Monday, November 16, 2015

A Moment in Tina's Traditional Old English Kitchen

Just outside the hustle and bustle of Indianapolis, lies a beautiful gem of a town called Carmel, Indiana. It was in this small town of boutiques and cafes that I found Tina's Traditional Old English Kitchen. 

In true British style, this tea room has corners dedicated to the Royals, 

as well as whimsy. 

But most important of all, it has traditional English Afternoon Tea.

I always enjoy seeing who visits local tea rooms, and at Tina's there was a bridal shower taking place in one corner, with family and friends enjoying their special time together, a couple of small tables of guests, and then a couple who obviously visited the tea room regularly, as they chatted with Aaron, the server, and exchanged news about mutual acquaintances. 

As I was given the menu, Aaron also offered the opportunity to learn a little history about the tradition of afternoon tea, which of course I accepted. And I was so glad I did! It was refreshing to hear the distinction of "High Tea" and "Afternoon Tea" and to understand that what I would be indulging in was Afternoon Tea. 

High tea refers to an early evening meal that typically consists of tea, a hot dish, bread and cake. It was traditionally the after work meal of the working class (now more often referred to as supper), and served at the kitchen table (as opposed to low tables next to comfy chairs in the parlor). Afternoon tea was more of an upper class refreshment with dainty sandwiches, scones and clotted cream. It was more of a social event than a meal. 
I ordered a pot of Prince of Wales, a black tea blend consisting of Kenyan and Assam teas, and I knew I had chosen the right venue when I saw there was a sugar bowl of sugar cubes (not packets) on the table.

When the 3-tiered tray was delivered, all was right with the world. Traditional tea sandwiches (cucumber, ham and mustard, coronation chicken), scones with imported clotted cream, and just the right amount of sweet treats to cap it all off.

Someone asked me today to describe what the 'draw' of afternoon tea is for me. I think a big part of it is a sense of tradition, of being part of something more than just a moment in today's world. We all have a need for heritage of some sort. This is one of the few instances where we can re-create a time and tableaux of the days of yore. There is a romantic notion surrounding tea with friends and family. Even tea all by myself.  It comes down to a feeling of being taken care of or taking care of others. Some people might enjoy it because they can show off their culinary or decorating skills. Some might be drawn to the effect it has on a crowd, however intimate or large: conversation flows easily over afternoon tea, similar to (and yet more refined than) gathering at a bar with friends. It's relaxing, it's elevating, it's fancy (and yes, sometimes a gal just needs to feel fancy).

Maybe that's why I enjoy visiting tea rooms across the country and around the world. I admire the environment these proprietors create so that people can enjoy a simple, yet elegant, pleasure. They are all so distinct and different, but there are basic elements that are the same.

If you're ever passing through Indiana, and you are in need of a moment with tea, look for the exit for Carmel, and stop by Tina's Traditional Old English Kitchen. Use all of your senses and drink it all in. And enjoy.

To visit:
Tina's Traditional Old English Kitchen
30 N Rangeline Rd,
Carmel, IN 46032
(317) 565 9716

Open from 11am - 4pm DAILY for lunch and afternoon tea
Brunch is served weekdays 9.30am - 11am
Full English Breakfast is available on Sundays from 11am

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