Carefree tea room is as fun as it is formal - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Carefree tea room is as fun as it is formal

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Posted: Friday, August 10, 2007 2:23 pm | Updated: 6:29 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The English Rose Tea Room, open year-round in Carefree, is a refined desert oasis where guests can sip tea in porcelain cups, nibble on sandwiches or bite into oven-hot sweet scones covered in Devonshire cream and strawberry preservatives.

There’s an English rose in the East Valley that refuses to wilt in the summer heat.

The English Rose Tea Room, open year-round in Carefree, is a refined desert oasis where guests can sip tea in porcelain cups, nibble on sandwiches or bite into oven-hot sweet scones covered in Devonshire cream and strawberry preservatives. Step across the threshold into a world where afternoon tea is an occasion and stress melts like sugar at the bottom of a steaming cup of Earl Grey.

“It’s relaxing,” says visitor Karen Miller of Phoenix. “You get the chance to not think about other stuff and hang out. And the scones are to die for.”

When British-born Joanne Gemmill opened the tea room five years ago, she wanted “a place that would be relaxing yet elegant,” and give visitors living in a casual society “a sense of class and a little bit of culture.” Her mantra, which is emblazoned on the menu, is “Relax and indulge yourself in the utterly civilized pleasure of taking time for tea.”

Tea has a reputation for stiffness and tradition, but the atmosphere in the English Rose is as fun as it is formal.

“I don’t want people thinking Mary Poppins is going to give you an etiquette class,” says Gemmill, who met her American husband in Switzerland and married him in a castle years before Madonna made it trendy.

Gemmill has a collection of hats guests can opt to wear, if desired. (Most do.)

“Oh, this is fun,” says Robin Belisle of Anthem, who takes a seat to have tea with a group known as the Bunco Babes.

A tea room favorite is the Duchess of Bedford’s Formal Afternoon Tea, which includes a pot of tea (there are at least 21 varieties to choose from) and treats served on a three-tiered cake stand. The fare is finger sandwiches (chicken and walnut with tarragon, fresh cucumber, orange and mint, and smoked salmon and cream cheese), scones and a selection of cakes.

The menu also features breakfast and lunch items, which include salads and English staples such as cottage pie ($11.95) and savory bread pudding ($11.95).

“It’s nice for a special occasion,” says Scottsdale resident Anne Gin, who is nine months pregnant and enjoying afternoon tea with her mother, Karol Schlicher. “It’s the baby’s first (afternoon) tea.”

Getting there

English Rose Tea Room: 201 Easy St., No. 103, Carefree. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; last seating at 4 p.m. Reservations recommended. Information: (480) 488-4812.

Directions: Take Loop 101 to Scottsdale Road and turn north. Continue 9 miles to Carefree and turn right on Wampum Way. Enter the roundabout and exit onto Easy Street (at your left).

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