Millerton, NY’s Harney & Sons Tea Lounge: charming but not dainty [classic article]

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Tamar Alexia Fleishman, Esq.

Yes, Harney & Son’s Tea Lounge and cafe’ is in an old, shabby-chic farmhouse or railroad type building, but you won’t see ladies with Victorian hats sitting around, extending their pinky finger while grasping a tea cup. In fact, on the afternoon I was there, there were quite a few men enjoying themselves, too. The menu has real-life choices, as well. The lounge is about a mile from Harney & Sons corporate headquarters, in the historic town of Millerton, NY (Dutchess County). I was glad to be hosted to experience it!

The outside is painted in Easter egg colors, but the inside is all French neutral-chic. It’s very cute and quite cozy. There are four parts to the Lounge: a separate tasting room that’s much like a wine tasting room, a bar area for tea, the cafe’ part and the store. Harney’s is considered the premiere tea company in the US, if not the world: you’ll find it in 5-star hotels, the best cafes’, etc.

I was glad to see that tea is used in some of their cafe’ recipes. Raspberry tea was used in an addictively delicious melted cheese appetizer on crusty bread.

The cafe’ serves all of Harney & Sons teas, hundreds of them. It can be a little overwhelming . . . if you only know the flavors of herbal teas, you might feel too weird to ask the server to stand around and describe the flavors of all the other teas. I think they should provide tasting notes on the menu! In the store, it’s the same situation and some of the teas go for $40 + a tin. I would like to have little written notes on a sheet or on cards, so I don’t have to spend the time of a sales associate in a busy, busy establishment to go over everything.

Something that I wouldn’t normally have ordered at a tea lounge, but I was in the mood for, turned out to be the excellent choice! Their big, thick sliders (in orders of 2 or 3) are house-made, perfectly cooked to order, juicy with caramelized onions and cornishons. It’s served with spicy Dijon aioli, garnished with mixed greens and fresh parsley.

The teas, of course, are subtle and outstanding. I tried a Chinese tea that had a barley-like flavor — much like some teas I recently sampled in Taiwan — and French blue lavender. I like lavender and I like its health benefits. I was a little surprised to see the tea brought out with brown sugar, as I would suppose that the molasses content in brown sugar would distort the delicate flavors.

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