- Associated Press - Sunday, May 29, 2016

STAUNTON, Va. (AP) - The Anne Hathaway Cottage on West Beverley Street has been transformed into a high tea room and it’s something straight out of England.

It’s to be expected, considering the new owner hails from Manchester, England. Tables are set up with fancy tea pots and the environment is warm and inviting.

The cottage is named for William Shakespeare’s wife and is just down the road from the American Shakespeare Center.

Owner Alfred “Alfie” Farrand has been all over the world, but has gone back to his roots by serving high tea to the ladies in the area. Previously, Farrand worked for the movie business and did lighting for numerous production. He settled down in Vancouver, Canada. Then he came to the states.

Farrand owned a tea room in Columbiana, Ohio, but the town was small and he was looking for a bigger market.

“I looked back in my own culture and came up with a high tea,” he said.

On a whim he and his wife, Barbara, purchased the cottage and started renovating it last year. The cottage no longer serves as a bed and breakfast. Farrand had to add a commercial kitchen and the top floor of the building was converted to a living space for him and his wife to live in.

What makes good tea? Farrand prefers ones with an Assam leaf or a Kenyan leaf.

“You mix those right then you get a good cup of tea,” he said.

The key to a good cup of tea you need to swirl hot water in the tea pot and empty it. It’s one tea bag for the pot, then another tea bag for each person drinking it. It’s brewed for three minutes, Farrand said.

High tea is a cultural experience in England that started in the 1700s, Farrand said.

“It was for high society ladies,” Farrand said. “They would invite other society ladies and sit around and talk to basically find out what was going on around them.”

The tea room at the Anne Hathaway Cottage is for adults-only, Farrand said. He’s been seeing a good influx of guests in the three weeks the tea room has been open. Many are making it a part of their regular stop, he said. High tea happens between 3 and 6 p.m. with small edibles to hold them over until a late dinner, Farrand said. It’s a quiet time. No devices, no television, no loud music, just good old-fashion conversation.

“This is an adult-friendly lady’s tea room,” he said. “It’s an experience. Now women have a place to go instead of following their husbands around.”

Farrand makes everything from hand - and it’s all miniature. Tiny scones, little sandwiches and light lunches. The teas range from black, green and herbal.

With shows like Downton Abbey bringing these practices to the forefront, the tea craze is growing. It’s also bringing people back to a time that has passed. Some have even traveled hours for the experience and the closest tea room is in Winchester.

“In a high tea, the most important thing is conversation,” Farrand said.

It’s also about relaxing and slowing down.

“It’s a soft place. It’s not about going to a place and hurrying,” he said.


Information from: The News Leader, https://www.newsleader.com

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