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EXPLORE CENTRAL OREGON: AK'S TEA ROOM
Exploring Central Oregon May 31st, 2018

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   In the heart of downtown Redmond, you’ll find a charming surprise from across the pond— an authentic British teahouse where you can enjoy a proper cup of tea with sumptuous scones, sweets, savories and sandwiches.

   While there are many items to enjoy on the menu, you can’t go wrong with Tea for Two —  two scones with clotted cream and lemon curd or preserves (made in-house), several savouries of the day, two finger sandwiches, and a large pot of tea are laid out for you in a gorgeous display.

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   There is a unique personal history behind the teahouse.  Owner Karen George grew up in the little village of Cippenham with her grandparents, right next door to Windsor, the castle seat for the Royal Family. Tea and scones were a regular occurrence. When the weather was rainy and miserable, her nana baked delicious goods which made the home feel comfortable and cozy. She remembers toasting crumpets in the open fireplace. These warm experiences inspired Karen to study home economics in school.

   When she moved to America, Karen and her friends found it extremely difficult to get a “proper” cup of tea. With encouragement from her friends, Karen created a place where people could get their tea done right — along with a few other delicacies from England.

   Some of the recipes are Karen’s gran’s recipes brought from Windsor, like the scones. One of the teahouse highlights is the buttercream — frosting made with real butter. Or sample some quintessentially British offerings — like shortbread with lemon curd or vanilla cakes, which are ubiquitous in England. Karen keeps the menu small and focused so she can steadily deliver delectable delights.

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   All the teas are loose leaf and are accompanied with descriptions that remind you of a wine or beer connoisseur. “Delicate with a hint of earl grey and jasmine.” “Malty, strong black tea.” “Darjeeling with a touch of currants and wine.”

   Although Karen is a stickler about the quality of her pastries and tea, she points out that a British tea isn’t necessarily about what’s brought to the table. It’s about the time it takes and the conversation that happens across the tops of your teacups. If you’re looking for a place to zone out alone in front of your laptop, AK’s Teahouse is not the place to be. It’s arranged for community with round tables to promote conversation. The lack of internet pushes people to put their devices away. Nor is it the place to go if you’re in a hurry. Sandwiches are made after you order; they’re never prepacked. And don’t expect your ticket when your meal is brought. When the tea set is lovingly laid out across the tablecloth, you’ll have to wait for it to steep. Tea can’t be rushed.

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   Teatime is also about experiencing another time and place. When you walk into AK’s Tea Room, the spirit and romance of the English countryside comes alive. You’re greeted with the staid, pleasant welcome of its English owner. And the little teahouse is arranged with inviting spaces festively decorated to reflect the season. From the welsh dresser to the triple-layered plate servers and the real china tea cups served on their individual saucers, you’re getting an authentic experience. The old English villages still have teahouses much like this one.

   There are some differences from the English countryside that Americans will appreciate. In England, the rooms are often low and cramped. Sometimes, you have to duck when walking from one room to another. AK’s is housed in an old historic hotel. The ceilings are vaulted so there’s plenty of room to stand up straight. And some recipes are altered to suit American tastes. Since Americans tend to not like dried fruit, Karen often infuses flavors such as lemon or lavender into the baked goods instead. Sometimes, there has to be a little shifting to accommodate American sensibilities. She includes pumpkin in the menu during November. And, since most Americans believe they hate mincemeat — which is mixed fruit soaked in booze, like a fruit chutney — they call it Fall Shortbread. With the change of name, they sell out. Americans love mincemeat, apparently.

   If you think that teatime is just for girls, you’re wrong. You’ll find all sorts of people enjoying a cup of hot tea and delicious treats. The clientele also spans generations. Some have even begun family traditions, coming every year the teahouse has been open.

   You may be wondering about how to prepare and drink a proper cup of tea if you’re not from England. If you are, here are a few of Karen’s rules:

  1. The most important part of a good cup of tea is to make it with boiling hot water. Karen warns you’ll miss out on the full taste of the tea if you steep it in anything cooler.
  2. Tea must be drunk from a china cup and saucer. Sorry, but it’s just not the same in a mug.
  3. Loose leaf tea is better than tea in a bag.
  4. Tea may be drunk on its own, but if you wish to add something, add milk, not cream. Coffee is stronger and so the cream enhances it. But tea is more delicate and needs something a little thinner.
  5. Finally, drink your tea slowly. Chat with a friend. And let tea’s soothing qualities warm you both.

 

   She also offers guidelines for classic times for tea:

  • Scones with butter are for “elevenses” — that short break for light refreshments, usually with tea or coffee, at about 11 o’clock in the morning.
  • An afternoon tea should probably offer tea sandwiches with the crusts cut off — things like cream cheese and cucumbers are classic offerings.
  • Another cup of tea can be enjoyed at 8 or 9 o’clock at night. You can even take your tea to bed with you.

   Nevertheless, it’s always a good time for tea at AK’s Teahouse.  

AKstearoom@hotmail.com

(541) 526-5522

Karen George

British tea room serving authentic cream teas & afternoon/high teas. Also available, salads and sandwiches. Hours: Tues-Sat 10am-4pm Sun 11am-3pm