Jeffrey Hattrick is a real-life Mad Hatter, minus the shaggy gray sideburns and cartoonish purple getup. Most days, you can find this self-proclaimed "tea guy" in a top hat and tails, pouring fragrant oolongs into delicate porcelain cups for little Alices and their moms in the Ritz-Carlton's tea room. (See our award.) His official title at the prestigious hotel is tea maitre d', but Hattrick prefers to think of himself as an entertainer and "bringer of smiles."
"When people hear about me, they picture a stodgy old Brit with gray hair and an upturned nose," Hattrick says. "I didn't grow up drinking tea and I'm not from England. I just get to wear fancy clothes and talk to people."
So how did Hattrick's tea obsession begin? Turns out he just fell into it. He first was noticed while working as a banquet server at the Ritz. With his bright, upbeat personality and dramatic flair, let's just say it was hard to blend in.
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His boss at the time was so impressed with Hattrick's customer-service skills that he created a brand-new position for him. The job description? Find out what it takes to create the best tea service in the Valley, and do it.
Eager to please, Hattrick became a disciple of tea culture. He traveled to learn about brewing. He sampled other tea services. He even contacted the Ritz in London to learn what kind of uniform to wear. He started offering tea etiquette classes and singing for his guests. Five years later, Hattrick has a music CD and annual holiday concert series, a successful tea company (www.jeffreystea.com) and a devoted following at the Ritz ranging from little girls in frilly pink dresses to Red Hat Society matrons. "It started with a tiny seed," he says, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, "and blossomed into this forest — or my empire, as I like to call it."
Hattrick's roots are elsewhere. He grew up in rural Vancouver, Washington, and vacationed or lived in several exotic locales before following his former partner to Phoenix. "For two solid years, I hated Phoenix," Hattrick admits. "Now I love that nine months out of the year I can have dinner on my patio. I can sit outside on the front porch and have tea, read a book." Hattrick says he'll stay — for now. So book your tea time soon.