All Things Tea
300 Lantana St., Camarillo
445-8327 or http://www.tea-liteful.com
A traditional English tea is one of life’s finer pleasures. Delicate finger sandwiches, tender scones, sweet cream and zesty lemon curd — when these tasty morsels, both savory and sweet, come to the table beautifully decorated and artfully presented, they are the very definition of class and sophistication. Not merely to be eaten, but savored slowly, one polite nibble at a time, with sips of quality tea to wash it down.
There are a few places in the county that serve a nice tea, and in Camarillo, that place is All Things Tea. Located in the Camarillo Paseo Courtyard, the small but charming tea room fits right in with its neighbors, which likewise hit some high culinary notes: wonderful pho (Basil and Mint), a decent dim sum (Peking Inn) and fine dining (Sheila’s Wine Bar).
The shop features a handful of small round tables topped with lace, and shelves all around lined with teatime provisions: china tea sets, electric kettles, pretty cups and saucers and the like. The cleverly designed tea cozies caught my eye. Sewn by a local seamstress, these come in a variety of colorful patterns (switched up every season) and fit snuggly around a pot thanks to a ribbon drawstring. Dozens of loose-leaf tea varietals — black, green, red, herbal, blended, flavored, you name it — are sold by the ounce, and by the pot for tea service customers.
The tea service menu starts with a simple cream tea (a scone with butter and jam), and increases in complexity from there. Soup, quiche and a few salads are also available for a more traditional lunch. The sweets and savories available for the tea service are changed daily. To get the full experience, I opted for the elaborate high tea, with tea sandwiches, a scone, fruit and a variety of desserts.
From the expansive tea list I selected a pot of Susan’s Savory Vanilla, a traditional black tea with vanilla essence; and it arrived piping hot and brewed to perfection, wrapped in a cozy to maintain the ideal temperature. Before assembling my tray, my friendly and helpful server brought a platter of sweets from which to choose. On her recommendation, I selected the apple bread pudding and lemon bar to accompany my egg salad and havarti and fruit sandwiches, and an apricot scone served with lemon curd and cream.
What came to my table shortly thereafter was a very tempting assemblage of petite delights served on a tiered rack. The egg sandwiches were open-face, piped to resemble scallop shells on top of delicate bread rounds. The square havarti sandwiches were layered with fig jam and apples, making for a tasty — if a bit sweet — combination. The scone was warm, buttery and soft, and the lemon curd was pure perfection — I actually polished it off with a spoon when (I hoped) nobody was looking.
After all that, I still had several desserts to get through. The shortbread cookie was cute, cut into the shape of a teapot, but a little too soft, and rather dull to the taste. The bread pudding was better: not very sweet, letting the wholesome flavor of the apples (and a touch of caramel) shine through. The tea-infused truffle was a surprise: I hadn’t expected to pick up on the tea flavor at all, but it did very subtly perfume the bitter chocolate. My favorite was the lemon bar, which was wonderfully tart and packed a solid citrus punch.
I enjoyed my meal, but it was the cunning little details that impressed me the most: that perfectly designed tea cozy, prettily patterned china, a lovely silver trivet for the teapot, tiny spoons and tongs for the condiments and even a miniature spatula to hold the hot-from-the-oven scone. In the sugar bowl I found a solitary cube decorated with a wee pink rose. Between these charming touches, the fine tea and delicious baked goods, it was a truly pleasurable — or, as they say at All Things Tea — tea-lightful afternoon.