Saturday, April 12, 2008
In Which Beatrice Takes Tea
Green, black or herbal, loose leaf or bagged - I drink tea every day. However, before my visit to the Brown Palace Hotel, Tea was something that I had only read about in books.
Tea at the Brown Palace Hotel is served in the lobby, under an awesome stained glass ceiling. Each person selects a pot of tea from a list of organic teas, tisanes, black teas and green teas. Tea-goers then choose between the classic tea (classic tea pastries, scones, and tea sandwiches), the Chocolate Sensation tea (chocolate tea pastries, scones, and tea sandwiches) and the Royale Palace Tea (a combination of classic and chocolate pastries, scones and tea sandwiches, also served with Kir Royale). Wine (including champagne, sherry and port) is also available.
Although each tea-goer makes his or her own selection, Tea is served from a three teired stand placed in the center of the table, with plain and butterscotch scones on the bottom, crustless tea sandwiches in the middle, and bite-sized pastries on top. This was the first dining experience that I can remember where sugar substitutes were not on the table; instead, our table held a bowl of white and brown sugar cubes. Clotted cream and strawberry jam are provided for spreading on the scones.
Our party was split evenly between the classic and chocolate tea pastries, and so we got to sample some of each. The classic pastries included tiny mango tarts topped with key lime icing and a white-chocolate leaf, biscotti, and a creamy berry mousse served on a thin bed of phyllo dough. The chocolate pastries included chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate mousse layered between thin pieces of chocolate, and small squares of cheesecake topped with tiny chocolate mice (or rabbits?) with almond ears.
Generally, the Brown Palace serves a mixture of meat and cucumber tea sandwiches. However, our server provided a plate of additional cucumber sandwiches when she learned that I was vegetarian. While I would not want to dine on cucumber sandwiches alone, the tea sandwiches, scones and pastries were a very satisfying combination. Although I had always assumed that Tea would be a light afternoon refreshment, this was filling enough to be a meal.
In spite of the formal atmosphere, the Tea was surprisingly relaxing. There is something about the tiny hand-crafted pastries, warm tea and live piano music playing softly in the background that slows down time, at least for a little while.
Although I was worried about showing for Tea in pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt, casual dress appears to be acceptable. However, the price ($27 per person for the classic Tea, $29 for Chocolate Sensation Tea, and $32 for the Royale Palace Tea) makes this something I would do only on special occasions.
The Brown Palace Hotel
321 17th Street
Denver, Colorado 80202