After getting drenched, having balls slung at our heads and running all over a golf course, long-suffering reporter Coleen Daniell and I decided we deserved a treat doing the Let’s Try It! series, where we sacrifice ourselves to show entertaining things to do in Mansfield.
Having high tea at the Kupa Tea tearoom was no sacrifice, it was all treat. Of course, we didn’t know that when we took the assignment. After reading about it (since neither of us had actually ever had high tea), our expectations were of small, stale, crustless sandwiches with cold slices of cucumbers, brick-like scones and a cup of hot flavorless tea. But we were willing to do that for our readers.
Turns out, you have to make a reservation 24 hours in advance for high tea at Kupa Tea, so the tearoom staff can make scones. That set us back a day, but we were undeterred. Even the price -- $21.95 each for the three courses or $16.95 apiece for two courses -- wasn’t going to slow us down.
We decided if we were going to do this, we were going to do it right. We both wore airy summer dresses, pearls and white gloves. Coleen even sported a British fascinator, a lovely turquoise peacock and ostrich feather headpiece that would have made the royal family proud. When we arrived, the Kupa Tea staff immediately knew we meant business. In fact, everyone in the place turned and stared. Some mouths even dropped open. (None of them weren’t wearing feathers or pearls.)
We were quickly shown to the place of honor, a pretty table covered in a lace tablecloth set with Royal Albert Old Country Roses china, just like my great-grandmother owned. Coleen looked over a selection of hot teas and chose a pot of Bourbon Street Vanilla Rooibos, a wonderful smelling tea that probably would have tasted great even before we added two cubes of sugar and a slurp of cream -- but we added them anyway and it tasted like dessert. We crooked our little fingers and partook of the lovely tea.
Co-owner Jana Barker brought out a plate of scones, which didn’t look anything like we expected. They were moist, delicious triangles of blueberry and apple cinnamon. Jana explained that these weren’t traditional scones, because she “wanted something tasty.”
Again, they were delicious by themselves, but we added dollops of strawberry jam and -- our new obsession -- Devonshire cream. How to explain the wonders of Devonshire cream, this light, fluffy, creamy concoction? Chef Mike Calbo told us that it’s a blend of sour cream, cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest and a lot of powdered sugar. All we know is that it tastes amazing on scones, strawberries and probably even dirt.
“I love this cream deeply with all of my heart,” Coleen sighed.
We slathered it on the blueberry scones. We drizzled it on the apple cinnamon scones. We began to wonder what life was like before we tried this incredible cream. What was life like for people who hadn’t?
“Look at all those poor people who haven’t discovered Devonshire cream,” Coleen said, looking around at the other tables. “Their lives are hollow and empty. Their clothes fit.”
We could have just eaten the Devonshire cream and called it a day, but Jana had two more courses of treats planned for us. She brought a plate of four sandwiches, two small crescent rolls with chicken salad and two crustless cucumber sandwiches. The chicken salad was lovely with apple chunks, grapes and pecans, but the cucumber sandwiches were surprisingly good. They tasted like a Greek salad, lively and crisp. Kupa Tea put its own spin on the traditional cucumber sandwich, Jana admitted, adding black olives, onions, red peppers, oil and vinegar.
And then came dessert. The chef decided to whip up some boozy berries for the occasion, Jana said, strawberries and blueberries floating in vermouth and -- oh wow! -- more Devonshire cream. The train came by right about then, almost drowning out our sighs of bliss. Almost.
When Coleen got caught attempting to lick the plate, Connie Mier, one of the servers who was passing by, paused and said, “We don’t judge.”
Then came a slice of cheesecake apiece with whipped cream and a chocolate-covered strawberry on top. As good as it was, we came close to not even finishing the cheesecake, but we sucked it up and cleaned our plates.
By this time, we had gotten to know most of the staff, who said they wished we would stay for the whole afternoon. Since opening in February, Kupa Tea has had about a dozen high teas, Connie said, “but not as many who have as much fun as you two. When you came in with your fascinator, I was like ‘she gets it!’”
We did stay for quite awhile, watching as regular customers kept the tearoom busy. Kupa Tea has salads, quiche, soups, sandwiches and iced teas. The place offers a great setting for a lovely afternoon and a spot of tea, with soft green walls with white wainscoting, half a dozen crystal chandeliers, fresh flowers on all the tables and jazz playing softly.
This is what Jana and her partner, Judi Ray, had in mind when they opened the tearoom, she said
This was the most enjoyable job we’ve had in awhile, Coleen and I agreed.