I first read about the St. James Tearoom in the November/December 2015 issue of Teatime magazine. When I found out unexpectedly that I was visiting Albuquerque, NM in June, I couldn’t wait to make a reservation!
As soon as D. and I got off the plane, we headed straight for the St. James Tearoom. It was dark, stormy day! 🙂 Great day for afternoon tea!When we arrived, it took us a few minutes to locate the tearoom. As you can see, the outside is a bit nondescript. Then we spied the entrance just beyond at the end of the parking lot. (Yes, the weather was very strange indeed on this day although we later learned this was par for the course at this time of the year!)
The real surprise happens when you walk in the door … According to their website, “The purpose of The St. James Tearoom is to act as a catalyst for change in our society, toward a return to Grace, Civility, Beauty, Gentility, and Excellence.” I heartily agree and support their mission! We could use more of that everyday in our lives!
There are 10 gift “shoppes” (or sections) in the St. James Market where you can shop and browse to your heart’s content before or after your tea sitting. My favorite shop was the Phipps & Co. Apothecary & Fine Loose Leaf Tea shop where I admired the proprietary house tea blends and resisted buying the store. I ended up buying a tea called Persian melon white. Here is the story of the tea in the St. James Tearoom Navigator:
As we made our way through the “shoppes,” we encountered a dress form with a sign that advised visitors to wait patiently until the appointed sitting time. Hostesses then appeared to escort visitors to their personal, private tea room. The owners of the St. James tearoom designed and built St. James with the intention “to maximize the guests’ feeling of being transported to a different time and place” and to that end, they succeeded! For 2 lovely hours, we forgot it was 2016 and that we were actually in the desert.
Take the interactive tour online!
The menu, which changes monthly, was so cute and clever. The theme was Paddington Station and all the dishes and courses had names related to train stations. Even more impressive was our waitress who recited the menu in one long breath with gusto and character!
I also appreciated that specific teas were paired with each course so we got to sample 3 different teas: Earl of St. James traditional black tea, Yin Hao jasmine green tea, and Summers’ Bounty scented black tea. Though I sometimes like to choose the tea I want to drink, I also like the idea of having them paired specially with the foods.
The food was excellent. The Railway cheddar pinwheel with roasted tomatoes was surprisingly spicy! I soon learned that “spicy” is the norm for New Mexican food. So if a dish has the word “spicy” in the name, it is actually very spicy! I enjoyed New Mexican cuisine very much and D. was happy that he didn’t have to slather his food with hot sauce.
We took a break in the middle of tea to read the St. James Tearoom Navigator, a
coffee tea table book detailing the history, philosophy, etiquette, and specific location information of The St. James Tearoom (there was a copy in every nook). A creative first-person narrative, the book is populated with stories, photographs/portraits, drawings, handwritten entries, ephemera, and maps. It certainly added to the feel that we were in another place and time.
When we got to the scone course, D. was very greedy and bit into his scone. To his disappointment, he nearly lost half of it to the floor as the delicate crumb fell apart due to his rough handling. I regretted not warning him sooner that the “proper” way to eat a scone was to break it off piece by piece. He complained, “Why didn’t you tell me that earlier, before I made this big mess?!” Oops! Sorry. 😉
Our favorite tea was the iced tea, Summers’ Bounty scented (peach) black tea that was served with the dessert course. It came with a side of ginger syrup for optional sweetness. Peaches and ginger are great together by the way!
D. and I enjoyed the St. James Tearoom immensely and agreed it was very unique and worth a visit. It was D.’s first experience with afternoon tea and I’m happy to report that it was a positive one that he would repeat again.
“A cup of tea would restore my normality.”
[Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Screenplay]”