My February Tea was at the small Cottage Garden Tea Room in Lakeland, Florida. I thoroughly enjoy visiting different tea rooms as we travel. I found the Cottage Garden Tea Room and Gift Shop on Teamap.com prior to our trip.
Afternoon Tea is served at the Cottage Garden Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11:30, 1:30 and 3:30. Reservations are required 24 hours in advance. The menu includes a choice of Afternoon Tea (scones, tea sandwiches, fruit, dessert), Quiche Tea (scones, quiche, salad and dessert), Royal Tea (scones, tea sandwiches, quiche, salad, fruit and dessert), Cream or Dessert Tea (scones or dessert), Child's Tea (PNBJ sandwich, fruit, dessert or ice cream sundae)
Although they advertise 100 loose leaf teas in their gift shop, we were offered a limited choice of English Breakfast, Apricot or Raspberry hot tea or Raspberry or plain iced tea. Our Afternoon Tea was served on a three tier server. Sandwiches included cucumber triangles on white bread, chicken salad on croissants, and tuna on wheat. Note: The tuna salad was made with tuna, nuts and raisins. The tuna salad was sweet. I asked if it was sweetened and the owner told me it is made the day before so the raisins would plump and and naturally sweeten the tuna salad.
Our scones were cranberry pumpkin spice oatmeal served with strawberry jam. Coming from wintertime in Kentucky, the fresh Florida strawberries and honeydew melon were fabulous served with fresh pineapple.
Mini desserts included individual servings of banana pudding, lemon curd cake and sugar cookies.
Do you see the tongs on the top of the server? These are 'teabag tongs' commonly used in England for "stringless" teabags. I have never seen them used as serving tongs on a three tier server for afternoon tea, but they worked just fine and are less expensive than the silver plated larger tongs most tearooms use.
Several other tearooms I called in the area were serving lunch rather than afternoon tea, or required a minimum of 10 for afternoon tea. Therefore, I chose the Cottage Garden Tea Room.
We enjoyed the experience, but the service was slow. Their menu warns "A tea room is not a fast food restaurant. Please allow time to enjoy your experience and the company you share it with." However, we were seated for 40 minutes before our pots of tea were served and 50 minutes before our food came. There were three tables of guests at our seating (5, 3 and 2 people.) In our opinion, we thought 50 minutes was too long especially considering reservations are required in advance. Some tea rooms require credit card information with reservations to cover their expense and try to prevent no-show customers. Afternoon tea service is very labor-intensive. Perhaps the Cottage Garden Tea Room should consider taking credit cards to assure reservations and to help speed up service. Any thoughts on this?