By Mary Randolph Carter
Like many Americans of my generation, I was raised on the aroma of fresh roasted coffee emanating from one of those old tin coffee pots with the little glass dome on the top perking away on the kitchen stove early in the morning. I wasn’t one of those sophisticated children that started drinking coffee at an early age, but came to it like many of my friends when we went off to college. We smoked then, too, and there was nothing like a mug of coffee and a Marlboro. Though, I threw away the red and white crush-proof box and that terrible habit after marriage and my first pregnancy, the urge for coffee morning, noon and night is still intact. So when did my love of tea begin? I think it must have been the teafirst time I was invited to tea with an English friend who knew, of course, how to brew a real pot of tea and serve it with the most scrumptious little cakes (Lady Fingers were my favorite!) I must admit until then, a tea bag of Tetley’s was about all I had ever brewed, and then only when I had taken to in bed with the worst kind of cold. Tea and lemon with lots of honey was the perfect home remedy, but beyond that medicinal purpose it had no real place on my table or in my cupboard. Until, of course, the tea awakening just mentioned, and as luck would have it, a wonderful tea house, that opened in Millerton, New York, the small town in upstate New York where our country getaway house is located. I had heard of Harney & Sons Fine Teas, but had no idea until they opened their inviting little tea emporium, complete with a tea-tasting bar, in our country neighborhood, how tea-bereft my life had been.
The other big influencer was without doubt my new daughter-in-law Kasia, who has brought into our family many wonderful traditions from her Polish homeland, and among them her love of tea. One of her first gifts to me was a little pale blue teapot she purchased at Harney’s along with a wonderful tin of loose black tea called “Millerton,” especially created for our town by Harney’s founder and master tea guru John Harney. Kasia has made afternoon tea a tradition in our family, particularly on our country weekends when we are cozily gathered around the fire. All of a sudden, she’s headed to the kitchen, announcing as she goes, “Time for a cup of tea! Who will join me?” And, who could not agree it was the best idea in the world, and we all respond in unison, “I will!” Mine is always served in my favorite cup, a funny old oversized one I bought at a yard sale years ago with MOM printed in big orange letters on the side. I don’t know why Kasia’s brew sipped out of that funny old cup is always the best. Probably because she knows exactly how long to let the leaves steep and pours it at the perfect moment, but mainly I think because she does it with great attention and love of the ritual. (And, of course, don’t we all love having someone else make something especially for us?) Though I still love my coffee, particularly to kick-start the morning, drinking tea is a different experience. I look forward to picking out a special blend depending upon the time of day and the season and my mood. I love the smell of the leaves as I open the tin, pouring the boiling water over them through the delicate strainer and the sweet steam rising from the spout of my little tea pot. I love sharing a cup of tea with my family and friends or just curling up alone in a big comfy chair or the corner of the sofa with a favorite book, a little Bach in the background, and maybe a dainty plate of delicious Lady Fingers. Won’t you join me?
Carter’s Favorite Harney & Sons Fine Teas: The Millerton Blend, Vanilla Comoro, a decaffeinated black tea with vanilla, Paris Tea, a fruity black tea with bergamot, Chocolate Mint, Peppermint Herbal, and Citron Green. (You can order a selection of Harney & Sons Fine Teas at
Visti Carter & Cavero Old World Olive Oil Company at their stores in Red Bank, Pier Village/Long Branch and Palmer Square/Princeton, New Jersey or you can shop online at