My Final Tea Room Experience

This Tea Princess has had her last visit to one of those fancy tea rooms. Absolutely, positively the last. And the reason? They all disappoint. This last one most of all. Time to tell my tale of Tea Princess woe.

The tea room in question was Chantilly Tea Room in Tucson, Arizona, but this really isn’t directed at them. In fact, it’s more about me and my journey of tea discovery over the past several years. There was a time when the service there and other such places would have been very satisfying. That whole “ignorance is bliss” thing. Now, though, they just won’t do.

Issues:

  • Oversteeped tea — The tea leaves were loose in teapot but no empty teapot was provided to strain the tea into once it was ready, so it got oversteeped; the waitress made things worse by adding more hot water. Small wonder that many people don’t like teas. The steeping process need to be stopped at a certain point so the tea does not get bitter or worse. This was a big learning point for me and why hubby and I now use the 2-teapot method when steeping tea.
  • Choices not premium — Most of their “teas” were highly flavored concoctions, including herbals. We ordered Irish Breakfast and their version of Masala Chai, which was heavily cinnamoned and got bitter since we had no way to strain the liquid. Once upon a time my favorite tea was Earl Grey (still very popular) and a close second was anything fruity flavored or even a bit spicy. Now I just see the flavorings as getting in the way of the tea and so stick with straight teas with a few exceptions.
  • Fancy menu not worth the price — The food was very overpriced but not bad. I had a small quiche made with mushrooms and bleu cheese accompanied by a pile of raw lettuce and other items that they called a salad. Hardly worth the almost $12 price. Over the years I’ve just gotten away from that salad stuff and like to get more for my money that little tidbits.
  • Strange eating utensils — One thing for me that really made the meal troublesome and annoying was the flatware provided. I had a small salad fork and a butter knife instead of a dinner fork and a dinner knife. It made cutting and eating my food quite awkward. In all fairness, I began eating my meals in a more European style about 20 years ago. That’s where you hold the fork in your non-dominant hand (the left in my case) and cut with a knife in the other hand. This requires the proper utensils.

The good points:

  • A nice albeit somewhat overly pink décor. Color is a very personal issue. All a tea room manager can hope for is something that will appeal to a broad enough spectrum of people to maintain enough customer traffic.
  • A well-stocked gift area, including the teas shown above and lots of teawares ranging from cute and kitschy to elegant. The only drawback is our lack of space to store anymore teawares, at least until we get some things better organized around here.
  • Adequate parking. Very important! If you overindulge, nothing is worse than a long hike to where your car is parked.

My increased knowledge of tea and higher standards for the value I want to get from the money I work so many hours to earn have made me less accepting of the experience at places like this. Since many tea rooms are set up like this one, I have pretty much decided to forego and further such forays. It’s a personal decision and one that you may disagree with. That’s the beauty of personal choice.

The rest of our visit to Tucson, though, was a fabulous experience. Nevertheless, this Tea Princess was glad to be back in her “tea home.”

© 2013 A.C. Cargill photos and text

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