How do you hold your cup of tea? Do you lift your saucer and insert your pinky through the handle of the tea cup?
Little did I know before I had high tea at the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix on Saturday afternoon that I would learn the true way to hold my cup and experience an Afternoon Tea right out of England. Yes, I do go to the UK every year and I do get served a lot of tea when I’m there, but I haven’t mastered the art of high tea. I was in for a big surprise at High Tea at the Ritz.
The Ritz is as elegant as it gets and you can’t beat the classic, intimate dining room where High Tea is set. The room certainly set the tone for our experience. Our table was set for a Queen, with beautiful china that looks like it stepped out of a castle in the UK.
We were greeted by our host for the afternoon, Jeffrey Hattrick, the hotel’s designated “Tea Guy”. Dressed in a white tuxedo and bow tie, Jeffery took us step by step through the process of drinking tea. He clearly loves his profession and answered all of our questions with enthusiasm. In the tea menu (which he created on special tea-infused paper stock), it reads a quote by Jeffrey: “Tea is a vessel by which we can navigate our mood. It can enhance the space we are in or guide us to a place we would rather be.” He’s a real tea connoisseur and it was awesome to be in his presence for several hours. We also love tea in my house but I think I now have a new found appreciation. For Jeffrey, tea is art. He even told us the history of Afternoon Tea which dates back to 1783 during the time of Queen Victoria.
Let me explain how the afternoon went. When we sat down, we were told we could choose any tea we wanted from the menu. The menu has 24 different tea selections, including rare white and oolong teas. There are black teas – rich and full bodied; green teas – lighter and cleansing; white teas – subtle and refined; oolong teas – mild and semi-oxidized and caffeine-free botanical blends. We all chose Winter Blend-Yuletide, a Chinese black tea with cinnamon, vanilla and whole cranberries. When he brought it over, we immediately smelled the delicious flavor that is neither sweet nor spicy. Jeffrey kept our cups full the entire time, and did I mention the bubbly? We had champagne refills during the entire two hours or our tea and all I can say is that tea and champagne does make a beautiful combination!
Then Jeffery brought out a platter of savories including (don’t read this if you’re hungry): Sharp cheddar mousse tart infused with a peach blossom tea, topped with a sweet peach chutney and candied pecan; Inverted cucumber sandwich with jasmine green tea cream cheese topped with a roasted pistachio; Poached shrimp canape’ on a lemongrass black tea cornbread muffin with aioli cream and dill; Tangerine ginger chicken salad with onions and celery topped with orange zest on marble rye; and hand-made puff pastry with a Plum Berry White Tea glee, aguave nectar goat cheese mousse and finished with a sliced blueberry.
And yes, it was all delicious. Then we had scones with devonshire cream, lemon curd and fruit preserves and then the last course was sweets, everything from chocolate chai flour less chocolate torte and summer provence pistachio opera cake. Jeffery infuses tea into many of these items and the tastes are really unique.
All this, along with bubbles and tea. If all this wasn’t fantastic enough, then Jeffery serenaded us! Accompanied by his pianist, he sang “The Way You Look Tonight”. It was like being in a lounge with Frank Sinatra or Sammy Davis, Jr. and really made the experience rather anti-climatic.
Afternoon Tea is offered at 12pm or 3pm Wednesday through Saturday in the lobby lounge at The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix. The cost is $38 per person. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (602) 468-0700. Upcoming December tea events include the following:
Teddy Bear Tea (for children with an adult), Yuletide Tea, Breakfast with Santa (Not Teddy Bear Tea)
Details for all these events can be found here.
The Ritz-Carlton Phoenix is located at 2401 East Camelback Road, Tel: 602-684-0700; www.ritzcarlton.com/phoenix.
Disclosure: Tea was complimentary and was covered by the Greater Phoenix and Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau but all opinions expressed are my own.