcelain with a silver tea strainer and resting dish.

Aesthetics: The Tea Court, with its wood paneled walls, fireplace and cozy seating, exudes the feeling of an intimate library or study. We love the eclectic furniture with a mix of beautiful fabrics, and the large chandelier with a velvet cord cover descending from the floor above.

Tea Quality: The tea was good and our server promptly refilled the water in our tea pots.

Tea Variety: The Heathman offers 12 tea varieties: 2 black teas, 2 green teas, 2 herbal teas, and 6 scented teas.

Food Quality: We loved the food! The chicken salad was our favorite sandwich although they were all delicious.  Our favorite dessert was the homemade marshmallows - we would have eaten the entire pan!

Food Quantity: There were 5 sandwiches (smoked salmon, chicken salad, goat cheese, cucumber and deviled egg), a scone, banana bread, and 5 desserts.

Food Variety: There was a great variety!  So much food!  We took home 4 of the 5 desserts - it was impossible not to immediately devour the marshmallow treat.

Music: We didn't notice any music playing.

Lighting: The beautiful chandelier in the center of the room along with dim recessed lighting created a lovely setting for tea.

Bathroom: The bathroom had a different feel than the Tea Court. It was modern with tiled walls and a really unique rain drop chandelier that looked like a shower head.  We also liked the fancy cloth-like, disposable hand towels.

Take Aways: A lovely tea menu and lots of desserts!  There is also a cute little chocolate shop attached to The Heathman if you didn't get your fill of sweets at tea :)

Price: Average to High

Of Note: The Heathman offers a special holiday tea from November 28 to January 4 and a darling Peter Rabbit tea for Little Sippers :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Palmer House Hilton

Chicago, Illinois

Most Beautiful Lobby Ceiling

As we love every venue that appreciates afternoon tea as much as we do, we feel it is necessary to preface this review by saying that The Palmer House has immense afternoon tea potential. We happened to enjoy their afternoon tea the day after Thanksgiving when the hotel was bursting with guests and activity.

Entrance: The entrace to The Palmer House is very grand with a lovely stairway and chandelier.

Greeting: We were not exactly sure where the host for the afternoon tea was situated. We went to the desk at the Lockwood restaurant and were seated in the lobby area.

Service: Our waiter was very nice, but unfortunately he was very busy with the holiday crowd. He was unavailable to refill our teapots and did not offer us cream or sugar for our tea.

Presentation: The presentation was standard. The sandwiches, desserts and scones were served on a tiered platter and the teapots and cups were classic white.

Table decor: The table setting was nice. We liked the cute embroidered napkins.

Aesthetics: The lobby has the most beautiful, ornate ceiling - we loved all the historic architectural details. Unfortunately the lobby where the afternoon tea is served is also the walkway and seating area for all hotel guests - it was very busy and we were not able to enjoy a relaxing afternoon tea. We had to move our chairs close together in order to hear one another and it was still difficult to have a comfortable conversation.

Tea quality: The Jasmine Blossom white tea was very light and good.

Tea variety: There were not too many teas to select from - only 8 varieties.

Food quality: We liked all the sandwiches with the exception of the salmon - although our mother liked the salmon. The desserts were more visually appealing than tasty.

Food quantity: There were four sandwiches - salmon, cucumber, chicken salad and ham, 4 desserts, 2 scones, 2 breads and 2 cookies.

Food variety: The variety of food was good.

Music: The music was seasonal, Christmas music, but was played rather loud which didn't create a pleasant atmosphere for the afternoon tea.

Lighting: The lighting was nice. We particularly liked the wall sconces.

Bathroom: The bathroom was pretty with an ornate full length mirror. There were nice paper hand towels.

Take aways: We did our best to find a take away here - even went so far as to ask for a piece of paper and in return were given a blank strip of cash register paper :( Alas, we left empty handed.

Price: High - most expensive afternoon tea thus far - that is until we fullfill our life long dream of having tea at Harrods in London :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Four Seasons Hotel

Chicago, Illinois

Most Unique Teapot

Entrance: The entrance to the Four Seasons in Chicago is beautiful and spacious. We loved the chandeliers and the fountain on the partial wall separating the tea room from the entrance.

Greeting: We were greeted by Vern (whose name delighted us as our late-grandfather's name was Vern). He was polite, took our coats, and was friendly and professional.

Service: Our waitress was friendly, explained the tea, and gave us an overview of the afternoon tea service.

Presentation: The most interesting part of the tea presentation was our sideways teapots brought to our table on silver platters. We noticed these sideways teapots on the tables around us and were puzzling over why they were sitting on their sides. Our waitress explained that the teapot sits upright while the tea is brewing and is turned on its side after the tea is brewed to keep the tea leaves separate from the tea in the pot - how clever! The first course of sandwiches was served to us by our waitress and the dessert and scone courses were served on tiered platters at our table.

Table decor: The table decor was very nice. We especially liked the cute, small fork with lemon that accompanied our tea, the tea strainer on the doily, the darling scone condiments' server, and we always love a little dish of sugar cubes.

Aesthetics: The overall aesthetic was very relaxing. The teapot was pleasing. The setting was intimate and cozy. We were seated by the fireplace, which we very much enjoyed. We were not seated too close to other tables so we could comfortably converse and enjoy a leisurely tea.

Tea quality: The tea was good quality. We had Ginger Twist and Wild Blackberries tea - both were very good.

Tea variety: There was a nice selection of teas - 8 black teas, 1 oolong tea, 2 green teas, 5 herbal and fruit infusion teas and 1 white tea.

Food quality: The food was delicious! Our favorite sandwich was the gorgonzola and watercress, and the pumpkin dessert was the perfect, festive seasonal touch.

Food quantity: The afternoon tea included 5 sandwiches, 2 scones, 2 cookies, 5 bread slices and 3 desserts.

Food variety: We enjoyed the great variety of sandwiches; we liked all of them except the chicken curry - although other tables around us had seconds of that sandwich. The dessert selection was very good as well.

Music: There was soft background music playing, but no live music.

Lighting: We were seated by the fireplace and enjoyed the warm glow of the fire while we sipped our tea. The room was decorated with beautiful chandeliers and the overhead lighting was dimmed after sunset.

Bathroom: The bathroom had a lovely seating area. There were individual stalls with fancy doors. The paper hand towels were nice as well.

Take aways: We can nearly always find a cute take away :) The doily under the tea strainer was an adorable find and there was Four Seasons hotel stationery paper located by the telephone in the hall leading to the bathrooms.

Extras: Some tables were offered additional sandwiches.

Price: Average to High

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

Most Charming Tea Delicacies and Gracious Service

Entrance: The entrance to The Ritz-Carlton's afternoon tea room, The Greenhouse, is spacious and bright with a grand fountain in the center. One wall is all windows as is a portion of the ceiling creating a very open, inviting space.

Greeting: Upon entering, we walked up to the host stand and were greeted and shown to our table.

Service: Our server was very friendly and kindly went over their afternoon tea service and tea options.

Presentation: The food presentation was one of our favorite parts of the tea. The food was so delightful you almost hated to eat anything! We loved the fruit dessert served on the cute, white spoons.

Table decor: The table decor was pretty and simple. Lovely white tea pots and tiered serving trays.

Aesthetics: The tea room was clean, bright and open. The wall of windows and partial ceiling of windows gives The Greenhouse its names and creates a lovely, space with lots of natural light. When entering The Grenhouse, the gleaming floors and large fountain give the space a crisp and polished look.

Tea quality: The tea was good and our server kept our tea warm for the entire visit!

Tea variety: The Ritz-Carlton offered the standard teas we love, with a variety of black, green and white teas.

Food quality: The food was delicious and tasted as good as it looked, which is saying a lot because the food presentation was so darling! We particularly enjoyed the scones, Devonshire cream and lemon curd as well as the dainty desserts with fresh fruit.

Food quantity: There was an abundence of food served with our afternoon tea. Four sandwiches, four desserts, and a variety of bread and scones.

Food variety: The variety of food was perfect. Each treat was lovely to look at and enjoyable to eat. We took three varieties of bread home as we were too full to eat everything.

Music: We arrived for tea around 3:30pm and were still enjoying tea at 5pm when the pianist arrived. We loved the beautiful piano music that accompanied the latter part of our tea. We recommend bringing in the pianist for the entire afternoon tea - the music was lovely and added to the overall ambience of the tea.

Lighting: The large windows offered lots of natural light which created a lovely tea experience.

Bathroom: The bathroom was beautiful. We particularly loved the decadent plush, white hand towels which were disposed of in lovely large wicker laundry baskets in the bathroom.

Take aways: In all likelihood a good portion of your tea delicacies! Three varieties of bread accompanied us home.

Extras: The beautiful piano music at 5pm.

Price: Average

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Drake

Chicago, Illinois

Most Impressive Afternoon Tea Guests: Queen Elizabeth, Diana the Princess of Wales, and the Empress of Japan and Best Harp Music

Entrance: The entrance to The Drake is inviting and quaint. You walk through the hall and up the stairway to the Palm Court. We enjoyed afternoon tea the day before Thanksgiving so the entrance to the Palm Court displayed the most grand Christmas tree we have, to this day, ever seen.

Greeting: We were greeted by the host and seated at a lovely table by the fountain.

Service: Our server was polite and reviewed the tea selection with us.

Presentation: The tea service was classic and traditional.

Table decor: The tea pot, cup and saucer and tiered serving trays were refined and proper - most appropriate for the Queen! We loved the tea strainer which we often forgot to place over our cups before pouring more tea.

Aesthetics: The tea room is elegant and spacious. We sat next to the water fountain near the harpist and both elements combined to create a lovely tea experience.

Tea Quality: The tea was delicious and maintained a nice taste even after several refills of hot water.

Tea Variety: The Drake offered 11 black teas, 1 oolong tea, 2 green teas, 1 white tea and 5 herbal teas as well as an array of tea-tinis :)

Food Quality: The food was very good; our favorite was the cucumber sandwich.

Food Quantity: There were 4 sandwiches: roast beef, cucumber, egg salad and asparagus and ham, 2 desserts and scones with lemon curd and English double devon cream.

Food Variety: There was a good variety of food. We were able to enjoy a very leisurely tea with plenty of tasties to last for hours.

Music: The harp music was amazing! The Drake definitely offers the best music for afternoon tea. The harp player was so elegant in her black gown - she was the perfect addition to the tea setting.

Lighting: The lighting was pleasant - not too dim or bright.

Bathroom: The bathroom was another exceptional element of the tea experience. The bathroom contains individual stalls with toilet, sink and mirror, and offer lovely, too-nice-to-throw-away hand towels with the Drake emblem.

Take Aways: The bathroom hand towels! The Drake also has some delightful shops to peruse. In addition to Chanel :), there is a cute little shop with a variety of collectables including elaborate miniature merry-go-rounds, but we must forewarn you - don't pet the dog (There's a minature stuffed dog that Breanne mistakenly petted prior to reading the sign: "Do not pet the dog!")

Extras: Endless hot water refills for your tea.

Price: Average to High

Friday, July 2, 2010

First Ladies Tea Room

Canton, Ohio

Best Lemon Curd and Best Assorted Tea Service and Tableware

Entrance: In the entrance to The First Ladies Tea Room is an adorable tea shop. You can buy the beautiful tea pots, tea cups and saucers that are used in the tea room as well as an array of other tea accessories. One of our favorites is the beautiful gold plated tea warmer.

Greeting: We were greeted in the tea shop and graciously seated for tea.

Service: Our tea was served by the owner who is truly the perfect tea hostess. She explained the four tea service options:

Dolley Madison: tea, scones and a selection of sweets
Martha Washington: tea, soup, your choice of quiche, sandwich, or salad and dessert
Ida McKinley: tea, soup, finger sandwiches, scones, tea breads, fruit and dainties
First Ladies: tea, soup, quiche or salad, scones, fruit, finger sandwiches, dainty sweet treats and a non-alcoholic sparkling beverage
The standard afternoon tea service is the Martha Washington tea which we selected. Lindsey has also partaken in the First Ladies tea.

Presentation: An assortment of loose leaf teas was brought to our table for us to smell and select from.

Table decor: The table decor was delightful. We both had different tea pots and cups - giving the table a homey, eclectic feel. We loved that our tea pots were placed on tea warmers which kept our tea warm for our entire visit, and we adored the lemon curd, Devonshire cream and scone plate.

Aesthetics: The tea room is perfectly decorated with damask wall paper, a cozy fireplace and pictures of first ladies hanging on the walls. We love a little history with our tea! First Lady Ida McKinley is a native of Canton, Ohio - hence the name of the tea room and the delightful theme.

Tea Quality: The tea was delicious. We tried the Creme Brulee and Winter Spice teas.

Tea Variety: There was a nice assortment of teas. We loved that the loose leaf teas were brought to our table on a tray for us to smell and explained by our hostess before we made our selection.

Food Quality: The lemon curd is the best delicatessen we have ever tasted!! It is the owner's own recipe and although the tea shop sells lemon curd, it is not her recipe :( trust us, we've inquired several times.

Food Quantity: The soup was delicious and there is always a quiche, sandwich and salad to select from. The desserts all sound so good it is hard to decide on just one!

Food Variety: Cup of soup, choice of quiche, sandwich or salad, dessert and scones (assortment depends on tea service selected).

Music: Soft music plays in the background and is only noticeable if you want to hear it, not overpowering to prohibit conversation.

Lighting: The wall sconces provided a dim and relaxing setting for tea.

Bathroom: The bathroom is a single room and it carries through the adorable theme of the tea room with Victorian wallpaper, white wood stalls, and lovely smelling soap and lotion.

Take Aways: As many tea accoutrements from the tea shop as your wallet will let you go home with!

Extras: The tea shop is a huge extra, plus First Ladies Tea Room provides a true tea room experience as their business solely focues on the art of afternoon tea.

Price: Low to Average (depending on tea service selected)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Travelers Who Tea

We are not certain when our love for afternoon tea first developed. We were immersed in British culture at a young age thanks to some of the best children's movies ever made: The Wind in the Willows, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland. Our love for tea undoubtedly grew during Lindsey's junior year of college studying abroad in England. Now that we live in different states than one another, and in a different country than our older sister, we find ourselves frequently traveling to visit each other and afternoon tea has become a customary element of our visits. We enjoy discovering new tea venues and appreciate the similarities of each tea as well as the unique twists on tradition at the various venues. After countless teas together, we found that we had unconsciously developed a list of qualities we looked for at each tea: aesthetics of the tea room, tea presentation, quality and variety of teas and delicacies, etc. Thus we began exploring the tradition, luxury and fine art of afternoon tea. We look forward to sharing reviews of the tea rooms we have visited as well as our favorite books about tea and delightful tea accessories that we discover.

Breanne and Lindsey