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 tea—did you know it’s only called “high tea” if you’re actually in the UK?—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.