Meetup Report: International Lolita Day at Serenitea

Meetup Report: International Lolita Day at Serenitea

I love these instant pictures! This was from a small printer instead of an Instax.

I always feel nostalgic about International Lolita Day, but I don’t often remember to celebrate it. I love that there’s a rallying day for the fashion community, and I wish I gave it more attention when it comes around—especially since it occurs twice a year, on the first Saturday in June and the first Saturday in December. That should mean that I at least remember one of them, but sometimes it doesn’t quite work out that way!

This year a dear friend of mine reminded me about the upcoming event and invited me to afternoon tea in time… and not just any friend, the very person who initially came up with the concept for this frilly “holiday” back in 2005 and organized the first celebration with the EGL community on ye olde Livejournal! 💖

The event on this first Saturday in June was hosted at Serenitea in Oak Park. Although it isn’t located in Chicago, it was easily accessible from both the Metra commuter train and the CTA green line. (I rode the L to and from; I prefer to take public transit when it’s available.) The tea room is a very short walk and fairly easy to identify. The location is rather small, but it still has a separate room for parties, which in general I prefer for meetups.

I regrettably forgot to take any pictures… I wore a pair of new shoes that savaged the backs of my ankles and distracted me from collecting a good record, so please forgive my lack of thoroughness in this “report”.

The afternoon tea menu is available with options for vegan and gluten-free needs, which our party appreciated. The gluten-free items were served on the same plates as the items containing gluten, so guests with very strict needs may benefit from making additional requests and confirming that there is no cross-contamination. The selection of finger sandwiches, scones, and desserts seemed like pretty standard fare for a tea menu. It had a more rustic and homemade appearance and feel than hotel tea service. Each guest selected their own tea from a fairly large list of loose leaf options that were served in petite teapots. The teapots are cute, but they are extremely difficult to pour from without sloshing half of the tea all over the table; better teapots, possibly equipped with drip-catchers, would immensely improve the experience!

The seatings for our group involved small tables that sat four at each. This can make the group seem divided, but it did make conversation at the individual tables a bit easier to follow and participate in. We did an introduction round-table and milled around a bit, particular between courses and after most of the food items had been consumed. There was an attached shop room with vintage-themed tea goods that several people used as a spot for photos; it was possible to do this without bothering any other customers or guests. One attendee brought a small printer and graciously provided instant photos for everyone else! 📸 I love those cameras at meetups.

When our reservation ended we took a few pictures outside. There was brief discussion about extending our time together, but the ominous clouds overhead caused most people to vote for heading home. I managed to just barely beat the rain other than a few sprinkled droplets during the walk back to the train station! ☔

Overall, I had a lot of fun celebrating International Lolita Day this way (despite my injured ankles that are still slowly healing…), and I enjoyed getting to see several friends that I hadn’t spoken to in a few months as well as meeting some others for the first time! Perhaps I’ll remember to see what’s planned for December… ❄️

Sweet Treats: Mariage Frères Covent Garden

Sweet Treats: Mariage Frères Covent Garden

Madeleines and other desserts with tea at Mariage Frères ♥

I adore tea (some things never change!), and I always look forward to opportunities to try new varieties—particularly in lovely settings! Several years ago I was fortunate enough to be in Paris, and I convinced some family members to take a trip to Mariage Frères. I can’t quite recall where I heard of this company… possibly from a friend in Japan, as there are several tea salons from the brothers Mariage throughout the country. Our experience in the Paris tea salon remains a fond memory, so when I realized we’d be taking a trip to London I wanted to see if there was a Mariage Frères location even though it’s a French tea company rather than a British one.

I was lucky to travel with several extremely indulgent people who enjoy desserts, so not only did we visit—we returned! The tea emporium in Covent Garden deserves its name: it’s a large and well-appointed shop with a few museum-like areas and a restaurant. I believe it’s quite new; a few articles I read implied that it opened in 2019. (This article has some beautiful pictures of the emporium!) The tea shop sections on the first floor have an elegant dark-wood apothecary feel while the upstairs restaurant is crisp white with a somewhat tropical impression. A large skylight and tall front windows flood the emporium with natural light. I felt quite thankful that the hours are generous (10am to 10pm while we were there), as it enabled me to dart back for one last purchase before we headed home.

A small cherry blossom-themed cake that was unexpectedly blue!

Although they do offer a full tea service, both times we opted for pots of tea and a few desserts. The desserts varied each time, and our selections (a small citrus cake and a cherry blossom-themed cream dome) tasted marvelous and looked beautiful. A set of two tea-infused madeleines, a staple item on their menu, were so well-received that we ordered an additional set the second time. The tea infusions included Earl Grey—golden brown and so aromatic, the rich emerald tones and grassy notes of matcha, and bright pink floral fruitiness from a tea called “Happy”.

The teas themselves stood out as highlights. I could not have felt luckier to be in London for the sale of 2019 first flush Darjeeling—it’s probably my favourite varietal of tea, and all the shops were selling their new harvest! Mariage Frères offers Darjeeling from several different estates from the region. I loved being able to select from so many options and compare the tastes. (In the end, I brought home some from Monteviot… and considering that I can’t find it on the website, I’m particularly glad that I went back for it!) I wish I could have tasted them all; the Castleton, Monteviot, and Namring King Upper were all absolutely lovely. 🍃

Mariage Frères Covent Garden
Earl Grey and Happy madeleines with a cup of Castleton noveau 2019 Darjeeling ♥

Although I’ve enjoyed Darjeeling for many years, I didn’t really know as much about it until I started reading a few articles in my 2019 first flush excitement! I wasn’t aware that it’s a particular plant as well as from a specific region—Camellia sinensis var. sinensis instead of Camellia sinensis var. assamica (called “Assam”). It has smaller leaves and is harvested by hand. It’s grown at a higher elevation than most teas. It’s also subject to a significant amount of fraud: 40k tons are sold per year and 11k tons are produced per year. (I’m reminded of counterfeit concerns regarding olive oil and balsamic vinegar…) I feel even more appreciation for this tea now that I’ve done a smidge of reading about it! I plan to continue learning more.

I wish there was a Mariage Frères tea salon closer to my home… I’d love to be able to take a book there, order a pot of tea, and read. The setting, service, and quality of tea (and sweets!) definitely impresses me. Maybe someday the United States will get a location, but until then I’ll have to keep an eye out when I’m traveling!

Tea, tea, and more tea from my adventures in London!

At least I can now brew a few cups at home in my own tiny Mariage Frères tea pot! It was a gift, and one I am enjoying quite a bit more than I expected! It serves just under four teacups worth of tea and has a usefully wide opening at the top, as well as a generously-sized metal steeping basket. I’ve owned other petite tea pots that are more a of a nuisance to clean than they are worth or which don’t have enough brewing space for the leaves to open. The silver tea scoop is extremely pretty, as well, and I no longer feel anxious about using it since I learned how to properly polish my silverplate!

Of course, we didn’t stop only at Mariage Frères—I plan to share a few thoughts about the Twinings and TWG shops as well. 💕 Please look forward to it! ☕

Meetup Report: Tea at the Langham

Meetup Report: Tea at the Langham

Champagne Tea
I have such fond memories of this tea experience~ I hope to go back sometime.

In early February I went to tea at The Langham. I adore having tea service at hotels, and this was one I had not been to before, so I was very excited. (Also, it had been quite a while since I had tea at a hotel, as my financial situation has changed and I have to take care in regards to this kind of extravagance.)

The Langham serves their afternoon tea in the “Pavilion” space. This was a lovely dining area with large windows and bright design. With off-white chairs and couches, marble tabletops, and lots of shiny chrome, it looked very open and illuminated.

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