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THE FAIRFIELD COUNTY TIMES
Written & Photographed by ANDREA KURTZ

Time For Tea

The Ancient Brew and Food, Glorious, Food

Science has now validated what ancient civilizations, including Chinese, Japanese and Indian, have known for thousands of years; tea is beneficial to your health. The latest studies show that green and black teas have anti-oxidant properties that help eliminate free radicals that can cause cancer and heart disease.

Aside from its health benefits, the English and Irish traditional "afternoon tea," delivers psychological rewards as well. This ritual is about taking time to savor special moments and delicacies. It creates indelible memories. Three special, yet varied destinations, Winfield's Restaurant in the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich, T Party Antiques and Tea Room in Darien and Brewley's Tea Room at Celtica in New Haven, provide a wonderful respite from the hurried world of to-do lists and responsibilities. With a different slant, Eileen Grossman and Nadia Ramsey of Victorian Teas, use special skills and culinary know-how to bring unforgettable tea parties to local homes and businesses.

The Hyatt Regency has created an exceptional environment in which to enjoy a luxurious afternoon tea. The beautiful enclosed garden, with its manicured lawns, elegant trees, man-made pond and abundant blooming flowers, captures the Victorian concept of serving tea "in the conservatory," but executes it on a grand scale. Food and Beverage Director, Alex Hill, selected each detail of the tea service to ensure maximum delight. Harney's premium loose-leaf teas, in special sachet bags, are steeped to perfection. Waiters present tea canisters at your table so you can inhale each type before making your selection from a wide variety, including Darjeeling blend, Dragon Pearl Jasmine, English Breakfast and flavored teas, included the popular peach. The china is Wedgewood, the cutlery is silver and the glasses are fine crystal. Tea is served in your own Wedgewood cream and gilt pot and your delectable sandwiches arrive on a tiered tray of the same pattern. The top tier has cucumber, smoked salmon, and ham and cheese dijonnaise finger sandwiches, while the lower tier holds a display of miniature pastries, including key lime tarts, cheese cakes and carrot cakes. Delicate scones are served warm from the oven and you can top them with lemon curd, Devonshire clotted cream or the exceptional Dobo jams which may include lingonberry, blueberry, raspberry or tupelo honey, depending on the season. Each guest is served one of each type of sandwich and pastry but the house policy is to replenish delicacies as guests wish, at no extra charge. Because of the beauty and serenity of the courtyard, and the fragrant perfumes wafting from the plants, guests may find themselves reluctant to leave the enchanting environment. Friends linger over teas, grandparents enjoy their grandchildren and Mr. Hill reports that even business negotiations take on an air of calmness. For a small additional charge guests may include champagne. Fine ports are also available. Afternoon tea is served Monday through Saturday, 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations are suggested. The cost is $26 per person or $30 including champagne.

For a trip to Ireland without leaving Connecticut, Brewley's Tea Room at the Celtic emphorium in New Haven is a colorful way to enjoy Irish hospitality. The room is located at the back of a large showroom carrying the finest imports, including crystal, ceramics and hand-knit sweaters. If you don't know it's there, the tea room, with its golden walls, cranberry tablecloths and burnished woods, is easy to miss. Devoted regulars, however, know that its "afternoon tea" is a hearty and satisfying treat. Owner Sergio Berardelli worked on tea plantations in South Africa in his youth and know fine teas. Guests can select imported Brewley's loose-leaf teas, including Irish Breakfast or Irish Afternoon, Japanese green Sencha, Oolong from Formosa and flavored Ceylons or herbal infusions. Brewed at your table in an individual glass infuser, the tea accompanied by finger sandwiches of cucumber, smoked salmon, cheeses and ham, served on hearty Irish black bread and by luscious cream puffs or petit fours. Delicious plain and cranberry scones are served with imported Irish raspberry jam and airy clouds of fresh cream. There is also a large menu which many types of full sandwiches, soups, salads, cakes and desserts, in addition to the tea. The tea room serves "afternoon tea" from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. Since seating is limited, reservations are recommended. Afternoon tea is $9.50 per person.

T Party Antiques and Tea Room, located in an 1890s restored farmhouse in Darien, is the brainchild of classically trained chef and catering consultant, Cathy Knies and graphic artist and antique dealer, Susan Borgen. The two women pooled their talents and resources to create "an American tea room circa the 1920s," when the Temperance movement was at its height. The main shop and the upstairs rooms are crammed with affordable antiques, teapots and paraphernalia, accessories, children's toys and clothing that are whimsical and charming. The tea room's pink walls, lace curtains, and floral fabrics are feminine without being fussy. The wide selection of loose-leaf teas, including Ceylon, Darjeeling, Assam, flavored and herbal teas are served in individual pastel "bee house" teapots. A timer is given to each guest to determine brew time. The Grand Afternoon Tea consists of five different types of finger sandwiches, two kinds of scones and an assortments of outstanding desserts. The creative Knies changes her menu weekly. Sandwiches might include cucumber, some type of chicken salad, egg salad, turkey, ham or cheese, and tea bread with toppings. Scones might be blueberry, cranberry, date-walnut or lemon ginger, among others. Desserts can include chocolate-dipped strawberries, petit-fours, fresh fruit lemon tartlets, cream puffs and ethereal chocolate cake. Knies is an extraordinary baker; the scones and tea breads are outstanding. Guests are given "to-go" boxes to take home unfinished treats. There are often private parties and theme teas. It's common to see grandmothers, mothers and daughters enjoying their teas together. There are two seatings for teas on Wednesday through Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Reservations are encouraged. The cost is $15.95 per person for the "Grand" Tea and $10.95 per person for the "Petit" Tea.

Eileen Grossman and Nadia Ramsey of Victorian Teas, can cater almost any kind of party in client's homes or places of business: luncheons, dinners, showers, weddings and corporate functions. For clients who want a traditional "English Tea," they try to determine their preferences, and bring unique dimensions to the traditional repast. They like to decorate with lots of ribbon, lace and bows. Their Belgian chef might prepare sandwiches such as open-faced salmon with arugula, lemon-crab salad, tarragon shrimp or smoked salmon with a ginger-cilantro butter. These can be served in a scooped out bread basket or on three-tiered plates. Freshly-baked scones, brioches and croissants might be accompanied by clotted cream and special jams like tangerine-rhubarb. Fresh fruits decorated with edible nasturtiums might be presented in crystal bowls. Desserts can include English trifle with assorted sauces in season, such as nectarine, gooseberry or raspberry, chocolate truffles in a chocolate basket and madeleines flavored with pistachio, chocolate and lemon. An English butler is available and the European wait staff is in professional attire. Grossman likes to use little silver vases with fresh flowers at the ends of serving tables and antique china cups in which to serve a wide variety of teas. She and Ramsey individualize each party to the client's specifications.

Winfield's Restaurant in the Hyatt Regency is located at 1800 East Putnam Ave., Greenwich. Telephone is 409-4409.

Brewley's Tea Room at Celtica is located at 260 College St., New Haven. Telephone is 785-8034

T Party Antiques and Tea Room is located at 2 Squab Lane in Darien. Telephone is 662-9689

For information on Victorian Teas, contact Eileen Grossman at 406-9820.

Reprinted with permission.

 

 

 

Cucumber Sandwiches
Cucumber Sandwiches courtesy of Victoria Teas

 

Winfield's at Hyatt Regency Gardens in Old Greenwich
Winfield's at Hyatt Regency (from the garden) in Old Greenwich

 

Victorian Teas Tiered Plate Towers
Victorian Teas Three-Tiered Plate Treats

 

English Trifles and Chocolate Cheese Cake from Victorian Teas
English Trifles and Chocolate Cheese Cake from Victorian Teas

 

Chocolate Truffles in Home-made Chocolate Baskets
Chocolate Truffles in Home-made Chocolate Baskets, Cookies and Petit Fours courtesy of Victorian Teas

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