It's a new year and the coolest months have begun here in metro Phoenix. It's a great time to be sipping tea, indulging in pastries, and admiring the desert landscape. The Valley has several viable tea house options, a range of tea rooms to satisfying a range of tea drinkers. You can experience the hot leafy beverage royally, or at a spot more off the beaten path, perhaps at a Japanese tea spot in a garden. Depending on where you like to sip, one of these five options will be sure to soothe you.
The English Rose Tea Room
You don't have to travel to England to experience tea like a royal. The English Rose Tea Room is worth the drive to Carefree. The walls are covered with memorabilia from England, land of fancy tea. Dainty cups add the flair to match an ornate vaulted ceiling. Patrons can sip a wide variety of teas, and even try on hats. Owner Jo Gemmill, who comes from England, knows how a proper tea is conducted and tries to recreate the texture of an authentic holiday tea time in the desert.
Malone says that on a given day she has at least 150 customers in for tea. But it's not just about sipping tea. For lunch, choose from quiches, soups, and sandwiches. With strawberry preserves or Devon cream as a topping, the warm vanilla scones are decadent. All said, there are 50 teas on offer. Reservations are recommended.
If you want a luxurious tea experience, The Phoenician is your best bet. A traditional British high tea unfolds in the heart of the hotel. Its vintage seats and high ceilings have an Old World glamor. Overlooking a 250-acre estate, tea drinkers here feel a certain opulence. There's even a pianist.
The food menu offered during afternoon tea is scant, and not built to satisfy appetites. It includes petite finger sandwiches in cucumber and tomato varieties. These sandwiches are mediocre given the price. Since tea is offered for a limited time in the afternoon, there isn't really a chance to linger. Scones follow right on the heels of the sandwiches. With an average price of $75 to $100 per person, the expectations may be a little high for what you would want food-wise, but the style and scenery are there.
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The Arizona Biltmore
The sandwich plate is aesthetically pleasing and the goods don't disappoint. Selections of honey-chipotle ham, deviled egg salad, mint and garlic hummus, and more are on offer. The combinations aren't necessarily what you expect at tea, but that makes tea time an unexpected delight. Save room for one of seven dessert options, which range from fresh-fruit cream tarts to a pistachio-apricot sable cookie. The Biltmore doesn't compromise in any area and offers the best value for your dollar.
Japanese Friendship Garden
Phoenicians are lucky the Japanese Friendship Garden allows visitors to witness and try a one-of-a-kind tea experience. The moment you walk into the gardens, there is a stillness and peace as you watch the water and see the koi fish dancing in the shallow stream. A mini bridge connects one end of the garden to another. Even though the garden doesn't cover much acreage, there is still a chance to see a waterfall, sit among the trees, and to indulge in a tea experience you won't find anywhere else in the Valley.
Guests are met by a docent and led to the tea house. While awaiting the tea experience, you hear about the history of the garden and tea ceremony. This is far from the traditional English tea. Matcha is served, and the focus is on achieving a zen-like state as you let the grassy, toasty flavors dissolve in your mouth. It's a quieter affair; the tea serves an overall purpose of committing to the present moment.
For a more casual and rustic atmosphere, grab tea at Arcadia Farms. The place is located in the middle of Old Town Scottsdale. Still, you feel like you're out of the city. It's a casual spot for tea. The environment isn't regal or grand, and that might be your hook.
The menu offers a selection of strawberries-and-cream scones, lemon curd tartlets, Grand Marnier tartlets, Nutella tea bread, and shortbread or miniature lemon cookies. Scones are nice and dense. Miniature lemon cookies have the right amount of tartness. Those craving savory can order egg salad finger sandwiches, chicken salad, or miniature wild mushroom and spinach quiches. Mixing and matching the savory and sweet is fun. Arcadia Farms also offers a selection of Champagne and prosecco for those looking to go beyond tea.