Lisa McDonald expanded TeaHaus, her Fourth Avenue tea store, into the old Cake Nouveau space in September. The extra room, plus Cake Nouveau’s kitchen, has allowed her to bring the classic English tea service to Ann Arbor.
“It’s a three-tier service,” McDonald says, meaning she serves it on a three-tiered tray, like the English do. “Normally when you go to an English tea, your first tier is your savories, which are usually finger sandwiches, and quiches, maybe soups, that type of things,” she explains. “Your second tier is your scones [with] clotted cream. The third tier is sweets, like mini-tarts, truffles, or mini-trifles.”
The tea service has proved so popular she’s booking them two or three months in advance for private events, often for wedding and baby showers, and she says people have come from out of state to attend them. But if you just want to come in and enjoy a casual English tea service with a couple of friends, give McDonald two days’ advance notice. The cost is typically $25 per person and includes all the tea you can drink.
The coolest thing about the service may well be the clotted cream. While it might sound like something that went bad in your fridge, McDonald, who makes her own, says it’s practically required eating when you’re having a scone. She says the scones you get overseas are drier than the scones we’re used to here, and regular butter won’t do much to moisten them. Clotted cream will. It tastes like a super heavy cream, and the English slather it on their scones with abandon, along with some jam or lemon curd. It’s so tasty McDonald knows people who actually eat it with a spoon–“but you can probably hear their arteries harden with each bite. You can also put a dollop in your tea. It makes it nice and creamy and rich and yummy.”
McDonald, thirty-seven, also plans on using the added space to do more tea tastings, offering flights for people who’d like to try a variety of teas. “Like you’d get a flight of wine,” she says. “People can come in and have a flight of Japanese teas or Assam teas, and really learn to taste the difference.” (Assam is a region in India well known for its teas.)
For those not up for the whole English tea service package, McDonald now also offers a light menu of sandwiches and finger food to complement the loose tea she’s been selling in bulk–and brewing in small batches for sipping on the spot–since she opened for business two years ago. Offerings include two fresh-baked scones served with lemon curd, homemade jam, and clotted cream for $5.75, and smoked salmon on Mill Pond Bakery rye served with mixed greens and vinaigrette dressing for $6.50. Truffles, tortes, and cakes are available, too, and the menu will change weekly. The original space had seating for six, and the new space gives McDonald seating for sixteen more, although she can squeeze in thirty-five seats for private events. You order at the counter, and the tea and its accompaniments are brought to your table.
All the food is prepared fresh, including the jams and jellies, which McDonald makes using fruit from the Farmers’ Market. Her popular Queen’s Blend combines raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, and she’ll be adding apple butters and plum jams for fall. Jams and jellies aside, McDonald estimates that a good 60 percent of the food she prepares has tea incorporated in it, including her Earl Grey Gelato. “I do a lot of cooking with tea. We’ve taught a couple of cooking with tea classes. It’s a fun ingredient that’s often overlooked.”
TeaHaus, 204 N. Fourth Avenue, 622-0460, Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. teahaus-annarbor.com