Monday, June 27, 2011

A Midnight in Paris Moment

What a rare treat to have afternoon tea with a friend on a Sunday afternoon! As my friends and I have started families and continued careers, it has become more and more challenging to get together on weekends, which are now reserved for much-needed family recreation, mini vacations, and increasingly, athletic practices and games.
Our destination: Coffee, Tea and Tulips in Mission Viejo. I had taken my mom there in January while she was visiting, and I wanted my dear friend, B, to experience it as she is as much as a coffee fanatic as I am a tea one. Here was a happy spot where the two obsessions could comfortably collide. That being said, she was kind enough to agree to afternoon tea. (Next time, we'll have to experience their brunch and coffee.)

The Perfect Scone with Clotted Cream and Fig Jam

As before, we were welcomed right away, with our table reserved right by the window. B enjoyed seeing the menu for the first time, each tucked into a children's book. Don't let the touches of whimsy and eclectic decor fool you, though. This is a place for serious foodies.

"The Moody Chef," as he jokingly refers to himself, recommended their new black tea blend, Midnight in Paris. I'm a sucker for anything French, so of course I had to have it! B chose their Ginger Peachy Kean (excellent choice). And so, we delved into a chat fest of grand proportions while our Royal Tea service was prepared. First, the currant scone with cream and fig jam. Delish! Then the tiered tray of the traditional "Sandweeches" that Chef does better than anyone, anywhere. Period. The cucumber sandweech is such a refreshing balance of all traditional ingredients, plus the bread has a little firmness to it. No squishy bread here. The egg salad is hearty, flavorful, perfectly seasoned and with no egg-y smell. (They say anyone can boil an egg, but this is not entirely true. The reason boiled eggs get smelly is due to overcooking.) And then the chicken salad sandwich. I can't say I've ever paid much attention to chicken salad until my first visit here. Big chunks of chicken, savory seasoning that I could not replicate (a dash of curry, maybe?) I could eat these sandweeches all day, every day and still be as in love with them as I am at this moment.

And then there is still dessert! An apple and a blueberry tart. I will just say this: that if someone were to try and steal my share, I would not hesitate in scratching their eyes out. Yes. They are that magnificent.

And to compliment the entire experience, there is this magical tea. Midnight in Paris. It is as intoxicating as the name implies. The official description is:
Midnight in Paris (Black Tea w/vanilla, coconut, ginger)
Haven’t been to Paris? No worries, we’ll take you there! One sip of our wonderful blend of black tea splashed with natural vanilla and crème de coconut, dashes of ginger pieces, a sprinkling of bright blue cornflowers and red safflowers, and you’ll be dreaming of sipping this under the city lights in Paris saying “Je l'aime” (I like it). 
Oui, oui. Je l'aime bien!

The heady aroma is a subtle coconut backed gently with a whisper of vanilla. It's the restraint of these components that add to its power. Any one of these ingredients could easily overwhelm, but their quiet presence support and compliment each other perfectly. The first sip, always my favorite! Smooth, medium bodied, with the essence of the ginger, coconut and vanilla floating on the surface. I smell, rather than taste their presence, and I like that very much. William, our hospitable server, said that he likes to add candied ginger to it, which sweetens and enhances the ginger components of the tea. For ginger lovers, this may be your own personal crack recipe. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The end result? Not only did I drink more than one pot of this new treasure during afternoon tea, I left with 4 oz. of the blend and am on my 3rd  cup this morning. I can see this is going to be a problem. The obsession has begun.

Afternoon tea on the first weekend of summer. Friendly, welcoming service, delicious food, addictive tea, and the company of one of my favorite people. It truly doesn't get any better than this.

P.S. While they don't yet have an online store, Chef Michael said he would be happy to provide his loose leaf teas for sale via phone or email request. Did I mention Midnight in Paris is to die for?

Coffee, Tea And Tulips©25280 Marguerite Parkway at La Paz, #B2
Mission Viejo, CA 92692 – Near Steinmart in the Village Center,
across from the Mission Viejo Library / City Hall
Reservations and Information: 949/587.9988
NEW Worldly Hours: March 2011
Tuesday – Saturday 9a – 3p
Sunday 9a – 2p