A weekly column by Catherine Dugan. This week: Tea for Two
Tea is more than a beverage – it’s an event. Afternoon tea was supposedly invented by one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, Anna, Duchess of Bedford (1783-1857). Courtiers during the 18th century ate big breakfasts, small lunches, and substantial suppers – but supper was served very late. The Duchess reported a “sinking feeling” in the afternoon, and requested tea and cakes in her room. Though the working classes had long cherished their afternoon “cuppa,” the nation followed the Duchess’ lead and added cakes and tiny sandwiches. Tea rooms and tea shops opened across the empire, and a new tradition was born.
Of course, tea was an important beverage long before the Duchess came along – there was that brouhaha in Boston nine years before her birth; that fellow in 1492 who tempted his financiers with easy trade routes for tea and spices; and the thousands of years of tea drinking by non-Europeans before the Duchess brewed her first pot. Tea offers comfort on a cold day, and Cape May offers some comforting places to enjoy it.
The Carriage House Tea Room at the Emlen Physick Estate is one of those places. It’s the perfect stop after a trolley or house tour, when you’re already in the Victorian mood. The Carriage House offers a variety of teas, sandwiches and soups. Call ahead for their hours, which are very limited in November and apparently unlimited in December. Your kids may already have a fondness for the Carriage House, thanks to those delightful Teddy Bear Teas, but you may want to remind them that you don’t have to drink tea at teatime. The Carriage House and its restrooms are easily accessible, and parking is no problem. The Butterfly Tea Room, located near the Exit Zero store and gallery, is another charming choice for tea, and you get to pick your own teapot.
If you want to take the tea ritual with you, Tea by the Sea on Perry Street offers everything you need to create your own high tea at home. The scone mixes are idiot-proof, and there are flavors to suit any taste – consider stocking up on the cinnamon for Christmas. If you’re surrounded by coffee drinkers, treat yourself to a pretty “tea-for-one” cup. And, if you want to be privy to some confidential conversation from a tiny hostess, treat her to a tiny tea set. You and the teddy bears will get an earful.
Next week: Candlelight Walk at
Historic Cold Spring Village