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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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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 www.madhatternc.com 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 (1)

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.


Christmas in a Cup

Posted by asad1775 on November 26, 2017 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (1)

Everyone has something special they love about Christmas and the holiday season. Magical memories are the culmination of many things using all the senses. Here at Mad Hatter, we know all about how to create memories and our Holiday Loose Leaf Tea has been blended with your future memories in mind.


From the moment the kettle boils and the sound of boiling water fills your ears, you are relaxed and yet excited to taste this treat of a tea. Already you will have opened the packet and the waft of perfectly blended spices and herbs bring a smile to your face. The anticipation, as with any of the amazing teas from Mad Hatter, builds up as you spoon the leaves into your warmed and waiting teapot.


With a click or a whistle, the kettle boils and the sound of the hot water rushes over the leaves. The hint of an aroma drifts up through your nostrils and you sigh with absolute joy. “What is it you can smell?” you ask yourself. Is it the rawness of cinnamon, the freshness of apple, the zest of ripe orange or is it something else? All you know is that it smells divine and this triggers your taste buds even before your first sip.


Letting the teapot sit, you kick off your shoes, find the perfect tea cup or your favourite mug and get ready to relax. The aroma of this amazing new holiday tea entices you to switch off the busy world outside and the rush that so easily becomes what Christmas is all about, and just find peace. You carry the teapot and your cup to your table or favorite chair by the fireside. Placing them down you lift the lid off the teapot for one last stir. The joyful fragrance you smelled as you poured the water on the leaves has now intensified, and dances in your mind. It is now time to sit back and enjoy.


Sitting down you pour your first cup of holiday tea into your cup. Your face beams a content and welcome smile. This is your “me time”, the special time of day you make for yourself to indulge in the finest cup of tea in the land. The fragrant liquid flows and steam rises from your cup. It is a little too hot to drink so you lift up your cup and breathe in the enticing vapour.


“Christmas” you say to yourself “Christmas” that is what the aroma of the tea is. Every memory you have ever had of Christmas comes flooding back as you soak in the steam and let your mind relax. Closing your eyes, just for a moment, fills your heart and soul with contentment, the kind only Christmas can do. You wrap your hands tightly around the teacup, pause, and take a delicate sip.


The sip you take fills your body with a sensation like never before. Suddenly you realise you have discovered the magic of something truly special. The seasonal blend of apple, hibiscus, rosehips, cinnamon, blackberry leaf, orange peel, allspice, cloves, and sprinkling of other natural flavourings, buzz inside your mouth. A warmth flows through your body you sit back and smile. You have discovered something you perceived as impossible. You have found the magic of Christmas in a cup of wonderful holiday tea.



 

A Very Timely (and Very Delicious) New Tea

Posted by asad1775 on November 12, 2017 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Labor Day is long gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the delicious fruits of summer. Our new tea here at the Mad Hatter celebrates summer because it’s all about the fruity taste of guava.



Have You Tried Guava Tea Yet?


This is no herbal tea- the base is black tea, which is combined with papaya pieces, blackberry and lime leaves, safflower petals, and some natural flavors. The result is a delicious, tangy and sweet sensation that comes from blending the finest Ceylon tea available on the market with the exotic flavor of Guava.


Tropical and pleasingly astringent come to mind after sipping this wonderful new tea. In the development of this new tea, I was inspired by many scrumptious meals I've enjoyed over the years at a local Puerto Rican restaurant. Guava is a common ingredient in the foods of Puerto Rico, which brings me to another reason for introducing this tea at this time.


Puerto Rico on Our Minds


In September, Hurricane Maria barreled toward Puerto Rico and struck the island, leaving destruction and devastation in its path. Communications were crippled, homes destroyed, and much of the island is still without power seven weeks later.


I can’t do much from here other than donating to hurricane relief, but one thing I can do is help maintain Puerto Rico’s presence on the minds of anyone who cares to buy my teas. This is yet another reason why the release of my Guava Tea is timely. Hurricane Maria was seven weeks ago but the struggles continue for the people whose lives were impacted by this catastrophic storm.


As the holiday season rolls in, let’s not forget our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, whose holiday season will be disrupted in more ways than we can ever know. Guava Tea is a reminder of the lovely island of Puerto Rico, its lovely people and its culture, all of which we know will persevere beyond the current struggles they’re experiencing.


Three Reasons Why I'm Going Back to the Fearrington House for Afternoon Tea

Posted by asad1775 on November 7, 2017 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (1)


If you’ve been pining for a real European-style afternoon tea service in North Carolina, then you absolutely have to head to the Fearrington House in Chapel Hill. You may already know about the Fearrington House’s luxurious, serene, and peaceful atmosphere. But you may not know that the Fearrington House Restaurant also offers an Afternoon Tea service by reservation only.



First of all, the pastries and tea sandwiches were amazing. Afternoon tea includes four tea sandwiches (my favs were the ham/pimento cheese tea sandwich and the cucumber tea sandwich), one scone and five desserts. I also ordered a mint julep, served in a mint julep cup with tiny sprigs of mint. My friend ordered the Fearrington House’s Milk Punch, and it was extraordinary!



We also had the choice of a fantastic selection of teas, all of them Harney & Sons. I picked the raspberry tea and it was perfect! Plus, it was the most beautiful color. The tea selection is small, but there are choices that should appeal to everyone. The tea menu is divided into two sections: “Loose Leaf” and “Herbals & Infusions.” There are all the tea classics on the menu – such as Earl Grey and English Breakfast. My friend chose the decaffeinated Darjeeling and was pleased with her selection.



Secondly, the ambience is simply incredible. The owners have outdone themselves in creating a real English tea experience. Afternoon Tea is served upstairs at the Fearrington House and you have a great view of the grounds. In our case, we could see a wedding party gathering together for photos. If you enjoy posting photos on Instagram, you’re practically guaranteed some great pics that will have everyone thinking that you’ve taken a trip across the pond to Europe!



Finally, it was really all the little touches that made the difference. One of my favorite parts of the Afternoon Tea is that each person receives their own three-tiered serving stand. If you bring young children, they also get a serving stand – which makes them feel very special, almost as if they are grown-ups! In fact, the Fearrington House menu refers to young children as “Prince” and “Princess.” What a nice touch!



It is well worth a visit with a friend to enjoy this time-honored tradition. With a few exceptions, the experience was simply sublime. One of these exceptions was that we were not given a fork, and really needed one for the desserts. Another minor issue is the layout of the tea room itself. One of the storage rooms is upstairs, and staff members occasionally walked by us to take chairs in and out of the storage room.



However, on the whole, the Fearrington House has done a remarkable job of creating a real English Afternoon Tea experience. Plus, as a bonus, we visited one of the shops while there and discovered lots of great gifts. We could even hear one of the beautiful goats making what could best be described as delightful goat sounds as we walked around the premises.



In short, Afternoon Tea at the Fearrington House Restaurant was a wonderful experience with great ambience and even better food. I’m planning on going back soon, and if you’re in the Chapel Hill area for the holidays, it’s definitely worth a visit.


 


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