The Irony of British-Inspired Tea Parlors in New York City

It is an irony of historical past, if not an occasion of cosmic feminist karma, that the very best British-inspired tea parlors in New York City—amongst them Tea & Sympathy, Lady Mendl’s, and Brooklyn High Low—are women-owned institutions. From 1657, when tea first grew to become out there in London’s coffeehouses, to the early seventeen-hundreds, when girls had been invited in, leisure tea consuming was the protect of rumbustious gents. A contemporaneous broadsheet celebrated the drink’s energy to “maketh the body active and lusty.” In the course of the following two centuries, the musk of patriarchy lifted from this risqué pastime, and, by 1889, The Ladies’ Home Journal might report that “the five o’clock tea has become an institution of society” the place “ladies are generally in the majority.”

At Lady Mendl’s, the finger sandwiches vary from basic to daringly unconventional, together with a crostini topped with butternut-squash purée and Boursin cheese.

In the nineteen-eighties, for a New York University workshop, a London expat named Nicola Perry drafted a marketing strategy for “an English-style tea room, designed to introduce an American clientele to the delights of a great British tradition.” She wrote, “The atmosphere and decor will be cosy and comfortable,” with “old china and silverware, chintz tablecloths and lace curtains.” In 1990, two days earlier than Christmas, Perry held her first afternoon tea at Tea & Sympathy (108 Greenwich Ave.; tea service from $40): a two-tiered platter of finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, vanilla sponge cake, and scorching black tea served in the daintiest of cups. Today, the favored West Village tea store can tackle the environment of a pub, and Perry has needed to institute some home guidelines, which she’s printed on the menu. No. 5: “Be pleasant to the waitresses.”

Brooklyn High Low presents twenty-nine tea varieties, together with one infused with entire butterfly-pea flowers that flip the liquid a psychedelic indigo.

Lady Mendl’s (56 Irving Pl.; tea service $65), in Gramercy Park, is called for a socialite and a pioneering inside decorator who as soon as lived in the neighborhood. The resplendent salon, tucked inside an 1834 Georgian brownstone, is simple to overlook, however as soon as discovered this little jewel field reveals treasures. The five-course afternoon tea commences with a pumpkin-apple soup, with crème fraîche, pomegranate seeds, and toasted pepitas, in a Moroccan tea glass. The finger sandwiches vary from basic (egg salad, smoked salmon, cucumber and butter) to daringly unconventional, together with a crostini topped with butternut-squash purée, Boursin cheese, arugula, and balsamic glaze. After miniature scones and twenty-one-layer vanilla-cream crêpe cake come pistachio macarons and chocolate-dipped strawberries. Each course is paired with one of six black, inexperienced, or natural teas. A spokesperson mentioned that the proprietress, quickly to be ninety, is “comically wealthy and prefers to not have her name in print.”

Honey Moon Udarbe was raised by hippie mother and father in Northern California. On high of working Brooklyn High Low (611 Vanderbilt Ave.; tea service from $48), in Prospect Heights, she additionally operates a close-by classic store and cleans out the estates of useless wealthy people. She doesn’t half with something if it may be repurposed; damaged teacups are given new life as elements of a gorgeously funky chandelier. If Lady Mendl’s takes liberties with the conventions of afternoon tea, Brooklyn High Low detonates the paradigm. Pastrami and Dijon mustard on rye? Guava and blue cheese on gluten-free bread? Twenty-nine tea varieties, together with one infused with entire butterfly-pea flowers that flip the liquid a psychedelic indigo?

In the tea group, there’s a slim spectrum of permissible opinion as as to whether, to a scone, one ought to first apply the cream or the jam. At each Tea & Sympathy and Lady Mendl’s, I used to be instructed, with some solemnity, to use the cream first. At Brooklyn High Low, the server mentioned, “I like to just use my fork and kind of dip in different things.” What?! Occasionally, the waitstaff there hear unaccountable creaking, or an merchandise falls off a shelf, or a light-weight sparkles. “The building is fairly new, so the ghost probably came in with one of the tea sets,” Udarbe says. “I think she’s an old lady who’s just happy people are still using her teacups.” ♦


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