Tea time in the Triangle: 'A great afternoon pause'

aweigl@newsobserver.comNovember 28, 2013 

  • Where to have tea The Blakemere Afternoon Tea at La Residence

    Details: It offers a cream tea for $14.99, an afternoon tea for $22.99 and a holiday tea for about $25. The holiday tea, offered only in December, will include mince pies with brandy butter, yule log cake, ginger shortbread and a spiced sticky toffee pudding.

    Known for: Clotted cream made from scratch from Maple View Farm and service with a British accent. Amanda Fisher, a native of Devon, England, owns The Blakemere Company, which produces clotted cream, cakes, jams and other treats for a proper English tea. Fisher’s products are available online ( theblakemerecompany.com) and at local shops, including Southern Season in Chapel Hill, NOFO at the Pig in Raleigh, Savory Spice Shop in North Raleigh and Peak Olive Oil in Cary. She also offers delivery within a 15-mile radius of Chapel Hill.

    Where: La Residence restaurant, 202 W. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill.

    When: The tea is usually served from 3-4:30 p.m. Thursdays. But in December, the dates have changed. The teas will be offered on one Thursday, Dec. 5, and three Sundays – Dec. 8, 15 and 22.

    Reservations: Preferred. 919-967-2506 or laresidencedining.com

    The Carolina Inn

    Details: In December, they offer a little prince/princess holiday tea – $17 for children ages 4-6 and $21 for children ages 7-12. The little prince/princess tea offers kid-friendly menu items, such as cupcakes and peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese sandwiches. The classic holiday tea for $25 includes tea, three sandwiches, scones, three sweets and two chocolate-covered strawberries. The royal holiday tea for $34 includes all of that plus a glass of sparkling wine.

    Known for: The tea selection includes Earl Grey and English breakfast, as well as several black, green and white teas, herbal tisanes and rooibos.

    Where: 211 Pittsboro St., Chapel Hill

    When: Holiday teas are 2-5 p.m. every day in December except Christmas. From January through November, the inn offers tea 2:30-4:30 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays. Groups of 10 or more can book a party on Mondays-Wednesdays. Prices are $12 to $29. The inn also offers bridal and baby shower teas for $30 per person.

    Reservations: Required, at least 24 hours in advance. Reserve now – it usually has waiting lists by next week. 919-918-2777 or carolinainn.com

    The Old English Tea Room

    Details: It offers tea and lunch every day except Sundays. A children’s tea for $10.95, which includes tea or pink lemonade, an afternoon tea for $16.95 and a four-course high tea for $21.95.

    Known for: Old-fashioned hats, scarves and gloves line the wall as you walk into the tea room. Children and adults are welcome to dress up for tea. The tomato pie is among the most popular menu items. The tea room also sells more than 50 varieties of loose-leaf teas to take home.

    Where: 219 S. White St., Wake Forest.

    When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays, closed on Sundays.

    Reservations: Recommended. 919-556-6910 or oldeenglishtearoom.com

    Weathervane restaurant at Southern Season

    Details: Afternoon tea is offered once a month. For $19, guests enjoy tea, assorted tea sandwiches, assorted breads, pastries and mini desserts.

    Known for: The wide selection of teas from Southern Season’s tea department, including the popular Organic Carolina Breakfast Tea, which is available for purchase for two- and four-ounce packages.

    Where: 201 S. Estes Dr., Chapel Hill, at University Mall

    When: 3 p.m. Dec. 10

    Reservations: 919-913-1221 or email specialevents@southernseason.com

    Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club

    Details: They offer a classic tea for $25 featuring Republic of Tea teas, tea sandwiches, scones and sweets. The Tea Royale is $32 and includes a glass of sparkling wine.

    Known for: Classic scones with Devonshire cream and lemon curd, as well as cucumber sandwiches, pimento cheese sandwiches and lemon tarts. The inn is open to tailoring the menu to accommodate dietary restrictions.

    Where: 3001 Cameron Blvd., Durham.

    When: Afternoon holiday tea is offered 2:30-4:30 p.m. Dec. 1-Jan. 5. The rest of the year, afternoon tea is offered 2:30-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays.

    Reservations: Required. 919-493-6699 or washingtondukeinn.com

    The Umstead Hotel and Spa

    Details: Offered every afternoon except Mondays and Tuesdays. Guests can order one of seven Mighty Leaf loose-leaf teas, which are brewed in a French press. Tea is followed by a three-course meal, including assorted tea sandwiches, a scone and muffin served with lemon curd, Devonshire cream and fruit preserves, and an array of tiny sweets served on a silver tea stand. Cost is $32 per person. Sparkling wine is also available.

    Known for: The menu indicates the caffeine level of each tea. The seasonal “verrine,” similar to a trifle or layered dessert in a small glass, changes daily. A recent one included spiced milk chocolate cream, walnut crumble and a pomegranate gelee.

    Where: 100 Woodland Pond Drive, Cary.

    When: 2:30-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays.

    Reservations: Required, at least 24 hours in advance. 919-447-4000 or theumstead.com

This time of year brings families together. But amid the holiday hustle and bustle, families need fun activities to enjoy together.

How about afternoon tea?

That’s what Allison Esguerra always did even before she owned the Olde English Tea Room in Wake Forest, which has been in operation since 1999. Esguerra and her husband bought it 18 months ago.

“We always brought our family here when they came in from out of town,” Esguerra said.

Esguerra’s tea room offers an especially child-friendly experience. As soon as you enter, there is a wall hung with hats, scarves and gloves for children – and adults – who want to dress up a bit before sitting down for tea.

“I have some little girls who will stand in front of that mirror for a half hour,” Esguerra said.

There are civilized affairs offered at hotels across the Triangle, such as Chapel Hill’s The Carolina Inn, Durham’s Washington Duke Inn and Cary’s The Umstead Hotel – although they also cater to children as well. Southern Season’s Weathervane restaurant has also recently gotten into the act with a monthly afternoon tea.

Chapel Hill’s La Residence restaurant has partnered with Amanda Fisher of The Blakemere Company, which sells clotted cream, preserves and cakes for afternoon tea. Fisher, originally from Devon, England, offers a true Brit’s take on afternoon tea without any of the intimidation.

“Afternoon tea is not all fingers in the air,” Fisher said. “It’s afternoon sustenance for the busy person ... I think of afternoon tea as a great afternoon pause.”

Another thing not to worry about: None of these businesses impose a dress code. You can wear jeans or your Sunday best, as long as you take the time to enjoy an afternoon respite with the family.

Weigl: 919-829-4848; Twitter: @andreaweigl

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