An elegant way to celebrate Mother’s Day ...Struggling with what to get Mom for Mother’s Day? Maybe a little pampering over a spot of tea is in order. Taking tea in the afternoon does not have to be a pinky-in-the-air exercise; rather, it can be a delightful way to enjoy another’s company without competing over restaurant noise and flat-screen TVs.
Throughout New Hampshire, there are little hideaways where afternoon tea is served with grace, elegance and tradition. Afternoon tea and high tea are not the same. High tea is a hearty tea often served between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Afternoon tea, or low tea, is usually between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., but most tea houses serve between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Nearly all tea rooms require reservations and there’s a reason. The difference between having a cup of tea and “taking tea” is the dance. Like a three part symphony, the art of taking tea in done in stages. Food is served on a three-tiered stand with the sandwiches on the bottom, which is where one begins. The second tier holds scones and pastries, followed by the top tier which usually consists of savories, candies or fruits, such as strawberries dipped in chocolate or sugar coated grapes. Traditionally, loose tea is served in a teapot, but other tea rooms offer an assortment of teas in tea bags.
AntiquiTeas Tea Room and Gift Shop, 217 Rockingham Rd. (Route 28), Londonderry, may be the oldest authentic tea room in New Hampshire. Brenda Kathleen Ghoerashi first opened in Salem and ran her tea room there for 12 years before relocating to her present location in Londonderry. From the outside, looks can be deceiving. AntiquiTeas is in a ranch-style home set back from Route 28. Step inside this tea room treasure and you’ll feel like Alice in Wonderland. The interior is breathtaking. The first floor is a maze of small rooms overflowing with unusual and reasonably-priced gifts and antiques. There is even a “shabby chic room” that sparkles in crystal and looks like it’s from the pages of a decorator magazine. Up a few stairs is the restaurant area, with three distinctly decorated tea rooms, all done in bright floral wallpaper and a décor that hugs its guests. Linen-draped tables are set with fine china and dainty antique tea cups.
“If you like the teacup, it’s yours, you can buy it off the table,” says Brenda, who has given up many cups over her years in the business.
AntiquiTeas offers two Afternoon Teas on Mother’s Day, 11:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. A harpist and violinist will entertain guests over a menu of brewed tea, chilled soup, tea sandwiches, fancy desserts and savories ($20). Brenda, who is petite and proper, lends to the authenticity of her tea room with her blue eyes, smile and Irish accent, inherited from her Irish mother.
Tea at the Topiary at Owl’s Rest Farm in Sanbornton is another choice for Afternoon Tea. Host and owner T.J. Whalen serves tea in the dining room of her turn-of-the-century farmhouse. Guests may choose from a simple “English Cream Tea,” which includes, English tea, assorted scones with jam and Devon Cream, and cookies ($14.95), to “The Total Tea Experience,” which includes tea, signature cheese and crackers, petite quiches, assorted tea sandwiches, assorted scones with jam and Devon Cream and cookies ($31.95). “We will customize your tea and let you pick what you want when you want,” says T.J.
If you can’t take tea on Mother’s Day, there’s Afternoon Tea at the Ash Street Inn, 118 Ash Street, Manchester. Tea is served Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 2 p.m. in the inn’s luscious raspberry colored dining room. Darlene Johnston and her husband Eric have been pouring tea for five years. Tea begins with guests helping themselves to a fruity punch while the kettle brews. Guests may choose from an assortment of teas from the Stash Tea Company. Each table receives a three-tier stand with a variety of tea sandwiches, scones, pastries and savories ($16.95). Eric, who does all the baking, has redefined the traditional English scone. His are moist, full of flavor and small enough to allow for seconds.
“It’s like the calories fall out of them when they are little,” says Darlene. “A lot of our British guests say, ‘Our [British] scones don’t taste like this.’” Try the apricot and white chocolate chip, cinnamon cream or the orange and chocolate chip scones.
This year make mom feel like a Queen for the day. But remember, reservations are a must. After all, you wouldn’t just drop in on the Queen now would you? NH
Other Opportunities for Tea
The Cozy Tea Cart [Merchant and blender]
40 Mountain Rd., Brookline, (603) 249-9111
80 loose leaf teas, seating in garden, online merchant, giftware, custom tea parties in your location
Tranquilities [Tea room and merchant]
4 Franklin Plaza, Dover, (603) 742-7625
120 varieties of tea, giftware
White Lily Teas [Tea room and merchant]
1 Court St., Exeter, (603) 686-5368
200 loose leaf teas and herbals
Satori Tea Garden [Tea room, seasonal]
Chi-Lin Arts and Antiques of Asia
17 Lake St., Meredith, (603) 279-8663
Lovely outdoor seating in season
Belfast Bay Trading Co. [Tea merchant]
1 River Rd., Westmoreland, (603) 399-7239
The Rose of Sharon Tea Room at The Spalding Inn [Tea room]
199 Mountain View Rd., Whitefield
June through August, reservations only
AntiquiTeas Tea Room and Gift Shop
217 Rockingham Rd. Londonderry, (603) 432-7979
Afternoon Tea daily except for Tuesday with reservation only.
Topiary at Owl’s Rest Farm
252 Brook Rd.
Sanbornton, (603) 934-3221
Afternoon Tea available by request and reservation only.
Ash Street Inn
118 Ash St.
Manchester, (603) 668-9908
Afternoon Tea served Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday at 2 p.m. Reservations required.
This article appears in the May 2008 issue of New Hampshire Magazine