The Tea Room? The Tearoom? The TeaRoom? This Oakland venue’s materials are short on orthographic consistency, but the meaning is clear regardless. This is a place to go for tea — and, indeed, the tea took center stage. We arrived to a table stacked high with tins of tea for us to smell and debate.
We settled on seven indulgent selections: a strongly flavored vanilla black tea; a cinnamon spice tea reminiscent of Red Hots; the green-black Caribe blend flavored with rosebuds, cornflower, and orange peel (our favorite); delightfully fruity white peach; a straightforward green blended with matcha; an intensely flowery lavender herbal; and the bitter, grassy Bancha green. These were served in small, conveniently labeled glass pots with removable strainers, so we were able to steep them to perfection. (We did have to use our saucers to hold the strainers when we took them out of the pots; it would have been nicer if plates for that purpose had been provided.) Hot water refills came frequently and unprompted, though milk was not provided until we asked for it — whereupon it was delivered in an adorable miniature ceramic milk-bottle.
The Tearoom’s focus on tea doesn’t mean they neglect the food. The “Entire Tea” we ordered started with a tasty salad of mixed greens, fruit, and citrus-sesame dressing. Then, out came the étagères, one per person! Allocation of the different varieties of sandwiches, scones and sweets seemed random, so we engaged in some lively but stressful swapping to ensure we could each taste the widest possible variety of items within our individual preferences and dietary restrictions.
The sandwiches came in what we have come to consider the standard array of afternoon tea flavors: cucumber, egg salad, tuna salad, coronation chicken, tomato and cheese, and ham and cheese. We enjoyed the spicy flavors of the tuna and chicken, but found the cucumber and egg pretty bland. All of the scones (we were given candied-ginger, cranberry, and lemon varieties) were flavorful and fluffy. We also appreciated receiving both strawberry jam and orange marmalade, though, alas!, the cream was definitely whipped, certainly not clotted.
An overwhelming four sweets per person completed the meal, with a focus on different types of bar cookies and brownies. (The High Tea comes with a more reasonable two confections each, but we wouldn’t dream of ordering something so misnamed!) We were unenthusiastic about the nutty trail mix bite, but the lemon cheesecake bars and s’mores squares were hits.
The Tea Room isn’t the right choice if you want a fancy tea party aesthetic. Decor is minimal: some sconces, a tacky skyline silhouette, hanging paper spheres, and a few Mason jars of tea. The teacups, pots, plates, and étagères are simple clear glass; the napkins are paper. The playlist of background music is saccharine and on a short loop — we didn’t appreciate hearing Muzak versions of “Memory” and “My Heart Will Go On” multiple times in a single afternoon tea — and the bathroom is kind of seedy. However, if you are craving traditional afternoon tea in the East Bay and you don’t need the frills, this is a good choice.
Date attended: July 8, 2018
Attendees: Erica, Hannah, Ilana, Jasmine, Marissa & Tom
Price/seat: $30 (Entire Tea)
Location: 6241 College Avenue, Oakland