Tea & Honey: Sweet and Savory in Savannah

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I’m pretty darn sure I was British in a past life. While my accent may be crap, one of my favorite things to do when I travel is to have high afternoon teaβ€”did you know it’s only called “high tea” if you’re actually in the UK?β€”in whatever city I’m visiting. In Denver last month, that was at the Brown Palace Hotel. In Shanghai last fall, the Peace Hotel. In San Francisco, I was a frequent visitor to Crown & Crumpet; it was one of my go-to places to take out-of-town guests. And when I went to Savannah last month, my first stop was the Tea Room. Because really can you think of anywhere more perfect to have a spot of tea than in the Deep South’s cultural capital?

The great thing about the Tea Room is that it isn’t girly or frilly or any of that business that usually accompanies such a traditionally feminine pastime. The owners wanted to create a space where their husbands wouldn’t be embarrassed to visit with them, so it’s quite modern with neutral hues, mellow enough for dudes to justify spending an afternoon.

It might have been the first time I’ve ever gone for tea and not been surrounded solely by ladies at the other tables.

I sampled three teas, though I kept asking for refills of Tea for Ruby (rooibos with hints of pineapple and almond). However, the last one was a bit of a surprise…the server set it on fire! Have I mentioned how incredibly scared I am of fire? It could be due to the fact that I was SET AFLAME in a bar in Denmark some years ago or because one time I was at a wedding, chose not to partake in the sparkler festivities and moved myself to the other side of the yard, then was showered with sparks from an errant sparkler that burnt a hole clean through my toenail. Or just because fire is scary. SVV actually gave me a lesson on lighting matches last summer, and my heart palpitated the entire time. Don’t even get me started on how I’ve never used a lighter. (Now would be a good time to add I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life. My lungs are forever grateful.)

I drank it anyway once the flame subsided. No need letting good brandy go to waste. I was raised Southern after all; we have both an affinity for manners and for the hard stuff.

Naturally, there was quite the selection of finger sandwiches and pastries to accompany the tea, plus generous servings of clotted cream and jam. I wasn’t shy about wolfing them down (except the cucumbers…there are few vegetables I dislike but cucumbers and celery top that list).

And then dessert came. Again, not shy. Here’s a little fact: I run so I can eat. I don’t particularly like running, but I do love dessert. And I like eating a whole lot more than I dislike pounding out six miles on foot, so you know. Sacrifices, people. I didn’t leave so much as a crumb.

The Tea Room has a shop where you can take all the tea home with you when you’re ready to leave. I refrained from leaving with a bag of loose leaves, but I definitely plan on returning next time I’m in Savannah (which I’m hoping will be later this summer, husband in tow).

But what’s tea without a little honey? The next day, I meandered down Broughton Street to the Savannah Bee Company. Did you know you can do honey tastings much like you can wine? This is an activity I highly recommend. Yum.

Fortunately, the owner and master beekeeper Ted Dennard, was there for the evening, so I was able to chat with him and hear a little about how he got started. Plus, he’s a Sewanee boy! Although my college years were split between the University of the South and UT, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for anyone else who spent time atop the Mountain.

Did you know that honey is said to pretty much cure anything that ails you? This was news to me. Thus, the store was stocked with everything from edible treats to skincare products. I bought a little jar of the raw honey to try it on my skin. Apparently, it does away with breakouts, which have been the bane of my existence since hitting my late twenties a few years ago (who knew you had to worry about such things beyond your teens?!). I’ll let you know how that goes—if I can ever manage to keep it on long enough to work its magic before the temptation to lick it off strikes!

The Savannah Bee guys are geniuses for their marketing efforts alone. Would you just look at these bottles? Right out of a Williams-Sonoma catalog.

I left having purchased six jars of honey simply because they were pretty. (I know, I know…I’m a total sucker for pretty packaging. Luckily, they’re all also delicious.) Of the five honeys I tasted, I couldn’t pick a victor. Tupelo is the most popular line, so I bought a bottle of that, but I was also oddly drawn to the Sourwood, which I’ve since used to make peanut butter, banana and honey sandwiches for lunch. There’s the Bee Buddies honey, as well, a charitable cause where Savannah Bee donates $3 a bottle to turtle rehabilitation at the nearby Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

Something else worth sampling is the honeycomb, which the store sells in blocks and which is pretty delicious paired with an apple.

I only wish I’d had time to visit the production facility and the hives out on Wilmington Island before I left town (though I am terribly afraid of bees, Ted assures they don’t sting often at all as once a honey bee’s stinger leaves its body, it dies).

If you’re going to be in Savannah anytime soon, the Bee Company has three locations in town. Otherwise, you can order the products from their website (they are also available at many Whole Foods branches across the country).

(Unrelated: Am I the only one who can’t hear the word beeswax without thinking, “none of yo’ beeswax? That’s so queer.” Any other fellow Shag fans out there?)

And just like that I’ve made myself hungry. Again.

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COMMENTS
  • March 29, 2012

    We’ve got a great tea room just down the street from us in Seattle. We’ll go when you come for a visit. And then we’ll go across the street for the best old fashioned in town. And then we’ll go for a beautiful 8 mile run the next day.

    • March 29, 2012
      Kristin

      Haha, I like the way you think. I just hope there’s room for dessert sometime in our packed schedule. To justify the run you know.

    • March 29, 2012
      SVV

      +1

  • March 29, 2012

    Looks delicious!! I looove orange blossom honey – perfect with tea πŸ™‚

    • March 29, 2012
      Kristin

      Oooh my favorite pairing, too. I’m a sucker for orange in anything (orange tea, orange chocolate, etc.)!

  • March 29, 2012

    Wait a second, I thought “high tea” was different from afternoon tea. Isn’t it when you have it a little later in the evening? I love tea but am not really into the flavoured ones usually. Oh yeah, I’ve always known about the medicinal properties of honey; honey and pepper for a cold/cough and yeah, I have used it on my skin too. πŸ™‚

    • March 29, 2012
      Kristin

      You very well could be right about that! I should look into it before I spout such bold claims like I know what I’m talking about =)

      I never even thought about the honey-for-a-sore-throat part, but back in my singing days, I did a lot of that. Did it work for your skin??

      • March 29, 2012

        Eh, I used it on my face ages ago (for a week max, me thinks!) and can’t quite remember the end result. I can assure you that I didn’t break into a rash or anything else weird though. πŸ™‚

  • March 29, 2012

    Ah, the tea room, where friendships are made!

  • March 29, 2012

    Umm, that all looks pretty damn amazing.

    • March 29, 2012
      Kristin

      The Fairmont SF also has a pretty amazing afternoon tea at Laurel Court if you’re ever in need of something to do/eat/drink while visiting the city!

  • March 29, 2012

    Well, I’ve never “done” an afternoon tea and it’s always seemed a little intimidating to me. Sounds like the place you visited was more laid back and one I could handle. It’s funny about the honey (a poet and don’t know it…), our pediatrician is totally old school and recommends honey for TONS of ailments. I’d be up for smothering myself in it πŸ™‚

    • March 29, 2012
      Kristin

      Well, maybe when Mayhem gets a little older, it’s something you two can do together =) Particularly if you’re ever in San Francisco, because she would LOVE this place, I think: http://crownandcrumpet.com/

  • March 29, 2012
    Briel K.

    My sister and I visited that Honey store. We bought some for family. I’ve never been a honey fan (or tea for that matter)! I know, I’m weird. haha I wish I liked tea but it always tastes like gross flavored water to me. Maybe I just haven’t had it made right to like it.

    • March 30, 2012
      Kristin

      Funny, I’m Southern and HATE sweet tea. Actually, I don’t really like ice tea at all. But I love me some hot tea–the more honey (or sugar or whatever), the better!

  • March 29, 2012

    I love the Brown Palace for tea! If you’re ever in Denver between Thanksgiving and mid-January, I highly recommend trying to wrangle a reservation for tea. They decorate the lobby over-the-top fabulously for the season. And I actually think my hubby and I went to The Tea Room in Savannah when we were there a couple of years ago. It was very good, but I don’t think we had the fire tea. (I think I’d remember that.) I’m with you on that one.

    • March 29, 2012
      Kristin

      Oh, no doubt it’s stunning. That whole hotel is just magnificent–I haven’t stayed there before but was blown away by the lobby and ground floor spaces.

  • March 29, 2012
    Marisol

    Had tea at The Brown Palace last Sunday, as a gift to one of my best girlfriends, for her birthday. We had a great time. And agreed that we should treat ourselves like that more often.

    • March 30, 2012
      Kristin

      That place seriously has one of the best afternoon tea services in the world. It just can’t be beat. And the setting, WOW.

      • March 30, 2012
        Marisol

        That’s good to hear, from someone who had more than one tea experience. πŸ™‚ The hotel is beautiful. I wouldn’t mind booking a room for the night at some point.

  • March 29, 2012
    rae

    yummm. we sell that brand of honey at the franklin whole foods and i love it! i’m a packaging sucker too. and the honeycomb! amazing.

    • March 30, 2012
      Kristin

      Oh, that’s so exciting! Scott and I do our grocery shopping there twice a month–LOVE the new store. The bulk section is my favorite, though I *might* occasionally go just for the gingersnap gelato πŸ˜‰

  • March 29, 2012

    This looks so good! I randomly thought just the other day that I wish Santiago had a tea room…I may just have to start my own and invite you down to review it.

    • March 30, 2012
      Kristin

      Tea and pisco sours with you in Chile? It’s a DATE.

  • March 29, 2012

    It’s a really good thing you run or you’d be bigger than a southern mansion with all this delectable eating. Never been much on tea but do like honey and this place looks Sweet.

    • March 30, 2012
      Kristin

      True story. Fitting into my clothes is pretty much the only thing motivating me to run this days.

  • March 29, 2012

    Loooove Savannah Bee lip balm.

  • March 30, 2012

    1) I need to order some Crown and Crumpet tea, immediately. Miss it!

    2) adding both of these items on my Savannah list!

  • March 30, 2012

    This sounds like my kind of day out. I absolutely love afternoon tea and anything made from honey (I have a ridiculously sweet tooth). Those little desserts look delish and I’m looking forward to hearing how you get on with the honey skincare – I’ve never tried it but I’ve heard it’s amazing.

    • March 30, 2012
      Kristin

      Now I just have to remember to actually use it on a regular basis! I am THE WORST at a regular skincare regimen–I usually just wash my face once a day after I run and moisturize before bed–so this will be challenging =)

  • March 30, 2012

    You had a hole burned through your toenail?!? I know that’s just one small detail of this story, but WHOA. I’m speechless.

    • April 3, 2012
      Kristin

      I KNOW, RIGHT? And for all people–me, terrified of fired; took precaution to go to the side of the yard sans sparklers–for it to happen to, too.

  • March 30, 2012

    Thank you! Finally, someone else who hates celery. I cringe at the smell of that vile vegetable, and everyone else is like, “how can you hate celery; it takes like nothing.” FALSE.

    I used to hate cucumber too, but in the last year, I’ve done a total 180. I have a bowl of cucumber sliced up in my fridge right now–must come with age or something.

    • April 3, 2012
      Kristin

      People always say, “well have you tried it with peanut butter?” DUH. Peanut butter is only one of my main food groups. Still doesn’t mask the taste of the god-awful celery! And I *wish* I liked cucumber, but I haven’t had my 180 yet, unfortunately.

  • March 30, 2012

    I love honey and tea, but rarely have the two together. My hubby and I have teas from all over the world and spend most of the weekend drinking it. I tend to be a one very strong espresso and then a latte in the morning kind of girl, but at night I drink a digestive tisane and then drink a variety of teas all weekend. As for honey, my hubby eats greek yogurt with honey mixed in nearly every night for dessert – it is a great digestive. I get great local honey from the Oakland, Albany and Berkeley hills and there is nothing like it! I eat it on a slice of toast as my own dessert several nights a week. I can’t honestly say I have eaten honeycomb, I think I need to try that!

    • April 3, 2012
      Kristin

      I’m more of a coffee kind of girl, too, UNLESS I’m having afternoon tea, in which case I manage to consume multiple pots!

  • March 31, 2012

    I love the idea of going out for tea! That place looks delicious and fun!

  • March 31, 2012

    My hometown, Annapolis, MD has an amazing tea room that fits right into the Revolutionary nostalgia of Annapolis. It’s called Reynolds Tavern and they are set up like a true British tea room. Their website discusses the origins of afternoon tea. I gather high tea has a meal rolled into the affair whereas afternoon tea simply includes cakes and mini sandwiches. Either way, should you make your way to Maryland one of these days, I would give it a try!

    • April 3, 2012
      Kristin

      That’s excellent to know as I’ve been wanting to write a story on tea rooms across the US!

  • April 2, 2012

    I am a tea fanatic. I’d almost always rather drink tea than any other hot beverage and part of the reason I loved being in London so much was the ease in which I could get a cup of tea at basically any time of day.

    As for honey? I love the stuff and I actually grew up as a kid chewing on honeycomb. It’s farm kid candy.

    • April 3, 2012
      Kristin

      That’s so fun! Did your family have hives on the farm?

      • April 3, 2012

        We did not have hives, but we had friends who did who lived nearby. It was the best!

  • April 2, 2012

    You and I, madame, have very similar philosophies on running.

    Also? Not much of a honey fanatic, (though I do enjoy it in a cup of hot milk with a drop of vanilla before bed,) but that shop looks so adorable that I can’t help but add it to my To Do list.

    • April 3, 2012
      Kristin

      Tea, honey AND vanilla? GENIUS.

  • April 3, 2012

    Oh you would fit right in with my family back home in England, basically whatever time it is-day or night, one of us is always just about to ‘put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea’ πŸ™‚
    (We drink it with milk though because you know, we’re British and I think the Queen makes us drink it that way by law)

    Incidentally my Mum was telling me recently that apparently honey is one of the best things for healing the body and recent studies have proved it is much better at healing burns/wounds than regular drugs so it looks like the Savannah Bee Company is on to something. I love honey with bread and butter (and a nice cup of tea!), or with hot water and lemon for a sore throat in winter time- yummy!

    • April 3, 2012
      Kristin

      That cheeky Queen. I wish Americans were required to have tea time by law–that would be awesome! Can you see Obama halting the country to have a pot of tea?!

  • April 9, 2012

    Amaaazing! I’m obsessed with tea set. I had one almost every day when I was in Hong Kong.

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