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.
Afternoon Tea at The Parlour in Durham
|Posted by asad1775 on December 29, 2017 at 9:40 AM|
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|
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|
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|
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|
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.
Blue Suede Shoes for Everyone
|Posted by asad1775 on September 18, 2017 at 9:05 AM|
Mad Hatter, Now Selling Blue Suede Shoes
In Rockabilly lore and in the South, blue suede shoes symbolize something that’s new, exciting, special, and different. Elvis Presley sang a song about them, and we’ve named a tea after them.
Something Special, New, Different, and Exciting
That was Elvis alright, bringing a new rhythm to American teenagers who craved something different from the music of their parents’ generation. And he sang Carl Perkins’ song, which was about the most special pair of shoes a man could own. Made of blue suede, they were completely impractical and not at all easy to clean—but treasured because they were so special.
I’m no Elvis Presley but I’m bringing in something special, new, exciting and different too. The newest addition to our lineup of teas at the Mad Hatter is called ‘Blue Suede Shoes’. Like the blue suede shoes worn by the mythical crooner in the famous song, this tea is infused with special qualities that may make you want to sing.
Carl Perkins, who wrote the song that Elvis made famous, never wore Blue Suede shoes himself. But he knew they were something out of the ordinary. That’s how we feel about this tea, and here’s why we think it deserves such a striking name.
About Our Blue Suede Shoes Tea
This is a green tea made delightful by Blue Pea Flowers and Blue Cornflower petals. Infused with these colorful petals plus Rosehip and Hawthorne fruit, it has a smooth sweetness that, for some tea drinkers, will require no additional sweetener.
For anyone who loves iced tea, Blue Suede Shoes Tea tastes especially smooth over ice. In fact, lots of our customers prefer it that way (but they will tend to add sweetener when it’s iced!). And of course, it’s fitting that a tea inspired by footwear that originated in the South should be served in the Southern way!
We’ve come to love this newest tea in our lineup, especially as the dog days of summer continue on into September here in North Carolina. We’ve been sipping it iced and sweetened every day on our porch as the afternoons extend into the evening. For us right now, there will be no substitute for the mild, fragrant taste of Blue Suede Shoes Tea. Like Carl Perkins wrote and Elvis sang, ‘you can do anything but lay off my blue suede shoes’!
The Mad Hatter Goes Truly "Mad" For a Day
|Posted by asad1775 on August 12, 2017 at 6:40 AM|
As you know, the local version of The Mad Hatter came to an end this past July. It was the final chapter of the physical shop but by no means the end of the Mad Hatter shop. We’re continuing online and we’ll still be in town for special tea parties and other fun events.
But we couldn’t let the shop go out without a final send-off, so we decided to go literally mad for a day and just give it all away. Literally, we opened up the doors and just invited people in for a free-for-all!
In the retail world, that is the very definition of ‘Mad’!
Email Subscribers Had a Terrific Surprise in Their Inboxes One Morning
Subscribers to the Mad Hatter email woke to find a special message in their inboxes. We’d sent out an announcement saying that day would be ‘Free Day’ at the Mad Hatter and they’d better hurry down before everyone else got wind of the event.
All Our Friends Showed Up
The email worked, and soon our friends and loyal customers were trickling—then pouring—into the shop to see what was what. Some seemed to think maybe it was all a joke.
How could anyone give away their shop?
But once our friends and customers walked through the front door of the shop and realized Free Day was no joke, they joined in the fun. Everyone was picking out what they wanted: teas, lotions, soaps, hat boxes and yes… hats.
Here’s Why We Did It
Bobbie really hates moving! Since the Mad Hatter was closing down, the shop had to be completely emptied. The prospect of moving everything was just too much for this Southern lady and her crew so we came up with the idea of Free Day.
Plus, it was our way of thanking our loyal local customers for years of fun and support. We were thrilled that so many of you got to take home some great products and we had a fun day on top of it all.
What Happened to the Rest?
Believe it or not, there was still some merchandise left in the shop at the end of Free Day! And since Bobbie really hates packing, we called a local thrift store that raises money for autism. They came and picked up the rest, thereby ending the final phase of Free Day at the Mad Hatter.
Thanks, Everyone, For Making Free Day a Success!
We met our goal and emptied the shop on Free Day. But the real reward was seeing our customers once again, and knowing we provided some items they’ll enjoy. That, more than anything, means a lot to us here at the Mad Hatter… because without our local customers, we never would have arrived at the place where we are today.
We hope everyone continues to stay in touch with us, either by visiting us online to read our blog or by shopping our online shops. See you soon!
We're Closing Our Doors- But Opening New Ones!
|Posted by asad1775 on July 29, 2017 at 7:40 AM|
This week marks the end of the Mad Hatter storefront in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. And while we’ll miss our cozy little downtown spot, we’re truly excited about the next phase: a 24/7 e-commerce storefront where we can spotlight our products to the world.
Come With Us, Fuquay-Varina!
So we’re not thinking of this as an end. We’re not even leaving Fuquay-Varina behind. Rather, we’re taking Fuquay-Varina and the Mad Hatter out into the world. Our local shop is now part of the global marketplace and we can’t wait to tell the world about our community, our products, and the lovely network of customers who’ve been with us all along.
In fact, it’s our customers—both local and those visiting from distant regions—that we owe everything we have. So this is not about closing our physical doors. It’s about thanking our customers and inviting you to come along with the Mad Hatter on a journey into the global stratosphere.
We’ll still be posting customer photos, so watch for the Mad Hatter community to grow in the upcoming months ahead.
What Does all this Mean for You?
You can still find Mad Hatter teas and lotions, only now they’re conveniently showcased on our new Etsy store (MadHatterNC). As for our hats, you can still visit us online at www.MadHatterNC.com to do your window shopping and get ideas before you make a purchase. The blog will live on, too.
And for all our customers in Fuquay-Varina, stay tuned for a revival of the Mad Hatter Tea Society!
Whichever way you choose to connect with us, we look forward to seeing everyone again. Thank you, everyone, for making the Mad Hatter everything we are today. We couldn’t have done this without you. Here’s to our journey together as we enter the next phase of Mad Hattery.
Introducing Buckingham Palace and Duchess Kate Teas: the Many Flavors of Earl Grey
|Posted by asad1775 on July 9, 2017 at 8:30 AM|
One of the best ways to enjoy a leisurely afternoon is by treating yourself to a good cup of tea. If you’ve been lucky enough to sample high-quality teas from around the world, you know the distinct pleasures of a good Earl Grey.
We’ve added two new tea blends to our tea lineup here in the shop. Both are variations on Earl Grey.
Two New Earl Grey Teas at the Mad Hatter
In case you aren’t familiar with Earl Grey, it’s a blend with a very distinctive flavor. That flavor comes from the bergamot oil, which is derived from the rind of the bergamot orange. The result isn’t what you’d describe as ‘orange-ey’, though. It’s more like an exotic, delicious twist on black tea.
Nobody does tea blends like the British, and indeed, Earl Grey is a British creation. Here are the two new blends we have in the shop this week:
1. Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea
What’s more British than Earl Grey tea? Earl Grey tea served at a garden party! We know the Queen is a huge fan of tea, and this one, with its soft notes of Jasmine, seems perfect for an afternoon tea at her palace.
In fact, she does serve this blend at her annual garden party at Buckingham Palace. It’s a unique blend created just for that occasion, with green tea as well as black tea. Now it’s available at the Mad Hatter, too.
2. Duchess Kate Tea
If you’ve ever visited the Mad Hatter, you might have noticed that we’re a big fan of Duchess Kate.
There’s no better ambassador for hat fashion, of course. She does for hats what Brigitte Bardot did for the bikini. Or what Audrey Hepburn did for the little black dress. And more specifically, Duchess Kate has introduced millions of American women to the the special magic that comes from wearing a perfectly placed fascinator.
We’re such a great fan of Duchess Kate that we named our second new tea after her. As far as we know, nobody else has a Duchess Kate Tea! Just like her youthful spirit and her impeccable sense of fashion, this tea is light and refreshing. It can be served hot or cold, with or without milk and sugar.
The secret to our Duchess Kate Tea is the double bergamot, which gives the tea a truly rich, exotic flavor.
You don’t have to be a Duchess or a Queen to enjoy the finest Earl Grey blends. They’re right here at the Mad Hatter. Next time you’re in the area, stop by for one of our new tea blends and say hello.
Shipping is available via our Etsy Shop: MadHatterNC
Four Things to Know About Choosing Your Preakness Hat
|Posted by asad1775 on May 9, 2017 at 7:55 AM|
Preakness Season is here. The annual Spring racing fashion event is May 20. Ladies, if you’re heading up to Baltimore to attend the races, it’s time to start thinking about your wardrobes.
And of course, the most important part of your look is your hat.
But just like the other horse racing events this Spring and Summer, you can’t wear just any old hat. There’s an unwritten ‘code’ to the hat styles women wear. Here’s your basic guide to what type of hat to wear to Preakness Stakes and all the other exciting horse racing events you plan to attend this year and beyond.
1. Preakness Stakes has a Color Theme
If you were just at the Kentucky Derby, you’ve got a good sense of what women are wearing this year. As far as hats go, what works for the Kentucky Derby also works for Preakness.
There’s definitely a color theme for the Baltimore race, however: Black-Eyed Susan colors! Even a touch of yellow will show you’re in the spirit of the day.
2. Oversized Hats are Perfect
There are several advantages to wearing an oversized hat. One very practical reason is that those wide brims cast a shadow and will protect your face and shoulders from the Baltimore sun.
Secondly, think of an oversized hat as a canvas. The larger the hat, the more embellishments it can hold! Race Day hats are best when fully decked out with flowers, but you can venture into the unexpected and get creative.
3. This is Your Opportunity to be a Little Zany
If you’re going to wear a hat (I suggest you do, for the sun protection alone), there’s no reason to be shy about it. Part of the charm of attending a horse race like Preakness Stakes is that everyone’s decked out.
Once the day is over, you can revert to your normal wardrobe but for race day, it’s a fantasy land of hats and dresses and seersucker suits.
So, that gigantic hot pink hat that seems like overkill while running errands will fit right in at the races.
4. Fascinators Work, Too
For some, the opportunity to wear a fascinator is too tempting so for race day, that’s their choice. Also acceptable!
You may not get the full benefit of sun coverage, but there is an advantage of the fascinator over the oversized hat.
With a fascinator, you don’t have to worry your hat is going to blow away. Fascinators can be secured with bobby pins for a footloose and fancy-free day at the races.
And that’s how we hope you feel as you attend the races: like you don’t have a care in the world except making sure you get a good view of the race. Stop by the Mad Hatter and we’ll get you set up with your new Preakness Stakes hat.
Photo Credit: JHR Photography