Taste Tea Salon & Gifts
Taste Tea Salon & Gifts is chic and friendly, a perfect reflection of the lovely mother-and-daughters trio that own and operate the establishment. The European country décor mixes contemporary furniture of blonde wood and white linen with robin's egg blue walls, and pear-green accents. Potted palms, a wrought iron trellis and a bubbling fountain add to the soothing ambience. You're invited to select your table; each is set with a unique china pattern, varying in design from traditional floral to modern, pastel square-shaped plates. Starched linens and fresh flowers make an attractive backdrop for your favorite place setting.
Taste's menu offers two-dozen carefully selected teas, including some distinctive hand-blended varieties, and imported teas from England and France. I selected Queen Catherine's Blend, a smooth, black, Chinese tea from Harney & Sons. The sumptuous, four-course "Royal Afternoon Tea" is the most expensive offering on the menu, and worth every cent of its $25 price. When we ordered our tea, the mother and grand dame of Taste, Mrs. Lillian Croft, explained that our teas would be brewed the exact number of minutes recommended for our particular choice of tea. Brewing would then be immediately concluded by lifting a lever on the special clear-glass Taste teapots, and brought to our table. If we took a sip and decided a stronger brew was more to our liking, we could simply deploy the lever and steep the tea until our desired result. (We didn't bother, because our tea was perfect!) In addition to our tea, we were served champagne flutes filled with a delicate pear spritzer.
The first foods to arrive were light scones that were, literally, steaming hot from the oven, and studded with a few rosy currants, accompanied by small dishes containing made-from-scratch lemon curd, fresh Devonshire cream, and strawberry jam. They were so delicious I could have eaten two more, but no sooner did we finish, and a three-tiered plate stand arrived for each of us.
The presentation was impressive, punctuated with herb garnishes and additional fresh flowers. With a nod to Williamsburg's colonial heritage, there were miniature Virginia ham and cheese biscuits; also, tartlets of asparagus and Parmesan cheese, and tangy seafood. There were four types of sandwiches, each on different bread, with gourmet touches, like sun-dried tomatoes. My favorite was the curried chicken, and my husband liked the fabulous smoked salmon and cucumber.
The decadent sweets included moist nut bread, a sugar cookie, lemon shortbread and a cream tartlet. The impressive grand finale was a molded chocolate teacup, filled with raspberry mousse!
After an exquisite tea, enjoy Taste's upscale shopping area for imported teas, tea accessories and a wonderful selection of high quality china teapots. A corner of the shop is dedicated to whimsical baby gifts. There is an armoire full of luscious bath products and picture frames, and you'll find tables displaying classy home accessories, extravagant needlepoint pillows, a nice assortment of hardcover books about tea, as well as home scents, candles, kitchen soaps, and condiments. Price range: $8-$25