Though tea has long enjoyed an understated popularity, it appears that it's now getting its righteous props. In that spirit, tea preens and postures with its pinkies up, and much like any good debutante, can be found these days making steady appearances as an A-lister at formal tables and local Main Streets.
There is nothing quite like wrapping your hands around a warm mug or in the warmer months, hearing the clunking of crystal ice cubes piled high in a tall glass of the iced variety. It seems like around every corner there’s a new tea coming to market. How does one choose between Earl Grey and English Breakfast? Chamomile or Mango Crème? White tea or green tea?
Actually, no need really.
Tea offers an easy and delicious respite for the spirit and body no matter where and how it is served, no rules necessary.
The History of Tea
Legend has it that Chinese Emperor Shen Nung accidentally discovered teas in 2737 BC, when a tea leaf dropped into his bowl of hot water while strolling through a garden of tea trees. The story has it that he sniffed the fragrant brew, tasted it and fell head over heels ever after. From there, Buddhist monks brought it from China to Japan selling it as a medicinal drink in the 1650s. Next, the tradition of Afternoon Tea was born in France at the same time and crossed the Channel about 20 years later where the British embraced it with a passion that continues today. In the 1950s tea bags appeared and in the 1980s, specialty shops started selling varietal teas.
The rest, as they say, is history.
New Jersey's Best Teahouses
Tea Fields Café, Englewood
Like many of us, proprietor Erica Morrison lived a hustle and bustle lifestyle. Looking for a break from the stress, she and some of her best friends started meeting up for afternoon tea at the Plaza Hotel. When she realized that taking tea was a perfect way to steal a much needed pause and visit socially, she exited her corporate career and honed a brand new one: her very own teahouse.
Here, you will find over 50 varieties of loose tea from traditional blends to more adventurous fusions. Tables appointed with fresh flowers, lemon yellow walls and strains of easy jazz playing all pleasantly make for a hip and serene vibe. Breakfast and lunch menus with tasty items such as quiche, salads, soups, wraps, fresh baked scones, muffins, cookies and frozen yogurt are made on the premises and served daily.
Look out for her special events such as her most recent “Afternoon Pairing of Cheese and Tea” whereby Teafields in conjunction with a local guest chef from the French Culinary Institute, presented a sampling of teas paired with artisan cheeses from Valley Shepherd Creamery, a local farm.
When asked what the true appeal is for her, Erica lights up her teahouse with a genuine smile and offers "Tea is an experience. Making the tea, looking at the leaves, the sound of the pouring of hot water, a beautiful gift given to you, by you. ”
What more do you need?
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to … afternoon tea.”- Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
Harmony Tearoom, Westwood
Upon entering, you might feel as if you’ve slipped through the looking glass into a page out of Alice in Wonderland. A collage of shabby chic tableware, odds and ends china and assorted dining chairs all come together gracefully in offering a quaint tea taking sanctuary. A few small shelves lined with teas, novelty teabag greeting cards, even tea-themed earrings for sale, complete the adorable ambiance. Floral linens warm the room together with crafted quilted cozies for each teapot.
Enjoy lunch or a traditional afternoon tea here with 23 varieties of loose teas and accompaniments. Their freshly baked scones with homemade lemon curd, cream and jam are heavenly or if you prefer, delectable finger sandwiches, soups and salads are made fresh daily as well. Enjoy a full brunch menu on the 3rd Sunday of each month, often with live music. Plan a Princess Tea Birthday party or a Scone Baking Party where your child gets to bake and take home scones for the family. A traditional tea takes place at each party
Mommy and Me teas are a hit here as well, served every Thursday from 3:30-5:00. Dads, Grandma’s and grandpa’s are of course welcome too!
“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot. And whoever this "Earl Grey" fellow is, I'd like to have a word with him”- Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek, the Next Generation
Bon Appétit Tea House, Mahwah
Afternoon tea here is the ultimate in polish and fancy. Be transported back in time at this Victorian style tearoom. When you step inside, you are captured immediately by the décor, done like a Victorian painting, from the jewel-toned maroon carpeting to the lacy décor and matching porcelain table settings. High tea is served, as well as lunch and desserts. The basic menu includes a pot of tea, a freshly baked scone, Devonshire clotted cream, tuna or chicken salad served in puff pastry, and dessert. More extensive set menus include tea sandwiches, soup and salad. Fifty-two varieties of tea are available. All food and baking is done on the premises. Reservations are required for all tea parties and special events.
"A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water."- Eleanor Roosevelt
Green Cura Natural Health & Tea, Leonia
Want tranquility? Step inside this Asian-style tearoom and enjoy the soothing décor done with spa green rugs, pastel leather cubes for seating and steaming cups of healthy tea. The varieties and types are endless here, leaving no taste unquenched. Bubble tea, the popular Taiwanese drink dotted with chewy spheres of tapioca, is also on the menu made from real brewed tea for an unusual treat. Once you're done sipping, you can browse the rows of shelves holding natural shampoos, soaps and creams that treat everything from weight loss to hair loss and beyond.
And of course, miles of teas for purchase.
“Find yourself a cup of tea; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things.”- Saki
Mambo Tea House, Rutherford
An impressive list of loose-leaf teas, a Cuban-influenced menu and funky, Latin/Asian décor define this space.
Offering a tremendous selection of loose-leaf teas, from a flowering black tea made of handcrafted tea leaves that when submerged into hot water, open into a bouquet of floral shapes to a white blueberry to rhubarb green. Husband and wife team Cici and Louis Nuñez, opened this unique spot combining their Chinese (her) and Dominican (him) heritages in the décor the tea service and a full-service Cuban restaurant (think ropa vieja and paella etc.) at the very same time.
"Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things."- Chaim Potok
CK's at the Renaissance Meadowlands Hotel, Rutherford
This popular county hotel started serving Sunday afternoon tea in their onsite steakhouse. The tea sessions take place every Sunday from 2:00–4:00 p.m. where you can expect a delectable menu of tea sandwiches, mini pastries, and scones along with a personalized pot of delicious hot tea. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon unwinding from the busy weekend and preparing for the week ahead. Reservations are strongly suggested.
'The tea is coming!' ...she may want a martini, but make her drink tea."- Alice Taylor