The English Teacup is an institution that has been quietly serving the community for 35 years. Located in a strip mall on South Havana the home-like interior is an unexpected contrast to the concrete jungle outside. The space is divided into two rooms, one dedicated to imported snacks and wares, the other a quiet dining room serving a proper tea time. Candies, pastries, clothing, and even toiletries catering to the largely English clientele line the walls — books celebrating the glories of the crown adorn the shelves. Cadbury, Weetabix, Wine Gums and a great deal of other UK staples are all present — Anglophiles and Englishmen alike will be thrilled by the diversity and authenticity of the items on display.
Despite boasting more than 150 teas to choose from the server will quickly and somewhat forcefully offer a pot of the imported black. The pot of house tea for two ($3) or the pot of flavored tea for two ($3.75) are both excellent choices — each being served in classic teapots and fine well-decorated china. Classic staples like English breakfast, lapsang souchong and Earl Grey are interspersed with more decadent flavors including cinnamon, blackberry and cookies & cream. Creative, modern variations from the French Creek Tea Company lend a New World presence. Their Morning After — a blend of green teas flavored with cranberry, raspberry, black currant, and hibiscus — is crisp and floral with just a touch of berry sweetness.
While excellent alone, tea is best enjoyed with snacks. The chicken curry pastie ($6.25) is a large flaky pastry filled with chicken, mushrooms, onions and a mild yellow curry sauce served hot with a decadent brown gravy. Though it would not be hard to eat alone, the nosh makes an excellent snack for two. The savory treat is remarkable — so much so there is a freezer full of them available to take home.
High tea ($18.95 per person or $54.99 for four) is clearly what the shop does best. Cheese and tomato, cucumber, and egg salad sandwiches, a choice of soup or salad, sausage rolls, scones and tea are leisurely served — the treats piled high on three-tiered platters. The tea menu is out of date, the menu is reasonably hard to navigate and the staff is unconcerned — our hostess chuckled and kindly invited us to open and smell any of the jars that lined the shelf rather than waste our time with the laminated list that hung dejected from the corner. Everything in the place is of exceptional quality and the pacing is dictated by the hosts — a small staff uphold the values of a proper tea. Don’t come here if you are in a rush.
While a sign on the front door advertises free wifi the quaint interior would suggest that there is not a whole lot of work getting done. Within these walls English tea culture is in full effect. Tea time is a largely foreign concept to the American ethic of constant work. The food is marvelous and the service is thoughtful and kind — the speed at which it is served deliberately slowed to force patrons to recognize the beauty of the occasion. As excellent as everything being presented is, the real magic of the place is its ability to create a space outside time where we can slow down and truly focus on those we care about.
The English Teacup, 1930 South Havana St. #5, Aurora.
All photography by Meg O’Neil.