Time for Tea

People have different reasons for enjoying teatime. Some, like me, love a good cup of properly brewed tea. Some find it energizing. Others relax with it. And some unabashedly go for the sweets and savories that accompany the tea. Unlike our British compatriots in the shire we were named for, most New Hampshire residents can’t pop into their local tearoom each afternoon. But a respectable number of places here do observe this highly civilized tradition, often in a Victorian atmosphere. There’s nothing dainty or frilly about the setting for afternoon tea at The Wellington Room (431-2989, www.thewellingtonroom.com) in Portsmouth, where the walls are decorated with primitive weapons from the Australian outback. Wednesday through Sunday, from 3:30 p.m.-5 p.m., Chef David Robinson serves some very rare teas along with the usual Oolong and Earl Grey. Yunnan Imperial, known as the “mocha of teas,” is a good accompaniment to hot scones, Devonshire cream and his own lemon or orange curd. Or sample his highly original tea sandwiches, which include one of fois gras with berry preserves. Relax in an elegant 19th-century setting for tea at Ash Street Inn in Manchester (668-9908, www.ashstreetinn.com) each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 2 p.m. Pastries and scones are baked right there and, in the summer, iced tea is served with fresh fruit and pastries on the inn’s wraparound porch. For a beautiful view of the White Mountains, reserve a window-side table at the lovely new Rose of Sharon tearoom at the Spalding Inn in Whitefield (837-2572, www.spaldinginn.com), where tea is served on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., June through November. Children are welcomed by the resident Victorian bear, who is happy to share stylish hats, gloves and even a feather boa with little girls who might have left theirs at home. Teas are accompanied by sweets and savories created in the inn’s kitchen. Once-a-week teatime options include elegant garden teas on Saturday afternoons during the spring, summer and fall at The Topiary at Owl’s Rest Farm in Sanbornton (934-3221, www.thetopiary.com). In the winter, tea is served in the Flower Emporium. Freshly baked scones include lemon poppy seed, apricot almond and orange cranberry, and tea sandwiches are in traditional combinations. Fine china and the works of these talented floral artists create the right mood, and tea includes a tour of the gardens in season. For a pastels-and-flowers ambiance, reserve a table on Friday afternoons at Antiquiteas in Salem (893-7337, www.antiquiteastearoom.com). Along with the requisite scone comes a selection that might include a miniature quiche, tea sandwiches and pastries. Several inns and B&Bs serve afternoon tea only to their guests, and many find it worth returning early from their day’s activities. At Adair Country Inn in Bethlehem (888-444-2600, adairinn.com), Judy Whitman bakes the teatime treats each day at 4 p.m., and guests can choose from the collection of fine china cups and saucers kept in an antique linen press in the parlor. Whitman devotes an entire chapter of her new cookbook to her tea goodies, which include blueberry cake, eggs Dijonnaise, puff pastry cups, popovers and lemon chiffon pancakes. The Manor on Golden Pond (800-545-2141, www.manorongoldenpond.com) in Holderness serves up high tea on Sundays that is open to the public. Savories and sweet tidbits are presented on tiered trays. In good weather, most choose to enjoy these on the patio, with Squam Lake spread out before them. Reservations required; $18, plus tax and gratuities. Other inns plan elegant teas just for special occasions, such as the Mother & Daughter Weekend at The Rosewood Country Inn in Bradford (938-5253, rosewoodcountryinn.com) the weekend of May 7-9. The menu for this four-course Victorian-themed tea includes chicken salad in phyllo cups, chicken and boursin in puff pastry, and dark-and-white chocolate mousse with berries. As you might expect, New Hampshire’s two grand hotels strut their Belle Epoch stuff for teatime on special occasions. Wentworth By the Sea (422-7322, www.wentworth.com) will celebrate the publication of a new book on the history of the hotel — and its 130th birthday — at a Victorian tea in the Grand Ballroom on May 4. Other teas are planned for the future. In Bretton Woods, The Mount Washington Hotel (800-314-1752, www.mtwashington.com) serves elegant special-occasion teas in the newly restored conservatory, showing off grandly with creations such as dark chocolate truffle hedgehogs, and a smashing array of other sweets. Look for a tea at the annual Great Gatsby weekend in August. Many of these tearooms are small and, in keeping with the gentility of the occasion, most require reservations. In any case, it’s wise to call ahead to be sure of a table. NH
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