Opened in 1988 by proud owner Mary Greengo, for which the business is named, this tea room and restaurant is known around the world for its wide tea selection and scratch-made British treats.
Anyone close to me will tell you, I love tea rooms. In fact, I plan on opening my own tea room one day, when the time is right.
You might say these tea room visits are reconnaissance missions for me. I'm taking notes, squirreling away details, seeing what I like and what I would do differently. At Queen Mary, everything was picture perfect.
My experience began with a personal carafe of hot leaf water (in case you're the one person in the world who doesn't know what tea is) in this etched metal pot. With more than 80 varieties of tea and tea blends on the menu, like white, green, oolong, black and herbal, the options seemed endlessly exciting.
This corner table for two became a table for one as I sat down to relish a mid-morning feast of dainty finger foods. At least I enjoy my own company!
The first course on the afternoon tea prix fixe menu was this elegant trio of fruit sorbets - guava, raspberry, and pineapple - and a shortbread sugar cookie.
I appreciated everything about this colorful first course, which was a pleasant departure from the traditional tea ceremony.
For a special treat, I ordered a cotton candy puff sparkling prosecco, which melted almost instantly, as you can see below. The spun sugar was grape flavored, if you're wondering.
From my table, I could easily gaze at all the adorable tea-themed trinkets and tea sets available for sale in the main shop area. For those looking to take a bit of tea room magic home, an assortment of freshly-made cakes and cookies filled the glass case.
After four minutes of steeping next to this helpful tea timer, the fragrant leaves were ready to drink.
I added a bit of colorful sugar crystals for fun, but found I prefer the flavor of the hot tea unadulterated.
Soon, my meal arrived.
In British culture, afternoon tea is as ceremonial as it is practical.
Traditionally, the foods are displayed on a three-tiered serving tower, each tier representing a course, eaten in order from bottom to top.
Start by nibbling on the small finger sandwiches on the bottom tier, then work your way up to the middle tier of scones and breads, often accompanied by a variety of jams, lemon curd, and clotted cream.
Tea time concludes with the indulgent sweets on top, colorful and cute, crowning the tower. You may find crisp macarons, intricately layered petit fours, bite-sized cookies, and rich truffles.
At Queen Mary, afternoon tea is served a bit differently than tradition dictates, but the treats are no less delicious.
This second course on the top tier contained:
- A shot glass of tomato basil soup
- An asparagus, Swiss cheese and onion mini quiche
- A pork sausage roll
- A cranberry orange scone
For course three, I moved my way down to try:
- An English cucumber and mint butter tea sandwich
- A chicken and mustard tea sandwich with almond crust
- A smoked salmon mousse on rye bread
Before snacking my way to the desserts, I savored a refreshing fruit course of apples, grapes, strawberries, watermelon and bluberries with Chantilly cream.
To finish off the exquisite meal, I sampled these satisfying sweets:
- Butterscotch coconut bar
- Lemon poppyseed tea bread
- Hazelnut, white chocolate and dried cherry cookie
- Double chocolate chip cookie with sea salt
Quirky tea cup art covers the walls, like this inventive Ferris wheel next to a frame of smashed-up cups and saucers.
Even the closet-sized bathrooms host an array of kitschy decor, cartoons, and royal baubles.
What better place to display these vintage tea pots? Can you spot the well-dressed piggy, frog and sewing machine?
Mary Greengo, the owner, has had many articles written about her over the years, hailing her tea room as the best in the region.
I love this teapot-shaped shelf, so clever.
Here grows a real tea plant! This Camellia Sinensis bush produces the iconic leaves from which white, green, oolong, pu-erh, and black tea are harvested.
The sign says "A skilled worker can only gather about one pound each day. It takes four pounds of fresh leaves to produce one pound of dry tea. To make about 2.2 pounds of tea, 60,000 tender leaves must be plucked.
One pound of loose leaf tea brews two hundred cups of tea!"
Just down the street, I continued my tea shopping excursion at the Queen Mary Tea Emporium.
Hundreds of teas and tea blends, hand-created by Queen Mary herself, line the walls. I purchased a golden bag of Balance tea blend to take home for Brandon to try.
Tea tasting station. Drink me! Eat me!
More broken tea cup art embedded in the sidewalk. So creative!
I'm obsessed with this faux flower arch adorning the entrance to the emporium. Now to make one for my own house...
This cute patio area honors the British heritage from which afternoon tea is founded.
Stay tuned for more adventures from my brief trip to Salem, Portland, and Seattle, like my and Phoebe's stomach-turning exploration of the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium Horror Museum. Click here to read.