Mad Hatter is a charming quaint shop located in downtown for four years, now an online shop. If you love whimsical and fun, along with hats and teas, you will love Mad Hatter.

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Church Hats & Derby Hats: There is a Crossover

Posted by asad1775 on April 25, 2019 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (4)

Church hats and derby hats: do you know the difference? Horse racing and church-going aren't typically two things that go together. But one thing they do have in common is the extravagant headgear you'll see at both. Whether you're sitting down for a Sunday sermon or a view of the starting gate, you're bound to see a few incredibly beautiful hats.

Church Hats & Derby Hats: There is a Crossover

In both cases, the southern aesthetic prevails: fanciful style, elegance, and the bold use of colors. Oh, and it's common to find hats decked out in flowers (both fake and real). Traditionally, both tend to have wide brims but, as the times change, that's no longer the rule. These days, people are wearing fascinators to church and pillbox hats to the derby, complete with face-covering, sun-blocking veils.

But the best way to understand the similarities is to look at photos taken last year during the 144th running of the annual Kentucky Derby in Louisville, KY. Skipping the fantasy hats that are really just artist showpieces, you can see a trend among the more toned-down styles:

Extra wide brims - to block the wearer's face from the sun

Extra large flowers - a nod to tradition and to the season

Mostly pastel colors - ditto

Whimsical flourishes

On the other side of the aisle, you have church hats. They're basically very similar to the traditional, iconic derby hat but one main difference: they're more toned down. In fact, you could take the list of derby hat attributes above, remove the first word in each line, and you'd have a pretty good description of a typical southern church hat. Take a look:

Wide brims

Flowers - flowers, but not over-the-top flowers

Pastel colors but also other colors, to match whatever color a lady's dress happens to be

Flourishes - there will be flourishes like netting or bows but they typically won't dominate the hat as they sometimes do in Derby hats

It's All Size and About Color - and Proper Fit

One final word. In addition to their smaller size and scale, church hats are more likely to be one solid color. And as you know, Derby hats will run the gamut of color creativity. The introduction of a second color to the church hat is most likely to be on the trimming: the bow, the flower, or the hat band.

Church hats are bought with the idea that they will be worn more than once, hence the relative conservatism with color choices. That's also why fit is so important. Derby hats often see just one wearing and it's for fun, rather like a costume, so fit isn't as crucial. You could even buy them online. But with a church hat, you need to know the distinction so you don't end up wearing a costume piece to church. It's always best to have a knowledgeable hat fitter help you out with fitting - one who clearly understands the difference between the two types of hats!

The Parlour's Halloween Afternoon Tea

Posted by asad1775 on November 13, 2018 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (3)

The crisp Fall weather is the perfect motivator for enjoying afternoon tea. While you can stock up at home with your favorite blends and preferred pastries, it’s always nice to venture out, too. Afternoon tea was, after all, originally meant to be a social occasion.

With that in mind, with a burning desire to experience their famous pre-Halloween Tea service, I recently treated myself to an afternoon of tea-themed delights at The Parlour in Durham, NC.

Afternoon Tea at The Parlour

I’ve been to afternoon tea before so I had a rough idea of what to expect. But the idea of a “spooky” and “spicy” afternoon tea had me enthralled, to say the least! Would I be sipping witch’s brew?


The Parlour is really an ice cream shop. In wintertime, they bring a different type of joy to their customers by offering afternoon tea throughout the season. Just as they do with their ice cream selections, they do a spankin’ good job with the tea.


For the pre-Halloween event, tea choices were Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Raspberry Green Tea, and Blueberry Rooibos Tea. All delicious.


And Here Come the “Spooky” & “Spicy”…

And of course, there were the goodies. Despite its name, Afternoon Tea is only half about the tea. The other half is the goodies. Remember: this tradition was created with a purpose: to fill those long hours between lunch and dinner when you crave a snack and perhaps some company as well.


Long considered a showcase for pastry chefs and creators of other small bites, Afternoon Tea is known for delightful, light fare that pleases the eye and only slightly fills the stomach (wouldn’t want to spoil dinner).


Grouped into savory and sweet, the treats offered by The Parlour did not disappoint either. The white chocolate was a nice touch on the pumpkin scones, especially for those of us who are not huge fans of the ubiquitous pumpkin flavor this time of year. The chocolate solves that problem, making them utterly scrumptious… and the apple butter was perfect.


In case you’re wondering how all this is even remotely “spooky”, let me tell you about the velvet skull cakes! Divine is the only word that seems fitting. Oh, and there were spicy ghost cookies.

My Favorites

As for the savory offerings: here’s where more of the spicy came in: the spicy deviled eggs infused with gochujang tea. So appropriate, so perfect, and definitely one of my favorites from the entire afternoon.

And a final bonus: if you attend a wintertime afternoon tea at The Parlour, you can purchase a pint (or two) of ice cream to bring home, and their ice cream is outstanding! I brought home Toasted Coconut (vegan ice cream) and Lemon. By the time this gets posted, they’ll be long since devoured but I can assure you: every bit as wonderful as the afternoon tea delights served that day at the Pre-Halloween Tea.

Keeping the Class in Afternoon Tea: A Short Manifesto for Those Who Love Tradition (and Tea!)

Posted by asad1775 on August 26, 2018 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I know the days of hand-written thank-you notes and white gloves are gone but afternoon tea should never go out of style. The world is changing and this singular tradition is a mainstay of civilized society that shouldn’t ever disappear.

It shouldn’t even be altered. It’s a lot of fun just the way it is and if you remove the niceties of this time-honored tradition, it’s just… something else.

What I’m talking about is the downward curve of style choices people have been making when it comes to Afternoon Tea. From shorts in the tea room to DIY tiered cake plates made from odd, glued-together cups and plates, things aren’t feeling quite so special anymore in some of the tea rooms out there.


Why Tea Tradition Matters

In a world where it’s the new norm to trash tradition, there are few rituals that remain intact in their original form. By ditching the proper dress code and removing the elegance of fine china, we’re changing the tradition of Afternoon Tea into something more… convenient. Utilitarian.

Is that what we want from our tea experiences?


In tradition, there is beauty. It provides a base in our fast-paced lives where change is the only constant. It connects us to the past while also giving us something to look forward to. It keeps us grounded and comforts us with wonderfully predictable moments of comforting calm amidst a chaotic world.


It’s All About Experiencing Life at Its Best

When it comes right down to it, none of the traditions associated with Afternoon Tea are necessary for modern living. We can skip the rituals, the traditions, and the carefully-honed tea culture altogether and still live a full life.


But experiencing afternoon tea in all its finery and with all the odd nuances that make it so special… nothing can duplicate that feeling. That sense of having been transported to another world (or even another time) just won’t happen when the guy next to you is wearing flip-flops or the two women across the room are selecting their cakes from a hodge-podge collection of rough-looking, cobbled-together cake stands.


In a World Where Magic Hardly Exists…

Afternoon Tea is the escape so many of us need in a world where technology permeates everything and it’s virtually impossible to hide from our everyday existence.


Even if it’s just once in a very great while, we all need the tradition of Afternoon Tea in our lives… with no time-saving modifications. We love it just the way it is: proper and magical, delightful and unique.

Hello Darkness, My New Friend

Posted by asad1775 on July 30, 2018 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (1)

Let’s face it, I need my coffee to get through a day. The problem is that coffee has become well, just coffee. While you can go to one of the chain coffee shops and get some fancy coffee drink that is filled with whipped cream and other embellishments, it not the same as getting a quality cup of coffee.

I have been searching far and wide for a coffee shop that has amazing coffee. I want a coffee that is different from the chain stores. I want a coffee that is rich and bold and smells amazing. I want a coffee that makes me remember why I love coffee. I have been searching for a few months now but have been unsuccessful – until the other day.

Yes, the other day my quest came to a bold and delicious end when I found a brand new coffee shop called Cultivate Coffee located in Historic Downtown Fuquay. The entire experience was amazing and was exactly what I have been looking for.

The coffee was outstanding. I had the dark roast drip. It was bold, yet smooth, with amazing texture and flavor. With my first sip I was transported back to my mother’s kitchen on a Sunday morning, when the smell of her home brewed coffee filled the air. The coffee from Cultivate Coffee was my missing link. I can honestly say that it made me fall in love with coffee all over again.

To go along with my coffee, I picked up a Cranberry Orange scone. The scone was perfect. It was nothing like the processed pastries found in chain stores. It was definitely high class. We are talking afternoon tea in the Kensington Palace quality. So, needless to say, I had to buy a few more to take home with me.  My hat is off to Bestow Baked Goods for finally bringing an afternoon tea quality scone to our town!

If you are tired of the same old coffee and are looking for something exciting and fresh I would encourage you to stop by Cultivate Coffee and see what you have been missing.

4 Ways People are Celebrating the New Age of Tea

Posted by asad1775 on June 5, 2018 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Let’s take a moment to talk about tea. Here at Mad Hatter, we’re a little crazy (in a good way) about tea. We suspect that many of you are tea drinkers, too, which is why we thought we’d share this with you…

Did you know that tea culture in the U.S. is fast becoming the hippest thing, with a following rivaling those of coffee and microbrew?

From the hipster tea shops in New York City to the expansion of tea offerings on the Starbucks menu, it’s clear that Americans are falling in love with tea. Some are even calling tea’s renaissance the “New Age of Tea”. And, as you’d expect whenever there’s a new trend in the air, people are discovering lots of new ways to enjoy it while it lasts. Here’s how the movers and shakers are celebrating the New Age of Tea.

4 Ways People are Reinventing Tea

#1. Cold Brew Tea


You’ve heard of cold brew coffee – well, the flavor of tea is enhanced by the cold brew method, too. When you brew tea for a longer period of time, the various flavor notes really get a chance to come out in full force.

Any of the fine teas Mad Hatter sells can be cold-brewed, with excellent results:

Blue Suede Shoes Tea

Fuquay Hibiscus

Afternoon in Paris

Guava Tea

Duchess Kate Tea

Royal Wedding Party Tea

Signature Tea

#2. High Tea


High tea may be a long-forgotten tradition, but in some parts, it’s enjoying a new awakening. Trendy locales like Brooklyn and Los Angeles have small contingents of hipsters who are reinventing high tea in fancy hotels and tea hubs. If you find yourself in Brooklyn, for example, you can visit the Williamsburg Hotel on the weekends for their rendition of High Tea. Look for this trend to hit other parts of the country soon.

#3. A Plethora of Greens


Green tea is growing in popularity as people discover its health benefits. But in the countries where it’s grown, tea producers are working at maximum capacity. The result is that new green tea-growing areas are popping up all over the globe. Places like Australia and Hawaii are now known for their green tea.


Look for more locally-sourced teas to appear on the market in the near future. And remember, Mad Hatter sells locally-blended teas, like our Duchess Kate Tea and of course, our Fuquay Hibiscus Tea.


#4. Botanicals


A huge trend, one of which Mad Hatter is definitely helping to promote, is the addition of botanicals. Our Blue Suede Shoes Tea, infused with cornflower florals, is just one example. We have lots of crafted teas, each created by someone who loves tea.


A Final Tea Note


Mad Hatter is not only a hub and marketplace for fine blends of tea, we’re also a hat shop! All of our products can be found online at and on Etsy: MadHatterNC.

Washington Duke Inn's Hats and Gloves Derby Tea

Posted by asad1775 on May 10, 2018 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

It’s not just Louisville, Kentucky that gets to celebrate the annual running of the Kentucky Derby. Across North Carolina, a number of hotels and restaurants also hosted special Derby Tea celebrations to mark this year’s 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, so we decided to make a day of it at the Washington Duke Inn in Durham, North Carolina. For the past few years, this luxury hotel has been holding a Hats and Gloves Derby Tea, and this gave us a great reason to make the trip to Durham in all of our Kentucky Derby finery.

As you might expect from such a celebrated destination, the entire experience was amazing. The luxurious Washington Duke Inn bills itself as a sanctuary of “more genteel times,” and the main dining room where the tea is held did not disappoint – it felt clubby and opulent at the same time. Perhaps the only surprise was that they did not have any Kentucky Derby-inspired food items included with the Afternoon Tea food options.

That being said, there was palpable excitement in the air around Derby Day, and more than a few people talking about whether or not everyone’s favorite horse – Justify – would actually win the Derby this year. To mark this occasion, both my friend and I wore proper hat and fascinator attire, but almost everyone else wore beach (sun) hats with fake flowers attached. But it’s the spirit that counts, right? My orange fascinator was the type of hat that I like to wear to these events – it adds an element of mystique and style to any event.  Don't you agree?

Scones (both pear and vanilla) were delivered to the table first, then the afternoon tea tiered plate arrived along with a pot of tea. I chose the rose tea and my friend chose the oolong. Both turned out to be excellent choices. The famous Ti Kuan Yin Oolong tea had a fresh orchid flavor and clean finish, while the Rose Petal royal tea blend had a light, delicate spice to it that complemented the sweet fullness of black tea. In short, the afternoon tea was fantastic. The scones, sweets and sandwiches were all wonderful as well.

There was certainly an aura of history around the entire Washington Duke Inn, and it’s obvious why it has become such a popular destination for events like birthdays and weddings. I guess you might say the entire luxury hotel is Instagram-worthy, and we certainly took our own fair share of photos, both during and after the Hats and Gloves Derby Tea.

Without hesitation, we would both go back to the Washington Duke Inn for an afternoon tea. The service was impeccable, the scones were delicious, and the entire tea service was first-rate. It really did remind us of the wonderful traditions of the South. This was a very special Derby Day experience, and one that I can wholeheartedly recommend for others to enjoy as well.

What to Do if Your Royal Wedding Invitation Got Lost in the Mail

Posted by asad1775 on April 18, 2018 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

You’ll know it when it arrives in the mail: there’s a Three-Feathered Badge of the Prince of Wales printed in gold ink. It invites you to attend next month’s royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Hasn’t come yet? Hmmm, must have got lost in the mail. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways to celebrate, including sipping Mad Hatter’s brand new Royal Wedding Tea. We haven’t received our invitations yet either, so we thought we’d commemorate the historical event another way… and invite you to join us.

Introducing Royal Wedding Tea

As a tea emporium, Mad Hatter pays due respect to the major historical and cultural events of the United Kingdom and other important lands of tea. For the Royal Wedding, we’ve come up with a truly special blend. It’s a tea infused with as much symbolism as it is flavor.

Royal Wedding Tea is coming out just in time for the Royal Wedding but the timing isn’t the only thing that makes this tea so appropriate for celebrating the union of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. A quick look at the ingredients and anyone familiar with flower and herb symbolism could quickly tell you this is a tea specially blended for such an occasion.

What’s So ‘Royal’ About Royal Wedding Tea?

We researched our ingredients for this tea, so when you’re sipping it either hot or chilled, know that it says “Royal Wedding” through and through.


  • Royalty & Beauty. The first clue is the Hibiscus. Circle around the globe from England to Hawaii, another royal-infused culture with plenty of tradition. There, the Hibiscus is the symbol of old royalty. And in Victorian England, you’d send a hibiscus flower to someone as a way of saying, “you’re beautiful”.
  • Ahem…Next up is Lemongrass, which we’ll gloss over and quickly move on to the next ingredient, Elderberries (Lemongrass is traditionally associated with the idea of lust, and although that may be fitting symbolism for the loving union of two people who are in love, it’s not demure enough for our ‘tea talk’!).
  • Good Health. A virtual medicine cabinet in traditional times… so here we have the symbol of good health.
  • Love. Finally, there’s the citrus element of Royal Wedding Tea. It really is a fruit-based “wine punch” (but of course there’s no wine involved), so citrus is really what forms the foundation of the tea’s refreshing, sparkling taste. And how fitting that orange is the symbol of love, the foundation of a beautiful marriage!

So, if you haven’t yet received your invitation to the Royal Wedding, now you know what to do: join the celebration Stateside and order up some Royal Wedding Tea from the Mad Hatter. It’s our own way of celebrating… and of course, you’re invited!

Afternoon Tea at Sugar Magnolia Cafe in Wake Forest, NC

Posted by asad1775 on February 20, 2018 at 9:25 PM Comments comments (1)

My latest afternoon tea experience took me to the Sugar Magnolia Café, located in the heart of the historic district of downtown Wake Forest. The location of this café is actually the premises of the former Olde English Tea Room (which closed its doors in December 2016), so I was curious to check out this new experience.

The first thing that struck me was that Sugar Magnolia is more than just a café offering afternoon tea – there is artwork from more than 35 artists and artisans displayed on premises, and the slogan for the café is “come for the tea, stay for the art and shopping.” So this is really a full afternoon tea experience that you can combine with a leisurely walk around historic downtown Wake Forest. You might even walk away with a new piece of art for your kitchen or a vintage gift for a friend!


The “Magnolia Tea” is a nice casual afternoon tea for $22 (they include an 18% tip on the bill) that’s offered after 2:00 pm on weekends. It starts with a garden salad with homemade dressing, and then the tiered plate arrives with a choice of three different sandwiches: a pimento tea sandwich (2 per person), a thick-sliced turkey sandwich with cheese on a lightly toasted croissant, and a chicken salad sandwich on a lightly toasted croissant (toasting the croissant makes an amazing difference).

And, of course, you can’t forget about the wonderful desserts at Sugar Magnolia Café. These include brownies, cheesecake bites, mini-cream puffs (one chocolate covered) and mini-cupcakes. One interesting note here is that instead of scones, they offer cinnamon rolls (baked in-house) with Devonshire cream. Afternoon tea traditionalists might be a bit puzzled here – What is afternoon tea without scones? But this actually turned out to be a good choice – the cinnamon rolls were incredibly good and made the whole tea experience unique.


Overall, Sugar Magnolia Café offers a good tea selection. My friend chose a cherry green tea that she enjoyed. It was a warm day so I went with their lemonade (a very good choice!), and they brought the lemonade in a teapot (a nice little touch).

It’s easy to see how the Sugar Magnolia Café could become a fun place to host mini-parties or events, mostly because of the surrounding ambiance. In addition to the classic “Magnolia Tea,” the café offers a half-price “De-Lightful Tea” for just $12.50, as well as a Birthday Tea Party option and something for the little ones called Teddybear Tea (as I understand it, if your child brings in a toy bear, they will set up a little tea or lemonade table for the two of them).

When we visited, the owner waited on us and was very pleasant and fun to talk to. It’s nice to support these types of small, independent businesses and Sugar Magnolia Café is definitely a reason to visit downtown Wake Forest. Based on the overall experience and the excellent sandwiches and sweets included, this is an afternoon tea location I am putting on my list to return to in the near future.


Afternoon Tea at The Parlour in Durham

Posted by asad1775 on December 29, 2017 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (2)

If you’re looking for the best afternoon tea experience in North Carolina, you have to be willing to consider all the options and not just the usual suspects. So what about an afternoon holiday tea across the street from one of Durham’s renowned downtown landmarks? Yes,The Parlour is first and foremost an ice cream shop, but for the holidays, this Durham favorite is also featuring a special afternoon tea experience.

Afternoon tea at The Parlour is somewhat of an insider’s experience – even if you stop by there regularly for their delicious ice cream offerings, you might not realize that they have an extra room where the tea is held, separate from the ice cream part of the shop. While The Parlour might lack some of the festive holiday ambiance that you would expect from a quaint inn or landmark hotel, it certainly made up for it with the feeling that you were getting a very unique experience.

For the winter holidays, The Parlour created a special holiday menu to complement their selection of teas. The menu includes three main options: (1) Traditional Cornish scones with clotted cream and seasonal jam (2) Mini “pigs in blankets”, brussel sprouts and greens gratin pie, and “boxing day leftovers” open-faced sandwich and (3) Cranberry victoria sponge, plum pudding and iced ginger biscuits.

As you might expect, we had to sample all of these, and all were quite exceptional. However, they only had three teas to choose from, so both of us chose the Marzipan Sugarplum Tea from Art of Tea. This tea made a wonderful pairing with the plum pudding and iced ginger biscuits.

Heading into this tea experience, we knew to expect something different. And, indeed, there were a few unique touches at The Parlour. First of all, this was a vegetarian tea, which I was not expecting, but my friend and I really enjoyed it. My favorite part was the Fancy Hat discount! Another unusual part of the tea (besides it being at an ice cream shop) is they left the crust on the bread. And, finally, if you are expecting a white tablecloth type of experience, you need to adjust your expectations. Yes, the tea was served in a wonderful china cup and plate, but you’ll be dining at a wood table with regular ice cream shop chairs – so be forewarned!

Of course, no story about an ice cream shop would be complete without the ice ceam, right? We’ve heard our friends rave about some of The Parlour’s unique creations – such as their one-of-a-kind Sweet Potato flavor (locally grown sweet potatoes wih dark brown sugar and cinammon), or holiday classics like Peppermint White Chocolate Chip. We decided to bring home a pint of their Candied Orange Peel ice cream, which is some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted.

Overall, I enjoyed this afternoon tea, but still prefer traditional afternoon tea. That’s especially true during the holiday season, when it’s fun to splurge on a classic afternoon tea experience. However, The Parlour certainly is worth the visit to Durham if you’re looking for a charming tea experience and a great opportunity to take home some of North Carolina’s best ice cream.

The Carolina Inn Delivers a Charming Holiday Tea Experience

Posted by asad1775 on December 18, 2017 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Afternoon tea at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is always a special occasion – and especially during the winter holidays. The entire historic inn is decked out with festive holiday decorations, and the traditional afternoon tea is replaced by a holiday-themed afternoon tea. So, with a great deal of excitement, my friend and I booked a special holiday tea at the Carolina Inn to soak in the Christmas spirit.

We arrived early so we could view the Christmas decorations. There was a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, gingerbread houses, and a custom-made “Twelve Days of Christmas” display. In one nice little touch, one of the gingerbread houses in the display was of the Carolina Inn itself.

Afterwards, it was time to enjoy the tea. There were lots of choices on their Holiday Tea list, inclding a number of special teas that are only available from December 1 to December 31 – such as the Jingle Bells tea, the Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer tea and the Frosty the Snowman tea. It’s clear that the hotel dining staff put a lot of time and care into making every aspect of the holiday tea feel special – including the use of special vintage china cups.

One of my favorite things about afternoon tea is the scones, and the Carolina Inn had two different kinds. Plus they gave us an extra one to try as well. (What a charming extra touch!) The tea sandwiches were outstanding and with each one they added a little extra flair to them, and that took boring to extraordinary! The pimento cheese had a kick to it, the ham had a small pickle and a mustardy dollop bursting with flavor to set the pickle on top. Of course, they also had a wonderful cucumber tea sandwich.

And, just like the tea sandwiches, the desserts were also special in some unique way. For example, their take on a mini-pecan pie using peanuts instead of pecans was quite a nice twist. In terms of desserts, the chocolate-covered strawberry was good, but one of my favorites of the tea desserts was the chocolate-covered blackberry (I love blackberries!).

The room the afternoon tea was in was nice and festively decorated. (Although, for some reason, there were also several snake pictures on the walls that were probably part of some previous exhibit at the hotel). There was also a palpable buzz in the room that made the whole experience feel special. This being a holiday tea, we expected a certain amount of fabulousness on the part of our fellow guests. For example, I wore a hat to tea, and my friend wore a fascinator, but no one else was wearing one.

While the entire experience was extraordinary, just one word of advice – be prepared for a slight wait during the holiday season, even if you’ve booked a table in advance. There are various events going on throughout the hotel, and sometimes the hostess staff can get a little overwhelmed by it all. But no worries – it is the holiday season, after all. Plus, there’s a cozy hotel lobby where you can wait for your table to be prepared.

Overall, there’s a good reason why the Carolina Inn has become a favorite destination in North Carolina for people to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea during the holidays. If you are looking for a charming new place to take in the sights and sounds of the holiday season while enjoying a festive afternoon tea, it’s certainly worth the drive to Chapel Hill in December.