Archive | December, 2011

Windsor Tea Room in Cohasset

4 Dec

Rebecca’s Take:

I’m fortunate enough to live the next town over from this cute country tearoom. I sit down and enjoy afternoon tea here at least once a month, sometimes I’ll go every week. I buy most of my tea from here as they have a wonderful and varied selection of loose leaf teas.

I tried the Yorkshire Shirley had for this visit and found it to be a bit blander than the Yorkshire gold I like to drink but I liked it. I’ve only ordered it once, however, and I have  never bought it to take home so perhaps it’s for someone with a milder palate? I like a little kick with my tea. I will showcase some of my favorite teas at Windsor Tea Shop and Tea Room: the Buckingham Palace Garden Party labeled as a “palace favorite… black tea with the essence of jasmine and bergamot”, and the Windsor Castle blend, “One of the Queen Mum’s favorites. A blend of Darjeeling, Assam, and Kenya Black Teas” — they are both fragrant, balanced and delicious teas.

I also really love their hazelnut tea — a “black tea with a rich hazelnut flavor. Tastes very similar to Hazelnut coffee” — which has real roasted hazelnuts and reminds me of the wonderful aroma and taste of rich hazelnut desserts I’ve eaten in Italy. This brew, when made with a little cream and sugar, has an almost nostalgic flavor for me. It goes really well with the white chocolate and apricot scones served seasonally at the Windsor. And the amazing lemon curd, which Shirley details perfectly in her review below mine. It truly is the best lemon curd I’ve ever eaten and I’ve been lucky enough to go to some wonderful tea rooms over the years. In fact, to me, all other lemon curds pale in comparison to the Windsor’s homemade version. The strawberry jam is nice, not my favorite (I love bonne maman) and the whipped (not clotted) cream is also lovely.

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I really enjoy the Windsor’s scones, too. They always have two choices of tasty scones, a seasonal one such as cranberry or pumpkin and a classic one like maple or oat. They are very good. Not the best I’ve had (that honor would go to these incredible scones I had in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, I think it was at Choice Greene, this magical artisanal cheese, grocer, baker and  charcuterie shop near BAM, scones that were so authentically British and perfect in every way, they were better than some I’ve had in England!  I also love the very Scottish/Irish scones at Babington’s Tea Room in Rome, which are dry and dense and crumbly and are served with freshly whipped clotted cream and Italian strawberry jam. Babington’s is a 19th-century tea room started up by two Englishwomen and it’s like stepping back in time. Some noted British food critics have claimed it’s more of an “English tea experience than one you’ll find in London, very classic.”

That writ, Windsor Tea Room, for a sleepy sea coastal town afternoon tea spot, really holds its own against the giants. I think they know what they like, they know what works for their community and for the ideal country tea house and they stick with it. They have a pretty big local following of tea enthusiasts who like a buttoned down (yet still traditional and elegant) tea drinking establishment.

And there really is something for everyone on the menu. Even crumpets with Irish butter and local New England maple syrup, a childhood favorite of mine. There are vegetarian options like the grilled cheese and tomato sandwich or a mozzarella and roasted vegetable panini (crunchy, good and filling), soups du jour and four or five cake and pie choices that always look delicious.

But back to my favorite teas here — there are more! I love the Christmas Spice, a “black tea with cinnamon, almonds, cloves, orange peel and rose petals!” — which is a wonderful holiday tea, very reminiscent of Paris winter teas. There’s also the Black Currant tea with real cranberry and currant pieces. Wonderful. There’s also their fabulous Earl Grey Organic (I’m very picky about my Earl Grey’ — too many poor versions on the market today)! The black tea is the perfect match to the right amount of real bergamot oil, it’s another fragrant and delicious brew.

There’s also the classic and very popular local  Courtship Tea, sold in a gold tin, labeled as a “romantic blend for Lords & Ladies, blended exclusively for Donna and Ron Lasko, Tea Consultants & Lecturers,” on Cape Cod’s historic town of Osterville.  It’s a “blend of the finest black teas and the essence of ginger.” It has a delightfully strong (but not too strong) gingery flavor. It’s a great winter tea. Or a valentine’s tea!

I also love their Scottish, Irish and English breakfasts and they have a wonderful chai as well (I am also picky about chai – I like it very spicy and smooth). A soon to be discontinued tea I love is the Coco Cardamon Tango (absolutely delicious!) which is a black tea with cinnamon, cocoa bits and cardamon. I bought a 10 ounce in September and I’m nearly finished with it, it’s so good! Which reminds me, I better get over there next week and pick up more before it’s gone forever (boo hoo)! It’s the ideal “cream tea”. Sweet but not cloying, earthy and mysterious.

Another “mysterious” tea is one of their “exotic” selections… also being discontinued I think! (sad!!!) I make it for my husband every night before bed to help his insomnia. It’s called After Dark which has Egyptian Chamomile, rosehips, peppermint, and a host of other delicate herbs. Another tea I’ll have to stock up on while I can! There’s also an intense, smoky, high quality Puerh Yunnan, which is “a variety of post-fermented tea produced in Yunnan province of China.” And a recent addition is the Indian tisane Tulsi (Holy Basil), an herbal remedy used in Ayurvedic medicine for sore throats, coughs and a host of other complaints. I served some for my husband and myself recently without telling him the name of the tea and he exclaimed wistfully that it must be tulsi, a tea he drank when he lived in India as a Hindu monk when he was very young years ago.

Another tisane we both love from Windsor is the summery, garden party, iced favorite, Wild Strawberry Fruit Tea made of dried strawberries and apples. It’s delightful and refreshing. It’s also a good cocktail mixer when cold! Mix half a glass of Wild Strawberry Fruit Tea with half a glass of champagne and add a little sugar. Voila! Other teas I’ve tasted and enjoyed were Fruity Russian Caravan (served black) and some lovely white and green teas. Perusing their tea shop I spied some other flavors I want to sample like their English Evening, and Tibetan Rhodiola Tea nests (“Black tea with honeysuckle and Rhodiola (ginseng type herb) shaped into tiny tea nests, earthy taste, imparts energy and tastes great with honey) and  Gingerbread Tea and Monk’s Blend (“Black tea flavored with grenadine and vanilla”). They also have a good selection of plain and flavored white and green teas as well as African Bush Rooibos ( the caffeine free honeybush is a house favorite).

The Windsor Tea Shop and Room is inviting and comfortable in a group setting like our book club get-together there, and also pleasant for a nice ‘cuppa’ alone at a quiet corner table. There are Victoria and Yankee and Afternoon Tea magazines at your disposal and a nice background of classical music playing not too loudly for guests to enjoy subdued conversation. The service is knowledgeable, attentive and friendly. The owner, Judy, is an affable and highly informed tea expert and always makes her guests feel welcome, down to the vintage handmade decor, lovingly made by her mother and the beautiful china and adorable tea cozies (which they sell there and of which I’ve bought two)! They are great about changing the water and offering you fresh tea (I think we were all so absorbed in the book conversation and in eating we forgot to do this). And Judy spends time with you exploring the teas and patiently answering all tea inquiries. I’m overall happy with this local gem and recommend it to friends, family and now… to Boston Tea Party readers!

If you’re looking for a cozy, shabby chic cottage, country afternoon tea, this is your place! If you’re looking for a fancier, glamorous tea, try the former Ritz, now the Taj (fabulous) or any number of upscale hotel teas in Boston (which we will be visiting and revisiting and reviewing in the upcoming year)!


Shirley’s Take:

I ordered the selection of sandwiches and sweets with a pot of tea.  They included (counterclockwise from bottom-right): Chicken Salad Sandwich; Mint Cucumber Sandwich; Pumpkin Bread Sandwich; Maple-Walnut Scone; Profiterole; Eclair topped with Mexican Wedding Cake; and Spinach Brownie.  The extensive menu also offers countless other desserts, soups, salads, and entrees.  Rebecca ordered the two-scone basket in the first photo, and Rachel got a grilled cheddar sandwich.

That chicken salad was awesome.  I spied some raisins in there and it had a bit of onion, which I love in chicken salad.  The cucumber sandwich was good, and I couldn’t detect the mint, which was nice because I hate the stuff except in toothpaste and chewing gum.  The pumpkin bread sandwich was really something, like a pumpkin spice cake with the most delicious filling of marmalade, cream, and walnuts.  The maple-walnut scone reminded me of pancakes, and though it was tasty I think I prefer a more traditional scone for teatime.  The other offering that day was a cranberry-orange scone.  The profiterole, cream puff, and wedding cake were all right.  The spinach brownie was like a crustless quiche, eggy and light.

I chose lemon curd and clotted cream to accompany my scone, and whipped cream and jam were also offered.  I couldn’t believe they were served in disposable plastic cups, with all the beautiful china on the table, but they were so good it was completely forgiveable.  Rebecca mentioned that it was “the best lemon curd you’ll ever taste,” but I often have doubts when something is declared “the best.”  She was not exaggerating!  The tart, sweet, and smooth aspects were in perfect balance — not too much pucker.

Let me backtrack a little.  The tearoom is located in Cohasset, a picturesque and peaceful-looking town on the South Shore.  Sweet and spicy aromas greet you the second you walk into the tearoom.  The place is cute and has a relaxed country vibe unlike the fancier hotels in Boston, and is decorated with plenty of beautiful china and quilts.  Walls of tea and teatime things are on display for sale, including some novel items like decorated sugar cubes and teatime-themed nightlights.  The waitstaff was polite and helpful.  At $22 (plus tax & tip) for tea , sandwiches, and sweets, it’s a real deal over the Boston hotels and you’ll leave plenty full.

I think my one disappointment was my Yorkshire tea, a black blend.  It had an undertaste I didn’t like, and bitter or sour aren’t the right words to describe it.  Sugar cubes improved it.  The tea also got cold, despite the pot being in a cozy, though I’m sure they would have been happy to add more hot water.  That said, everyone else appeared to enjoy their teas.  I was feeling adventurous, but next time I would have to go back to my old faithful, English breakfast.  And yes, I anticipate quite a few next times to this tearoom.

Comments from the gang:

Marianne: I had the “Courtship” tea, which was delightful, very gingery and sweet, two potfuls, perfect for a cool fall day. My afternoon tea plate was delicious, the cranberry orange scone a bit dry but compensated for with truly awesome lemon curd. As you mentioned, I think they ought to spring for something other than plastic for the clotted cream & curd, odd to see a plastic cup with lid full of lemon curd on top of a doily-lined English China plate. The background music of romantic/classical music, piano-based, was not distracting and was relaxing. The service seemed very attentive. We were never without enough tea, which is key.

Kirk: I had the House Blend. It was nice, yet subtle. Had two potfuls. Next time, something else for sure. I liked that lunch and tea was offered. Loved the lemon curd too. I agree with Marianne about service and music.

Windsor Tea Room is located at 1 Pleasant St. in Cohasset, MA.

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