How To Brew That Perfect Cup of Tea

We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom before:  to brew a pot of tea, throw in one teaspoon  for each cup and then add one “for the pot.” Others might say to use a level teaspoon for black tea, but use more (say 1.5 teaspoons) for green and white teas, because they’re more delicate than black.

Here’s the problem with that way of thinking: a teaspoon is a measure of “volume.”  Tea comes in so many shapes and sizes that measuring it by volume may not be the best approach.  Take Chinese gunpowder for example – this is a charred green tea that is tightly rolled into small pellets (that resemble musket shot). Chinese gunpowder is so densely packed that a teaspoon of it is going to weigh significantly more than a teaspoon of a large, full-leaf tea.  By using the teaspoon as your yardstick, inconsistent tea brewing is pretty much “baked in the cake.” Continue reading

High Tea at The Dorchester Hotel, London

The Promenade at The Dorchester Hotel, London ©The Dorchester Hotel

The Promenade at The Dorchester Hotel, London ©The Dorchester Hotel

The first thing that should be said about Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester Hotel in London is that the room where it is served, the marble and gilt “Promenade,” is a drop dead gorgeous-stunning space that was somehow made even more beautiful by the Holiday decorations on this mid-December day in London. Pictures do not do this room justice – it is a first class, take your breath away kind of venue.

As I was entering the Dorchester, my thoughts were that since this is a Monday afternoon, perhaps it will not be as full as it otherwise might be on say, a Saturday or a Sunday. I was wrong.  The Promenade was absolutely bristling with activity, every table within sight – filled.  Guests were milling about the lobby dressed in their holiday finest, gesturing in a spirited fashion, and I wondered if maybe I had missed the memo that the entire city of London was meeting here today. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at The Pierre, New York City

Afternoon Tea is served in The Pierre's 2E Lounge

Afternoon Tea is served in The Pierre’s 2E Lounge

Ah, The Pierre, a luxury hotel in New York City and one time home to actress Elizabeth Taylor, former Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed, and the French designer Yves Saint-Laurent.  Charles Pierre, an immigrant from Corsica, began in the restaurant business in New York and over the years established social ties with some of Wall Street’s largest financiers. In 1930, they joined together to form a venture to build The Pierre, a 42 story hotel on Fifth Avenue and east 61st Street, in Manhattan. The Great Depression doomed the prospects for this and many other hotels, and it was forced into bankruptcy in 1932.  J Paul Getty then purchased the building in 1938 and converted some of the hotel’s rooms into cooperative apartments. As of 2005, The Pierre is a Taj Hotel, a global chain of fine luxury hotels and resorts.  Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at The Plaza Hotel, New York City

The Plaza Hotel Entrance (image courtesy of The Plaza Hotel)

The Plaza Hotel Entrance (image courtesy of The Plaza Hotel)

The Plaza Hotel in New York City is a landmark and a Beaux-arts masterpiece, built in 1907 and occupying a prime piece of New York City real estate near the fabled corner of Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. While it normally offers a superb and elegant afternoon tea in its dramatic Palm Court with stained glass ceiling, that room is temporarily closed for refurbishment. Update: The Palm Court is now open, click here for updated pictures. Afternoon Tea is now being offered in The Champagne Bar, but it is not the “featured” event that one would expect to find in the Palm Court.

That being said, I still couldn’t resist visiting this grande dame of all New York hotels to sample their afternoon tea service . On the Champagne Room’s menu are caviar, oysters, cocktails, light food, afternoon tea and, of course, champagne. It is an elegant two-story space that is carved out of the Hotel’s main lobby area and has Fifth Avenue views overlooking the Pulitzer Fountain.  Seating options are varied and include free standing tables and chairs, sofas, and high-backed upholstered chairs arranged two by two near the windows. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at St. Regis Hotel, New York City

Afternoon Tea at Astor Court (image courtesy of St. Regis Hotels)

Afternoon Tea at Astor Court (image courtesy of St. Regis Hotels)

It was a beautiful, sunny day in New York City so I decided to walk to the St. Regis Hotel’s afternoon tea from Grand Central Station.  As I made my way up Madison Avenue to 55th Street, I couldn’t help thinking about a television series that’s popular in the U.S. right now.  In case you’re unfamiliar, Madison Avenue is the iconic street that is home to New York’s storied advertising agencies, and it’s also the inspiration for the critically acclaimed television series, Mad Men, broadcast in the United States on the AMC Network.

By way of background, the St. Regis Hotel in New York City was built by John Jacob Astor in 1904, the same Astor who was to later give up his seat  on an RMS Titanic lifeboat to his young wife and die tragically in the 1912 sinking. Afternoon Tea today is served in the Astor Court of the hotel. Continue reading