Afternoon tea in a cottage

My friend A. turned 60 this month and to celebrate her milestone birthday, my friend S. and I conspired to take her to Julian for afternoon tea.  A. had always wanted to visit Julian but somehow never made it there so we decided it was time to take a trip!  Boy, was she ever surprised!  😉

As we walked through town, we waited until lunchtime to pass by the Julian tea & cottage arts where I had made reservations for afternoon tea at 1:00pm.  As predicted, something about the cottage caught A.’s eye so we stopped to admire …

tpot (Small)One thing led to another and the next thing we knew, we were inside the cottage and greeted with the sight of this intimate, charming tea room with only 4 tables!

Tea room

Tea room

I could see that A. was wistfully hoping we could have tea here when the hostess came up to me and announced that our table for 3 was ready!  I wish you could have seen the look of surprise and joy on A.’s face when she realized we were having tea here.  It was priceless!  🙂

Tea room display

Tea room display

Tea room plates display

Tea room plates display

Table setting

Table setting

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Pretty teacups

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Yorkshire Gold English tea (really robust and smooth black tea!)

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Another pretty teacup

Our afternoon tea menu included a bottomless pot of tea.  Being the crazy tea drinkers that we are, we managed to empty our pot 4 times and try 3 different teas in 2 hours: Yorkshire Gold black tea (a robust English tea which we enjoyed with the sandwiches and savories), Ginger peach herbal (for the scones!), and to accompany dessert, Davidson’s Raspberry Cream Caramel rooibos tea.  The Raspberry Cream Caramel tea elicited oohs and ahhhs around the table.  It was downright delicious.  I was really pleased with their tea which was piping hot (and stayed that way–no slop bowl required!) and perfectly brewed (not too strong or weak).  Big points for their tea!

Sandwiches, savories, and fresh fruit course

Sandwiches, savories, and fresh fruit course

The sandwiches and savories at Julian tea were disappointing and mediocre at best, but I appreciated their efforts at making them look aesthetically pleasing.  I am always critical of the sandwiches and savories served at tea houses because my tea friends and I host our own teas and the food we serve is always so much better than anything served in a tea house.  For example, I can’t understand why some tea houses serve sandwiches on dry bread!  Honestly, there is no excuse for that.  Sandwiches can be made in advance and there are ways to keep them from drying out!  I could go on, but I won’t!

Here are my gripes about each sandwich (you knew this was coming…):

Ham club sandwich on white (Black Forest Ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato): I am glad this sandwich did not get slathered with mayonnaise.  Other than that, it was ordinary.  I had to slip the tomato inside the sandwich to eat it properly.

Goat cheese tapenade on a water cracker: The goat cheese tapenade was nice but not on a water cracker!  It needed a more substantial base, something like a savory shortbread, crostini, or even stuffed in a small tomato or puff pastry.

Curried chicken salad croissant: When S. bit into her croissant sandwich, she exclaimed, “Oh … this is tuna!  I could have sworn the waitress said these were ‘chicken’ sandwiches?”  I took a bite and discovered that chicken salad was made with canned chicken, which explained the canned tuna texture and “fishy” undertone that is characteristic of canned animal products.  There were also raisins in the chicken salad which, in my book, is a big no-no!  I was really disappointed with the canned chicken salad.  Even the lovely flaky, crispy buttery croissant couldn’t make up for that oversight (tragic because the croissant was just the way I like it!).

Cucumber with dill butter on wheat: I didn’t understand the thickly sliced cucumbers!  They should be thin.  I know that butter is traditional on English cucumber sandwiches but since I don’t like butter, I was already biased before I took a bite. 😦

Blueberry cream cheese on cinnamon raisin bread: I didn’t care for this open-faced sandwich.  Not only did the bread have raisins but it was dry!  The blueberry cream cheese was okay but I don’t think it belonged on cinnamon raisin bread.

Left to right: Ham club sandwich on white (Black Forest Ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato), Goat cheese tapenade on a water cracker, curried chicken croissant, cucumber with dill butter on wheat, and blueberry cream cheese on cinnamon raisin bread

Left to right: Ham club sandwich on white (Black Forest Ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato), Goat cheese tapenade on a water cracker, curried chicken croissant, cucumber with dill butter on wheat, and blueberry cream cheese on cinnamon raisin bread

The buttermilk scones, however, were a whole different story … they were excellent!  A. said they tasted just like her grandma’s buttermilk biscuits and I agreed it was more like an American biscuit than a scone.  But regardless of what you call it, it was very well executed.  They were served warm, with no fancy additions and most importantly, no sugar (or at least, very little).  I think these were some of the best scones I’ve had at a tea house!  Bravo.

Scones course with clotted cream, apple preserves with apple pie spice, and lemon curd

Scones course with clotted cream, apple preserves with apple pie spice, and lemon curd

Lastly, dessert!  Strawberry cheesecake with vanilla bean ice cream.  I was very happy with the cheesecake which was smooth and creamy the way I like it and not too sweet.  Dare I say that it is a  worthy rival to my cheesecake?!  🙂

Dessert course: Strawberry cheesecake and vanilla bean ice cream

Dessert course: Strawberry cheesecake and vanilla bean ice cream

Despite my criticisms of the sandwiches and savories, the Julian tea cottage still rates pretty high on my list of tea houses because of their perfectly brewed tea, warm scones, and lovely delicious dessert!  3 out of 4 is not bad.  A trip to the Julian tea & arts cottage may begin with afternoon tea in the front room but, by no means, does it end there!  In addition to the tea room, there are 7 other rooms in the cottage to explore.  You will find lots of tea and tea-related goodies to drool over: tea books, teaware, tea sets, tea accessories, tea foods (e.g., tea infused chocolates), foods to enjoy with tea (e.g., shortbread, cookies, scone mixes, etc.), tea attire, tea art, tea music, tea stationery and cards.  This is no place for window shoppers–I dare you to try leaving empty-handed!  We spent almost 4 hours in the Julian tea cottage and wondered where the time went?!  A great time was had by all for sure.  🙂

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