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Coffee & Tea 2

El Cerrito – Tea for Alice – Queen of lemon tarts

rworange | Jan 8, 2006 11:47 AM

I really like Tea for Alice. It always cheers me up. On my second visit, I put in a take-out order for the soup of the day and two house-made lemon tarts ($1.50).

The lemon tarts are filled to order and lovely. The half-dollar sized shortbread crust tarts have a sweet deep lemony filling and are topped with a perfect fresh blueberry. The generous thick cream of mushroom soup was full of chopped mushrooms and mushroom flavor. For less than $5, it was a warming lunch on a cold rainy day.

The cherry on the cake though was that the lunch was attractively packed. The tarts were on a white doily. The napkin was pretty with bright colors and flowers. Opening the bag made me smile.

It was nice to see the shop seems to be doing well. Many of the tables were filled with mothers and daughters enjoying tea. One mom was making arrangements to hold a birthday party, a great place for one.

The owner of Tea for Alice, Sandra Hunt, is still working out the hiccups of this new business, Her intention is that the service and food matches the lovely ambiance. She is seeking out the best and freshest local products.

The cold cuts are from a local Italian deli and the scone provider recently changed and is currently Sconehenge.

Hunt is still looking for a fresh bread supplier. No jellied cranberry sauce either. The sandwiches are made to order. While Hunt is still working on her artistic flair, she prefers simple, non fussy plating.

While waiting for my order, I glanced at some of the tables to see what was for tea that day. Those doilies were added to the tea plates, which made them look more festive.

The baked goods (except for the lemon tarts) are from Virginia Bakery and Just Desserts. Nothing I’ve seen to date looks like it is from Just Desserts though. On my visit I was trying to get a piece of the princess cake made by Virginia Bakery. Didn’t realize Virginia Bakery even made princess cake. The bakery only sells whole cakes and this was a chance to sample it by the slice. Unfortunately, no princess cake that day.

I hope that Hunt eventually puts a picture of the tea room on her website, because I just didn’t describe it adequately ... which I knew from the responses I was getting. It is hands down the most attractive tea room that I’ve seen in the Bay Area. It’s not the usual flower prints and sometimes worn gentility of tea rooms It's not "grandma" frilly, but rather whimsical meets traditional.

Tea rooms gained popularity in the early 1900's as a gathering place for women, and she wants to honor this tradition -- yet not exclude the male persuasion either. She did everything herself ... from decorating (actually painted the walls herself) to creating the menu.

Alice in Wonderland (classic, not Disney) was her inspiration during her battle with breast cancer last year. When she came out of the battle alive she wanted a place to go to relax and enjoy life ... she felt others too could relate to Alice (and all her adventures), and would also enjoy a little escape from reality -- thus Tea for Alice was born.

That really comes across. It is like a pleasant little garden in Wonderland ... and VERY un – El Cerrito. As I said this time and last, it always brings a smile to my face.

I look forward to seeing how the tea room evolves. Very nice when in the El Cerrito shopping mall area to take a break. So much better than the five Starbucks and one Peet’s which are pushing another local business, JR Muggs out of business. Nice to have this bright little spot in the nabe … and Tea for Alice serves Teance tea.

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