Perhaps it is because my parents were Savannahians that I've always been so comfortable in the cozy confines of tearooms. Tea was something you would most likely have at someone's home when I was small. In Europe, tearooms are quite common and I certainly spent my share of time in them. It may be thought the refuge of ladies, but I've always admired a man who handled himself with grace in such an environment. There are so few places today where you can go and enjoy a truly elegant and civilized culinary experience that is so relaxing.
Today I took a break from the frantic last minute Christmas shopping in Knoxville to enjoy just such a tearoom. When you walk in to Tea at the Gallery the tension of the day slides off your back. It is elegant and intimate with art on the walls and white linen covered tables. I'm sure there was music of some sort, but it was so unobtrusive that I'm not even sure what it was. That is as it should be.
The menu is simple and offers three selections: Morning & Afternoon Tea Services, Luncheon Tea and Signature Luncheon Tea. Your pot of tea is separate and served in a lovely designer teapot, properly brewed to order.
I had arrived late but they graciously allowed me to have luncheon tea. "The Tea Ladies" as they are called in Knoxville, are Elisa King and Colleen Hayzen, both from South Africa. They can call you "madam" and it sounds lovely and inviting and not at all forced. I felt immediately welcomed.
They have their own line of teas and if you are not a regular or experienced tea drinker, you can be assured that there will be something there to your liking. I ordered the Lapsang Souchong, a dark smoky tea that is my favorite and a bit hard to find.
With my tea, I had some lovely finger sandwiches. There was cheese, rich gourmet salami and one of the best egg salads I've ever tasted used as fillings. The soup was rich corn chowder. A little savory mini-quiche was offered. There were scones topped generously with clotted cream, one drizzled with a citrus glaze and the other topped with strawberry jam. A slice of decadently rich pound cake and a ginger biscuit topped off my tea tray. All of this was artfully arranged on a silver pedestal platter and the sweets were lightly dusted with powdered sugar. It was as much a joy to look at, as it was to eat.
If you are in Knoxville, I highly recommend stopping off here to catch your breath and enjoy a spot of tea. They also offer tea appreciation classes, gift baskets and a tea of the month club. Tea is served Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The store is open those same days from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for purchases of loose teas and tea-to-go.
If you would like to experience a tearoom, but are not near Knoxville, I recommend checking with TeaMap, which lists tearooms across the country. I think tea may be the next big thing in the U.S. It's about time we got over all of that Boston ugliness.
Written by Rosie:
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