Best authentic English tea (2000)

The Gift Box

Along with cards, ceramic figures, earrings and ornaments, the Gift Box has always boasted several shelves lined with English jams, biscuits, chocolates, condiments and even cleaning supplies, along with a freezer crammed with crumpets, sausage rolls, pasties and bangers; homesick Britishers have been known to visit just to smell the Dettol. But owners David and Carole Scribner always envisioned something more: a genuine English tearoom. So this year, when they moved into a larger location a few doors down from their original shop, they added tables, chairs and china and placed lacy curtains over the windows. And in April, the Gift Box began serving tea -- a real English tea. The scones here are nothing like the huge, sweet, triangular pastries familiar to most Americans; they're small, warm ovals, waiting to be slathered with butter or jam and Devonshire cream. The assortment of crustless finger sandwiches includes cucumber on brown bread, of course. There are woolly tea cozies on all the teapots, inside of which the tea is properly brewed, fine and strong. And should you have any question about which goes into the cup first, the tea or the milk, Carole will be happy to enlighten you. This isn't the ineffably elegant tea served by big hotels and accompanied by harp music and obsequious servers, nor the display of mimsy tidbits favored by certain society hostesses. It's just what tea is supposed to be: a nice mid-afternoon pick-me-up; a proper cuppa with a bit of something savory, a bit of something sweet.


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