Tea: A Revolutionary Experience
Writers / Frieda Dowler & Tia Nielsen . Photographer / Amanda DeBusk
Drinking establishments have been a center for socializing throughout history. Visiting them is a break from the duties of life. We equate drinking and conversation with relaxation. However, the kinds of drinks we imbibe vary widely. In addition, the kind of drinks the establishment serves determines the type of socializing that occurs.
Seeking a change from the ordinary, colleagues and I from the Greenwood Community Newsletter freelance staff, met at Sassafras Lunch and Tea Room on Madison Avenue for the English Tea experience. As we entered the historic home, we were transported back in time to a culture of finery. One look set the stage for a leisurely afternoon, with twinkle lights shining their welcome and sparkling china teacups atop vintage chargers plates graced each place setting.
We nibbled on cucumber and chicken salad finger sandwiches served on a three-tiered tower along with scones, and other delicately sweet treats, as we exchanged thoughts about the miracles that occur throughout life. Of course, there was tea; exquisite vanilla almond served in antique cups. This charming home was filled with daylight and soft background music that didn’t compete with the conversation.
Tia observed, “It’s like taking a vacation for a couple of hours but without airport parking, bags and a passport.”
Cheryl Doni, owner of Sassafras, has lived an evolution of change. Following a degree in interior design, she worked from home as a window treatment designer then entered the restaurant business. Her food service resume includes Serenity in Zionsville and the Propylaeum in Indianapolis. She said, “People come here as strangers but leave as friends” and have even come into the kitchen for a goodbye hug.
Doni specializes in events. She will arrange bridal showers, baby showers, anniversary parties, holiday parties and even weddings, for the cost of the food you want served. She doesn’t charge for the use of the restaurant. Special parties can also request the food to be served on antique china.
Tea is the most popular beverage in the world and has been associated with everything from health to spiritual rituals. Drinking tea began in China, spread to Japan, eventually England and then America. Tea was a heavily imported commodity in America’s early days. However, after the Revolutionary War, when America gained independence from Great Britain, drinking tea became unpopular and was considered unpatriotic. To this day, coffee is more popular than tea in the U.S. Nevertheless, a recent surge in U.S. tea sales has given rise to teashops like Sweetea’s (pronounced Sweeties) in Nashville, Indiana. They carry 50 varieties of tea, and serve it hot, iced or with their popular bubble bursts of flavor.
Greenwood offers a variety of establishments that serve liquid refreshments. Sassafras stands apart as a way to connect with history and tea culture. It’s a way to step back from the frantic rush of life and enjoy a timeless experience cradling a warm soothing drink, nibbling quality, freshly made food in a restoring atmosphere.