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franklin county times

Nothing compares with hot tea in a cool hotel

By By Robert St. Johh / food columnist
July 17, 2002
Robert St. John is the executive chef/owner of New South Restaurant Group. His weekly food column appears in various newspapers throughout Mississippi and Louisiana. If you have any questions or comments he can be reached at robert@nsrg.com or (601) 264-0672.
For years, my wife has tried to take me to "tea" at the Windsor Court Hotel.
The Windsor Court in New Orleans is one of the finest hotels around. We stay there occasionally. Given the chance, my wife would live there.
Having afternoon tea is another story. I am not the afternoon-tea-having type. A steaming hot cup of liquid served in sub-tropical South Louisiana heat is not my idea of fun. Give me a Coke, sit me in the corner and I'm good-to-go.
However, after holding out for 15 years, I finally gave in and made a reservation. As luck would have it, my wife was forced to back out at the last minute. Tea for two quickly became tea for one. Resigned to my fate, I went anyway.
Upon entering the room, I was seated at an elegant table set with Wedgwood china and monogrammed silver. A man was playing the harp. The room was cool and calm. The mood was formal but comfortable. It was an atmosphere my wife would have devoured with a fork and spoon.
I was presented with two options: The Royal Tea ($23) or the Classic Tea ($18). Both served with tea sandwiches (sans crust), scones (a British term for triangular-shaped biscuit with sugar on top) and tea cakes (mini-pound cake with nuts). I opted for the Classic, served with the Windsor Court special-blend mango and peach-flavored tea.
The tea arrived along with a tray of bite-sized, little-old-lady sandwiches. The waitress poured the tea into my cup. The stage was now set for my first afternoon-tea experience.
Firstly, let it be known that I never drink hot liquids. In all my life I have never had a cup of coffee, and all of the tea I have ever consumed has been iced and sweetened.
As I picked up the cup the harpist began playing Pachebel's "Canon in D." Blue-hairs were quietly gossiping in the corner. The elegant clink of bone china filled the air. I put the Wedgwood to my lips and took a large gulp of Windsor Court's finest tea. A most civilized and sophisticated tea. An elegant and refined tea. High tea. HOT tea!
The pain started at the tip of my tongue, traveled all of the way to the back of my throat and landed somewhere south of my pancreas. Hot tea is HOT!
I'm not talking about just-a-little-warm-to-the-touch hot. No. I'm talking about searing-and-scalding-journey-to-the-center-of-the-Earth-molten-lava-blistering hot! I let out a yell that turned heads in the lobby and curled hair at the concierge's desk.
Quick, I thought, give me COLD! There was a small pot of cream on the table. I had never put cream in iced tea, but I knew some people put cream in hot tea. Hoping that the cream was cold enough, I quickly added it to my blistering cup of hot-molten hellfire. To no avail. The tea turned it into something that looked like dirty dishwater HOT dirty dishwater.
I immediately ordered a glass of water, just to suck on the ice. After polishing it off in one swig, I ordered the $2.50 glass of passion fruit-flavored iced tea, which, of course, I couldn't taste because the previous tea had melted my taste buds rendering them temporarily useless. I passed on the cream in the iced tea and made quick work of the ice. People were beginning to stare.
For further relief, I ate the crustless egg-salad sandwich and both of the scones. All in two bites. I began to wonder how I had lived 40 years and missed out on this kind of fun.
When my server asked if she could get me anything, I said, "Yes. It would be nice if you could return my taste buds to their original condition sometime in the next decade." But the words didn't sound right. Thanks to my searing-hot cup of atomic tea, my voice sounded like the thick-tongued-slurred speech of the town idiot.
I still don't know how hot tea tastes, but I figure I can make it another 40 years before I need to find out. Besides, it's going to take that long to regain the feeling in my lips.
As I walked out of the room I reflected on my $35.27 tea experience. The cup of Windsor Court's finest still sat on the table. It was two-thirds full and still steaming 45 minutes after it was poured. The harpist was playing a soothing rendition of "Somewhere over the Rainbow." How appropriate, I thought. There's no place like home. There's no place like home.
Next week: The Attack of the Killer Scones.
Barbara Jane Foote's Super Summer Tea
6 tea bags (regular size, or 3 family sized)
2 quarts boiling water
11/2 cups sugar
6 ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate
6 ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
6 ounce can pineapple juice
Handful fresh mint
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Pour boiling water over tea, mint cinnamon and cloves and steep for 20 minutes. Strain into a 1-gallon pitcher. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add juices and stir well. Fill pitcher with water or ice. Can be served hot or cold. (If I were you, I'd go with the cold!)