Earlier this month, we were down at the Gryphon Tea Room in Savannah, where they serve a dozen or more teas in fat porcelain pots. The afternoon we were there, a cold front was blowing in. Outside on Bull Street, people on bicycles and walking dogs were buttoned up against the gusts. Inside, sitting at one of the marble-topped tables, two women spoke softly, sipped slowly, but they were immensely noticeable. Likely in her 70s, one was dressed head to foot in fire-engine red – lipstick, sweater, pants and shoes – and carried the bright color with elegant confidence. When she stood to go, her blonde, full-length fur coat nearly slipped from the back of her chair. One of the wait staff – most there are students from Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) – swooped in to help. “Thank you,” the elder woman said. “Would you believe I’ve had this mink for more than 35 years?” And her friend added, “We’re both artists. We meet here and then go to the museums.” With that, they pulled on their coats, made their way to the door. I wish I could tell you who the two women were. But I can’t. My own pot of tea had just been brought to the table. It just wasn’t the time to break into a scene that wasn’t mine. There was food, drink, art and a southern lilt and grace in that 100-year-old former apothecary. It was a Savannah composite, to be sure.
Then this past weekend, I invited some friends to the house for tea around the aluminum Christmas tree. Peter Frank took some pictures of the cookies I made from a recipe in this month’s Gourmet, a walnut shortbread that you spread with blackberry jam to make sandwich cookies. (Butter, toasted crunch, jam… I loved them as much as anyone.) We also had chicken salad and cheese crackers, and I brewed American Classic tea, which is made from the tea hedges that grow a few miles down the road on Wadmalaw Island. (Their black tea is also very good in a punch with ice, blackstrap rum, sugar and lime juice… we found that out at Thanksgiving.) Here’s to tea.
- Sandy Lang, December 2008