Californian Tea Time
It was the blustery kind of day that reminded me of Winnie the Pooh: the wind whipped about us in no particular direction and the clouds held a lavender tint. I could smell the oncoming rain as soon as we stepped out of the car. It was a perfect day for tea in Lompoc, California.
As Mom and I approached the shop, we saw thick lace curtains covering the windows and the words “Penelope’s Tea and Gifts” painted on the glass pane in a sort of old-fashioned way. I’m sure most tourists would have skipped the unassuming little shop, thinking it shabby on the inside. Mom pushed through the front door and I followed. We stopped in a bit of surprise.
The shop was not the little rundown restaurant we had unwillingly been expecting. Instead, it was well-loved and tidy. The front room was filled with containers holding various tea blends, a few antiques, and hand-knitted tea cozies. The counter on the right side of the room marked the transition from the shop to the dining area, which was made up of assorted chairs and tables.
The tea list was extraordinarily long, although well sorted under black, green, white, herbal, blends, decaf, and oolong. Mom and I looked at each other a little helplessly. Before I could say anything, though, she made it my duty to pick the tea. It was a tough decision between “Smokey Russian Caravan” which boasted a caramel flavor and “Orange Spice.” We finally decided upon “Orange Spice” and ordered a pot to share as well as ordering the Elegant Afternoon Tea service.
While waiting for the tea to arrive, I leaned back in my chair and studied the room around me. Though each table was different, they were all covered in floor-length table cloths, a lamp, and a small vase of flowers. The wall was covered in a green and pink floral wallpaper and decorated with gilt-framed mirrors and watercolors. It reminded me of the way that my grandma tried to decorate her house when I was younger.
When the teapot arrived, it was covered in a tea cozy similar to the ones I had seen in the front of the shop. The owner must have purled these striped cozies herself. I poured tea for both my mom and myself and we began chatting about anything and everything. It had been so long since I had seen Mom and it was nice to sit and relax with her after so many months away from home.
The food was served to us in courses, which was a little unorthodox, but at the same time I think it helped us pace the meal a little. It would have been a shame for us to have finished our meal in hurried American fashion.
We had everything from their exquisite carrot bisque topped with bacon and shrimp to traditional cucumber sandwiches to ginger and dark chocolate scones served with Devonshire cream and current preserves.
It was the kind of tea that accepted both tradition and modernity.