Nearly fifteen minutes had passed since the three of us settled into a cozy corner table on a platform just a few steps above the rest of the tea room, jabbering away non-stop in a futile attempt to catch up on our lives since saying our farewells at our high-school graduation. Off to the right, the server stood patiently, waiting for the right moment to interrupt us and get the ordering process started. Finally realizing that the right moment might be a long time coming, she timidly made her way up the steps and gently inquired whether we were ready to order. Of course, she knew we weren’t. Our menus lay unopened and neglected on the table. “It’s been 35 years since our last conversation,” I explained, “but we’ll take a break to look at the menu.”
Lynda and I first reconnected last fall through one of the many social networking sites and began exchanging long emails. In December, we decided to plan a get-together soon after the first of the year. Of course, as often happens, one month quickly followed the next before we finally arranged afternoon tea together. My good friend, Lois, who I have kept in touch with since high school, also knew Lynda, so she joined us as well.
As always, a tea room seemed the perfect place to meet. After all, tea is one of the best conversation lubricants I know of. The Vintage Tea Leaf sprang to mind for two reasons: first, it was located in Long Beach, California, the halfway point between Lynda’s home in Irvine and mine in Culver City and second, my cousin, Claire, had recommended it.
The Vintage Tea Leaf is an over-the-top Victorian Era-themed tea room filled with comfy, mismatched pillows and lots of knick knacks. But unlike other similar tea rooms I have visited, the Vintage Tea Leaf is very clean and tidy, truly like sitting in a friend’s cozy cottage. On the wall opposite our table was a huge assortment of canisters filled with all varieties of tea, a clear indication that this tea room was serious about its teas. After selecting a tea service, it was time to choose from the lengthy tea menu. At first, I was drawn to a Kenilworth Estate tea from Sri Lanka until I realized it was only available for at-home brewing. Not really a problem. There were plenty of other choices. Having recently savored a Ceylon black tea with apricot and saffron aptly named “Tangier” from Le Palais Gourmet in Beverly Hills, I decided to try the Orchard Brandy Apricot, which the menu described as an “organic black tea blend with a rich brandy-apricot flavor, and orchard-dried apricot pieces — intoxicating aroma without real spirits”. It was delicious. Lois went with a decaffeinated black tea with bits of chocolate and Lynda opted for the Vintage Rose, a black blend scented with fresh rose petals, which was designed to put both “ladies and gentlemen in a Victorian mood”. It seemed to work, as we donned hats and passed away the afternoon reminiscing.
After satiating ourselves with yummy fresh-baked scones, sandwiches, and generous pots of tea, we slowly ambled back to our cars and promised each other that this was only the first of many annual tea parties to come.