At the tea

Two for Tea at Two

 

I’ll confess, we do have a touch of anglophile about us. For me it goes beyond the recent spate of awesome TV shows like Sherlock, Doctor Who and Downton Abbey. I’ve always been more of a fan of British Literature than American. American Lit. was a dreary subject for me in undergrad, with only a few standouts among a hearty stew of gross Puritanism. Only with the arrival of the post modernists do I start to jive with what we’re doing here.

 

Becky here, only my husband would use the word “anglophile” and think that it is perfectly normal. It pushed him to the point to include “spate.” Sometimes I don’t even recognize him. And seriously, his opinions on American Lit, my specialty, especially the early stuff up through the post modernists and beyond. I have no idea who this man is.

 

The Brits though, man can they write. I tend to want to blame the rather bland surroundings in many places for the natural turn inward for aesthetic beauty. That and some bitchin’ architecture. I even gradually grew out of my stubborn preference for 20th century or later settings because of the Brits (though I still can’t get through Jane Austin). I spent a semester in England (a fact that whenever I even hint at bringing it up, Becky adopts a hoity toity air about her). I have lots of fond memories of gallivanting around the countryside, hopping on trains to the next adventure. Tea time with my adopt a family was a pleasantry we shared several times.

 

Alright, I agree, I make a lot of fun of him when he describes his life in Europe. But, seriously, do you blame me? The dude just used “anglophile AND spate” not even a few paragraphs ago. Wouldn’t you make fun of him?

 

When Becky wanted to do the tea at the St. Paul Hotel though, I balked. Three hours of sitting in fancy chairs, sipping tea served by ladies in old fashioned maid outfits, struck me as a bit too close to this:

tea party

Plus what the hell would we talk about for three hours? The troubles in Burma? The Gold Standard? Cricket? What on earth takes three hours?  A good long meal can go that distance without being overwhelming, but tea? Seems a bit insubstantial. Did people really sit around for three hours a day drinking tea back then?

 

Back when, Joel? Back when?

 

Even though we had to make reservations a year in advance due to the popularity of this event, I was skeptical. But as often happens, I was won over by remaining open to the experience.

 

It’s funny, I don’t remember when or why I began desiring high tea in the lobby. It started with a combination of things. The first is that I witnessed the tea in my wedding dress. Joel and I spent the night before our wedding at the St. Paul Hotel, and we both got ready before the wedding there as well.

My Matron of Honor and personal attendant helping me with my dress in the hotel room.
My Matron of Honor and personal attendant helping me with my dress in the hotel room.

Above is one of my favorite pictures. We were getting ready to make the “walk”.  This walk would take me through the lobby in front of all the guests drinking tea.

Tea set up at the St. Paul Hotel.
Tea set up at the St. Paul Hotel.

As I began the walk through the lobby I saw how beautiful it all looked and heard the oooh’s and aww’s as I walked through. The below pictures show the remainder of my walk to see Joel for the first time in my Wedding Dress.

My Walk from the St. Paul Hotel to the Landmark Center.
My Walk from the St. Paul Hotel to the Landmark Center.

 

Arriving at the Landmark Center.
Arriving at the Landmark Center.

I remember this moment, surrounded by people I love, ushering me in to marry the man I fell madly in love with. I wanted to sit and have tea with my husband to relive this walk. I hoped to perhaps see another woman making the same walk. 

 

Over the past few months, Becky and I have really been getting into tea. I think we have enough to last us 6 months if we drank a cup every day. It’s a ritual, and like all rituals, the act of going through the steps has a calming effect. The whistle of the pot, the delicate balance of finding the right amount of sugar, cream, honey or lemon to make the experience perfect, the slow wait for the temperature to reach sipping levels – it’s all about anticipation and reward. Add biscotti to that? Forgetaboutit.

 

We waited 3 years to have the tea because, before I met Joel, I hated tea. HATED IT. But, then Joel taught me about how to drink it: proper steeping, adding sugar, and milk or cream. Suddenly, I fell in love. I bought Joel some tea on our vacation from the Downton Abbey collection from the Republic of Tea. Joel’s favorite is Downton Abbey English Rose and mine is Downton Abbey Estate. So I was excited to revisit both our wedding and to celebrate a wonderful gift given during our marriage.

 

We got to the hotel, were ushered to our seats in the lobby area among columns and chandeliers, across from other couples and groups of friends. No one was ostentatiously dressed in period costume, which was one fear I had. Though one elderly mother daughter pair had some pretty ostentatious matching ugly Christmas sweaters – their lack of pickiness on their attire was on the opposite end of the spectrum from their super pickiness about every single thing that was put in front of them. I felt bad for the servers.

Becky and I sat in cushy seats at an angle to each other with a small round glass table for the tea.

the set up
The set up

The tea itself was lovely. A black tea with currants to give it a nice fruity taste that accepted sugar, lemon or cream to one’s taste. I eventually drank enough that I could feel my heart starting to protest.

The finger foods came out in five courses over the two hours and change we were there and transitioned nicely from savory to sweet courses. They had a fascinating take on the cucumber sandwich by using a sesame wafer with Benedictine spread. The lobster quiche was my favorite. Becky couldn’t stop stealing my leftover brandy butter for her scone in the third course. The fruit and nut caramel brittle was the highlight of the fourth course of sweets. Becky’s favorite was the last course of a shooter glass with white chocolate Namelaka (which reminded me of straight up frosting) topped with lovely berries.

st. paul hotel tea menu
The menu

The menu changes throughout the year, with some special events in the schedule like a Chocolate Lover’s Tea, a Downton Abbey Tea, Run for the Roses Kentucky Derby Tea, and more themed days.

 

The tea was more wonderful than I could ever hope. I did get to watch a woman make the walk, and I oooohed and aaahed like everyone else. I loved the day I married Joel and made the walk from the hotel single and returned married. This year has been difficult, and we weren’t able to celebrate our anniversary or Christmas much like we wanted to do. But this tea did something for us; for 3 hours, we stayed in the present. No talk about unemployment or money, instead, we lived in our world, discovering that brown sugar cubes in tea makes it even more phenomenal. We were able to just sit, people watch, and enjoy each other’s company.

Our first walk as husband and wife.
Our first walk as husband and wife.

Overall, it was a pleasant time that won me over.

 

I love him more each and every day. And it turns out that I learn something new about him every day. Seriously, isn’t disliking American Literature unAmerican? Well, hopefully his dislike of the literature will go the same way of my dislike of tea.

 

I recommend having this experience at least once with someone you want to spend more time with. If you do, all I ask is you raise a pinky in salute in our direction.

 

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