Celebrate the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party (Dec. 16, 1773) and find sanctuary from your daily routine with a stop at one of the great tea rooms springing up across the USA. Jennifer Sauer, author of The Way to Tea: Your Adventure Guide to San Francisco Tea Culture (waytotea.com), shares her picks with KathyBaruffi for USA TODAY.
Dushanbe Teahouse Boulder, Colo.
"When you enter this soulful Persian teahouse, you will feel blessed by the people of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, who lovingly crafted it in Dushanbe and shipped it to the Rocky Mountains," Sauer says. "This handcrafted, colorful and whimsical artistic masterpiece, with its painted ceilings, ceramic panels, copper sculptures and hand-carved plaster panels, took more than two years to create. The exotic and eclectic menu complements the architecture. You'll find teas from all over Asia, including some limited-edition rare teas." 303-442-4993; boulderteahouse.com
Tea and Sympathy New York City
"Thank goodness the Brits didn't completely give up on America after the tea party scuffle. Otherwise, we might not have this endearing tea room in Greenwich Village," Sauer says. "British memorabilia, including several vintage photos of the queen, cover the walls. Besides great scones, cakes and English tea, they serve excellent bangers and mash, shepherd's pie and pasties. Join the wistful Brits and Anglophiles for some fun, tea and sympathy." 212-989-9735; teaandsympathynewyork.com
Samovar Tea Lounge San Francisco
"A good deal can be learned here about tea and tea cultures from around the world while enjoying premium teas and culturally diverse meals. They offer myriad expressions of tea within a stunning environment that is simultaneously rustic and contemporary," Sauer says. "Check out their outdoor seating, which puts you in the catbird seat for San Francisco's chic fine arts district. You will wish they offered sleepovers." 415-227-9400;samovartea.com
The Tea Room Savannah, Ga.
"Savannah's charm, soulfulness and Southern whimsy all come together here to create a uniquely inviting atmosphere. The Arts and Crafts feel of this tearoom offers a distinctive simplicity and elegance," Sauer says. "The afternoon tea spread includes lemon chiffon pie (made fresh from the lemons of a favorite customer's tree). The lapsang souchong-infused chicken salad sandwich will leave you speechless. There are three good words to describe afternoon tea at The Tea Room: Yum, yum, yum." 912-239-9690; savannahtearoom.com
Ching Ching Cha Washington, D.C.
"It's a surreal and marvelous experience to find an exotic, classical Chinese tea room in the midst of historic Georgetown," Sauer says. "You can sit on the floor on silk pillows around a low table where a ceramic pot sits over a candle for brewing their outstanding tea. This peaceful haven, with high ceilings and skylights, eases you into a delicious rest from daily toil." 202-333-8288; chingchingcha.com
Sawa Tea Lounge & Gallery Vancouver, B.C., Canada
"A large cast-iron teapot hangs from an antique wooden lever as if over a country hearth above a large octagonal table here," Sauer says. "The large table inspires the meeting of new friends over a bowl of Japanese matcha tea or a Japanese lunch. Handmade textiles crafted by owner Ruriko Shimomae add a touch of soulfulness and beauty — two hallmarks of a great tea room." 604-733-7900; sawatea.com
The Dunbar Tea Shop Sandwich, Mass.
"Sandwich is a beautiful little village on Cape Cod," Sauer says. Which means this former carriage house, with knotty pine paneling, fireplace and garden, resembles a British tea room — and is not far from where the more famous (or infamous) tea party took place. Everything is homemade, and there's a huge selection of desserts, including the signature "Bumbleberry Pie," made with blackberries, blueberries and raspberries and loads of whipped cream. Afternoon tea, as well as shepherd's pie and other big, hearty dishes, is served here. 508-833-2485; dunbarteashop.com
TeaGschwendner on Halstead St. Chicago
Many items on the menu at this sleek, modern shop and bistro are made with tea (the rosebud blossom crème brûlée, for example, is infused with tea). Monthly tasting dinners, where five courses are paired with five teas, are also offered. "Guests are welcome to linger with a pot of tea here and never feel rushed," Sauer says. 773-525-0671; www.teagschwendner.com
Tower of Cosmic Reflections Portland, Ore.
"You will be transported to another land in this exquisite tea room, furnished with Ming and Tang Dynasty-style tables and chairs, within Portland's Classical Chinese Garden," Sauer says. "They offer teas from all over Asia. I loved the old-growth pu-erh teas, harvested from ancient tea trees in southern China. The tea servers are extremely knowledgeable about tea." 503-224-8455; taooftea.com, then click on "teahouses"
Floating Leaves Seattle
"Floating Leaves is the perfect name for this serene yet enlivening tea room in Seattle's Ballard district. Native Taiwanese owner Shiuwen Tai brews a fabulous oolong and is eagerly engaged in the community, offering tea events and education. You will feel like you just floated into a familiar yet exotic tea salon that harkens back to old Asian traditions. It is simultaneously invigorating and relaxing, just like a good cup of tea," Sauer says. 206-529-4268;floatingleaves.com