Category Archives: Tea

Tea recommendations, afternoon tea recaps, etc.

Friday Favorites: Tea on Mackinac Island

Our final tea adventure of the summer took place at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. We warmed up with a hike to Fort Mackinac, followed by an 8 mile bike ride around the island. By the time we reached the hotel we were ready for refreshment.


Tea service begins at 3:30 in the hotel parlor and is accompanied by live music. (We were treated to the harp during our visit.) The hotel has streamlined the menu, making it easy for patrons to relax and enjoy the experience. For tea they only offer English Breakfast, but their blend was so delicious that I later purchased a bag to take home with me. In addition they offer a choice of champagne, sherry, or sparkling juice.


Our tiered trays were delightful. For sweets there were scones with cream, chocolate-covered strawberries, fruit tarts, Kentucky butter cake, violet macarons, and coconut chocolate balls. For savories we enjoyed hummus tarts and roast beef on rye, along with cucumber, ham, and turkey sandwiches. I was pleasantly sated and yet still prepared to hop on my bike for more adventures.


I couldn’t resist sharing this shot of my husband and friends affecting a “languidly posh” attitude whilst we waited for our tea. The setting truly is elegant, don’t you think?

Learn more about Afternoon Tea at The Grand. Do note that it is rather expensive–especially with the added $10 per person for non-residents of the hotel–but after your delicious tea you can burn calories by wandering the beautiful grounds. There’s so much to see!

While on the island I kept fantasizing about the sort of mystery that might be set there. (Here’s what I found when I searched “Murder + Mackinac” on Amazon.) It’s only reachable by ferry or airplane and doesn’t allow cars, just bicycles and horse-drawn wagons. That said, there are plenty of people–entire families–who live there year round. The hotels don’t stay open, but the schools and many of the stores do! I would love to stay there for a month in winter, especially after watching this little video:

Friday Favorites: Tea in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Recently we attended a reunion in Iowa, as my brother and his wife had flown in from Japan to introduce their son to the American side of the family. I loved meeting little Hal (he is DELICIOUS) and spending time with people I don’t see as often as I’d like. I also enjoyed exploring Cedar Falls–in particular when my stepmother introduced me to The Tea Cellar.

Would you join me on a virtual tour?


Feel free to go straight to the counter and place your order. Treats are on display under glass, and featured teas are listed on the chalkboard. The staff is happy to open the tea canisters so that you can see and smell the leaves.


Once you make your choice, they will brew the tea in a small or large pot. In the meantime you are free to choose your own cup and saucer. (There’s something so satisfying about this!) Everything is placed on a tray for you to take to the table of your choice.


After you’ve finished your tea you’ll want to peruse the wares. The Tea Cellar offers an impressive variety of Black, Green, Oolong, White, and Herbal teas, along with kettles, teapots, and so much more.

I visited The Tea Cellar each of the three days I was in Iowa and thus was able to sample various tea blends and sweet treats. Everything was delicious, and the atmosphere was welcoming and cozy.

Like what you see but aren’t planning to visit Cedar Falls anytime soon? No worries. You can peruse their fabulous teas and accoutrements at their online store!


Just for fun–a candid shot of my first meeting with nephew Hal! (Photo credit to cousin Jacqueline Kehoe)

Literary Walks: Dorothy Sayers’ Oxford

If you know me at all, you know I love Oxford. You also might recall that I adore the mysteries of Dorothy L. Sayers. While in Oxford this summer I was determined to put together my own literary walk to celebrate Sayers’ Gaudy Night and its two main characters, Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey.

I even made a map with the help of Google:


Google says this is a 50 minute walk. If you really want to soak it all in, however, 2-3 hours would give you plenty of time to see everything. If you wish to linger and visit colleges/pubs/bookstores along the way, you might give yourself at least half a day.


The walk begins on Brewer Street, where you’ll find a plaque that commemorates the birth of Dorothy Sayers in this very building. Her father was headmaster at the Christ Church Cathedral Choir School and a chaplain at the cathedral. This will be a brief stop, as you can’t go inside, but it’s a nice quiet street and no one should mind you taking a photograph. (I do it every summer!)

From here go east to St. Aldates and continue north. On your right you will see Christ Church College. In Gaudy Night, Harriet runs into Peter Wimsey’s nephew, Lord Saint-George, who is a student at Christ Church. When Saint-George hurts himself rather badly in a car accident, she must write to inform Peter. And thus the plot thickens… (If you have the time, this college certainly is worth visiting.)

Follow St. Aldates as it turns into Cornmarket, Magdalen, and then St. Giles. Bonus: At the intersection with Pusey Street look left and behold The Eagle & Child, a pub famous for hosting meetings of The Inklings. Sayers was friends with the Inklings, but never an official member, according to the Mythopoeic Society.


Finally you will come to Somerville College, Dorothy Sayers’ alma mater and an inspiration for Shrewsbury College in Gaudy Night. This college ordinarily does not welcome tourists during the summer, but they did allow me to stand in the doorway and take some photos. Perhaps you might be allowed greater access at other times of the year?

Google suggests that you return to the city center via St John Street, which should be less crowded and will take you by the Ashmolean, a museum well worth seeing that also offers a rooftop restaurant and a cozy cafe in the basement. I always get very hungry when touring Oxford!


Balliol College, Lord Peter Wimsey’s alma mater, is just to the east of the Ashmolean, but you must take Magdalen Street to Broad to find its entrance. The fee to tour the college (as of a couple of weeks ago) is three pounds, and it’s well worth it. Do visit the chapel, explore the grounds, and tour the dining hall. Somewhere on the grounds is a portrait of Lord Peter Wimsey that was presented to the college many years ago. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it (even with the porter calling everyone he knew to determine its location). Perhaps you’ll have better luck?

Upon leaving Balliol, turn south at Turl Street and take a left on Brasenose Lane. Straight ahead is Radcliffe Square (the featured image at the top of this post). Radcliffe Square is the center of Oxford, and you could spend quite some time ogling and photographing the gorgeous architecture. Do take a nice gander at the Radcliffe Camera–in Gaudy Night Harriet Vane tries to get some work done here–and also the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. For a moderate fee you can climb up to the church tower and get a wonderful bird’s-eye view of the city. AND if you didn’t stop for lunch at the Ashmolean, I suggest you venture into the Vaults & Garden Cafe. Even if you already ate lunch, you might stop here for afternoon tea! You’ll find delicious, wholesome food in a setting that is comfortable and offers sublime views.


When you’re finished admiring Radcliffe Square take Catte Street north to Holywell and walk east until you reach St. Cross Street. Go north until you see St. Cross Church (pictured above) at your right. This building belongs to Balliol College and is now an archive rather than a church, but you can wander the grounds and enjoy the lovely views. This site is very important in the story of Peter and Harriet. For now, however, I won’t spoil it.

Bonus: Explore nearby Holywell Cemetery, a Romantically overgrown graveyard. Kenneth Grahame (author of Wind in the Willows) and his son are buried here, among others. There’s a wooden bench perfect for enjoying an afternoon snack–might I suggest a sandwich from the Alternative Tuck Shop on Holywell? Grab your sandwich and a drink on the way to St. Cross. OR take your sandwich along for our final stop on the tour…


A punt on the Cherwell! Walk south on St. Cross, continuing as it turns into Longwall Street, and take a left onto High Street. Find the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse (look for the signs) and rent a punt just as Peter and Harriet did in Gaudy Night. (Above you see Steve manning the pole most efficiently with Magdalen Tower in the background.) You can try punting on your own OR hire a “professional” who will do all the work and offer a little tour.

If you go it alone, expect some bumps along the way:

[Peter] was, in fact, a pretty punter to watch, easy in action and quite remarkably quick. They picked their way at surprising speed down the crowded and torturous stream until, in the narrow reach above the ferry, they were checked by another punt, which was clumsily revolving in mid-stream and cramming a couple of canoes rather dangerously against the bank.

“Before you come on this water,” cried Wimsey, thrusting the offenders off with his heel and staring offensively at the youth in charge (a stringy young man, naked to the waist and shrimp-pink with the sun), “you should learn the rule of the river. Those canoes have the right of way. And if you can’t handle a pole better than that, I recommend you to retire up the back-water and stay there till you know what God gave you feet for.” (Ch. 14)

Eventually Peter and Harriet move on to the less crowded Isis River–you can, too, if you’re punting yourself.

Bonus: If you still have energy after punting I highly recommend visiting Magdalen College and walking in their Deer Park. It’s a beautiful and soothing place. If you haven’t yet eaten–or need to refuel after punting–do visit the Old Kitchen Bar (dating from the 1300s). The riverside terrace is lovely!

And that is the end of my walking tour of Dorothy Sayers’ Oxford! Any questions? Suggestions? What did I leave out?

Stay tuned for a Friday Favorite post featuring Tea in Cedar Falls, Iowa…

Friday Favorites: Tea in Georgetown

Every time we travel I strive to thoroughly explore the tea options in that area. As it turns out, Georgetown has a lot to offer!

1. Ladurée
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this French tea room in Paris, London, and New York. Now I can add Washington DC to the list. The M street location has a cozy dining room and encourages reservations. Their specialty is macarons, but they also offer a menu of sweets and savories along with their signature tea blends. After Steve and I snuggled kittens at The Kitten Lounge (go here for the details), we enjoyed a pot of Othello black tea and some sweet treats.


How could we resist the French toast?


For desert (ha!) we shared the Ispahan — macaron, rose petal cream, fresh raspberry and lychee. (Yes, that’s a rose petal on top.) It was magical.

See all U.S. Laudurée locations. You can also find them in France, of course, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Russia!

2. Lady Camellia
The next day, after visiting a small and quirky stationery/tea shop, Just Paper and Tea, and soaking up the atmosphere at The Lantern (see more here), I decided to drop by Lady Camellia for tea.


They strongly suggest reservations, but since it was earlyish on a week day, and just me, I decided to take a chance. They kindly seated me right away. This tea room is small and scores high on the cozy scale. The servers are attentive and both the tea and food were delicious.


I asked for something that wasn’t really on the menu: one scone (with cream and jam) and two tea sandwiches. They were happy to indulge me, and I got a little more sandwich than expected! I really liked this place — so bright and pleasant.

3. Ching Ching Cha
I saw this one recommended so many times during my research that I was very keen to see it, and it turned out to be a refreshing detour from my usual tea (over)indulgences.


Again, I went at 11:00ish, so there wasn’t much of a crowd. One can sit at a regular table with chairs or choose a low table with cushions on the floor (which seems to be a favorite for families with smaller children). The menu of teas and food is extensive, and they offer a “Tea Meal’ with three vegetables, a featured dish with jasmine rice, and a bowl of soup. Knowing I would have lunch later, I ordered almond cookies and mochi (rice cake filled with green tea ice cream), along with the Alisha Oolong–“floral touch of orchid, robust in body yet sweet with a marvelous bouquet.”


The process of steeping the Oolong was somewhat complicated, and the shop’s owner kindly demonstrated for me. A pot of water is kept hot on the burner. First you rinse the leaves a few times with the hot water, dumping this water into the pottery jug (see above) that stands next to the teapot. Once the leaves are rinsed they begin to open, and at that point you can re-steep those leaves practically all day long. (See the unfurled leaves in this photo on Instagram.) After steeping for a minute or so, you pour the tea into the “teapot” (the thing that looks like a large creamer) and then pour from that into the wee cup. So relaxing and no sugar or caffeine overload from the tea. (Oolong has some caffeine, but not anywhere near as much as black tea.) I could have sipped all day–sadly, there was packing to do back at the hotel. I did a little browsing in their shop before I left and hope to feature my purchase in a future blog post.

That wraps up my tour of Georgetown tea rooms. Stay tuned for June’s “Tea and a Book”!

The Tao of Meow*

This past Wednesday was my birthday, and since my husband Steve had a work commitment in D.C., I decided to tag along and enjoy some adventuring. I’d researched ahead of time and located a cat cafe, Crumbs & Whiskers, within walking distance of our Georgetown hotel. Further research revealed that a pop-up kitten lounge had opened nearby on M Street. Since the latter would only be open through June, I decided kittens would be my birthday treat and booked a time when Steve was available.

What a delight it was!


Apparently spring/early summer is when shelters are inundated with kittens. The kitten lounge was designed to ease the burden:

During this time, many kittens are euthanized or turned away from shelters, because kitten care is more expensive and time consuming than adult cat care. Our approach in helping with this issue is simple – we are creating a space to house more kittens and providing rescues with more resources to care for kittens. (www.crumbsandwhiskers.com)


The kitten lounge frees up space in shelters and allows these wee felines to socialize with each other and with adoring humans in a safe, carefully monitored environment. The goal is, of course, to find a forever home for each kitten. You and I can help simply by paying a moderate fee to CUDDLE KITTENS for 10, 30, or a luxurious 70 minutes.

I was wound up with excitement! As a result the kittens seemed a bit wary, but once I’d calmed down they began to wander closer. Just so you know, patrons are not allowed to pick cats up and carry them around. However, one can lounge on any of the fluffy cushions and wait for the kittens to come near or coax them with a toy. Employees are always looking for ways to enhance the experience and thus might settle a kitten or two on your lap. There are so many options, and they’re all AMAZING.

As soon as our half hour was up I knew my trip to DC would not be complete without a visit to the permanent cafe with adult cats, and thus we booked for Friday.


Crumbs & Whiskers Cat Cafe opened in 2015 and is partnered with Homeward Trails Animal Rescue. I learned from Wikipedia that the cafe was funded through a Kickstarter campaign with a $15,000 goal. More than double that amount was donated before the campaign ended!


We enjoyed 70 minutes at the cat cafe. That length of time made it possible to interact with each cat, as well as to hear stories from the staff about their adventures and quirky personalities. It was a Zen experience for me, and I practically floated out of there when our time was up.

Read about founder Kanchan Singh and the story behind Crumbs & Whiskers. ALSO, check out the shop, and the celebrity guest photos/videos.

Are you wanting to know more about Cat Cafes? Here’s an explanation from a CAT CAFE REVIEWER.

Peruse this List of 125 Cat Cafes in North America. In addition, here are 11 Cat Cafes Around The U.S. That Should Be On Everyone’s Radar In 2019.

*Check Amazon for books/clothing/misc related to the THE TAO OF MEOW.

**All photos in this post were taken by me during our visits. See my Instagram for more pics!

Stay tuned for details on my D.C. tea and bookstore adventures…