Mad Hatter and Sherlock

​Had an amazing time with my two beautiful young ladies.  It is all about experiences this Advent and I have always wanted to have tea at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.  We have had tea at some grand tea houses in our time but never here in Ottawa.  So I made Sarah and Emily get dressed up, we braved the horrible road conditions and headed down town.

I do love to get dolled up and go out from time to time.  I love festive and pretty things, so entering the Chateau had me weak in the knees with all its festive twinkling lights and dozens of uniquely decorated Christmas trees.  As we walked in the door at Zoes lounge my hope for a relaxed mother daughter girly party was already realized as we were all chattering like birds on a balmy spring morning in May.

Once seated, we ordered three adult tea services, unfolded crisply pressed white linen napkins to our laps, settled back comfortably in large, plump stuffed wingback chairs and waited for the tea caddy to arrive.  The menu listed the teas that were available.   We each had some idea of what we wanted, but tea is as much about aroma as it is taste so we really hadn’t a clue until our service came along.  Our server was animated, cheerful and chatty while we sniffed and perused the loose leaf teas in a coaster sized, pewter container.

This is about as good as it gets for someone who has never outgrown Alice in Wonderland and in particular the  Mad Hatter tea party.   Tea is, or should be a natural progression for me.  Here is a little secret…I don’t like tea at all.  I try hard, I want to like it but to me it just tastes like fishfood in muddy water.  The rest of my family love it, Emily and Chris drink it by the gallon.  For this epicurean delight, I have always been on the outside looking in.  That is, until today when I saw  Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong on the menu, a black tea from the Wuyi region in the Fujian province of China that I have wanted to try forever.

The server gave me a critical look and with a sparkle in her eye and a toss of her blond ponytail she gave the pewter cup of leaves to my girls and asked “Should your mom drink this?”  Sarah cautiously sniffed and murmured “Mmmmm campfire.”  Emily sniffed and with confidence declared “My mom has a smoker at home, she will love this, yes!”.  Our server raised a Spock eyebrow and made me a pot of Lapsang Souchong.

After a cautious sip I was instantly transported from a Mad Hatter Tea Party to Mrs. Husdon’s basement apartment at 221b Baker St.  The aroma evoked mahogany paneled walls, soft worn wingback chairs, violin strains in the background and bookcases full of ancient leatherbound tomes of gilded parchment.  I imagined myself eased back in Watsons easy chair sipping my tea that many fans agree the great detective himself would have sipped.  Mad Hatter and Sherlock fantasies in one tea sitting, a fan girls dream I daresay!  After my second sip all the tension that I carry in my shoulders and neck instantly melted away and I was completely relaxed.

Just to clarify, Lapsang Souchong is smoked and an acquired taste.  The tea leaves are picked and laid in cypress baskets and then smoked over pine.  Sarah called it best when she said campfire, that describes the aroma best.  I loved it and imagined a chocolate ganache where the cream is steeped in the tea and then laced with good Scotch.  If it works, I will name it Sherlock.

Our three tier meal arrived and we all tucked in.  The experience lasted about an hour and a half and to my happy surprise my gals were never at a loss for words.  We discussed the merits of the latest anime they are watching and I listened to their songs.  We practised slam poetry which was tons of fun. And, we discussed the differences between oboe, violin and cello. I heard all about the gifts that three boys gave Emily for Christmas and how she was kind but dismissed them all because boys and “ships” are just too annoying.  

On the way out we explored the Chateau a little and accidentally bumped into a fellow dressed in a Gryffindor scarf walking two English Bulldogs dressed in red and white houndstooth coats and little red booties.  Their names Abigale and Adelaide were as sweet as the dogs themselves.  The fellow and I chatted about all things dog, Christmas and Ottawa while my gals made friends with the dogs.  After much doggy loving it was time to say goodbye and head home.

These are the moments that make Christmas and motherhood really special.  I know I will remember this event for the rest of my life.  I had such a lovely afternoon I wanted to skip through the fairy snow and flop in the nearest bank to make snow angels.


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