Saturday, May 25, 2024

Phoebe Cheong and Jude Andam’s Tea Tradition

Phoebe Cheong and Jude Andam, friends who live on opposite coasts, have recently begun a tradition whenever they see each other. They have tea. On a recent afternoon, Ms. Andam, a makeup artist in Los Angeles, joined Ms. Cheong, a commercial photographer, at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon, which occupies the parlor floor of a Georgian townhouse in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan. The two friends might have met for coffee or lunch, but they prefer the more formal experience of tea. “Coffee shops are casual,” Ms. Andam, 42, said. “You go in there in your athleisure or whatever. This is more of a special occasion.” Ms. Cheong, 31, noted the maximalist décor at Lady Mendl’s, which includes Victorian fringe lamp shades and gold-leaf on the molding. She also appreciated how the server announced that the topping for their scones was Devonshire cream. “Here there’s mystery, there’s storytelling,” Ms. Cheong said. Elaborate afternoon tea service is a main attraction at more than a dozen venues in New York and Los Angeles. At Brooklyn High Low, which has two locations near Prospect Park, it’s $48 for the “Classic” prix fixe tea service, which lasts 75 minutes. At Rose Tree Cottage in Pasadena, Calif., a man in a tuxedo serves cucumber sandwiches and sticky toffee pudding. The three New York locations of Alice’s Tea Cup have an “Alice in Wonderland” theme. It is a curious fact that, in a decidedly uncivil time, when people have grown accustomed to arguing with strangers on social media and wearing sweats on the plane, this high ritual has made something of a comeback.

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