The Perfect Sandwich
“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language,” said Henry James. But enclosed within the parentheses of those two words is another beautiful combination: “afternoon tea.” I don’t know when I switched from tea bags to the ritual of loose leaved teas in the afternoon, but I think it had to do with multiple visits to Silver Tips tea, in Tarrytown, where they take their tea ultra seriously even to the point of having a sign “Do not put tea cozies on heads.” (More on Silver Tips to come in future posts.)
For now I want to focus on The Millerton Shop of Harney & Sons, Master Tea Blenders. When the Chef and I travel to the Upper Hudson Valley or the Berkshires, we try to stop at Millerton, a colorful half-in-the-past town in Duchess County, a little south of Copake. Along with two ancient menswear stores, tiny Terni’s that was once a luncheonette, and frozen-in-time Sapersteins, there is the magnificent Oblong Books and a Harney’s Tea emporium complete with tasting room, gift shop and restaurant. We had just come down from Mt. Washington, Massachusetts, and after an invigorating swim in cold Guilder Pond and, for the Chef, a long hike up Mt. Everett, we were famished.
Luckily Harney’s doesn’t traffic in delicate tea sandwiches. My “Brigitte” ($10.00) is ample with its two ingredients and simplicity itself, filled with either La Quercia prosciutto or Nodine’s ham (from a local Berkshires smokehouse) and French butter. I chose the Nodine’s, and the triumvirate of baguette, butter and tender pink ham was as French as the tricolour! The Chef chose a more British entrée, that is to say it was Indian: a curry bowl with steamed vegetables, house made curry sauce (from real curry powder) served over brown rice sprinkled with toasted coconut and almonds ($9.00). We sipped a very strong Ceylon tea, but it was so brisk I decided I’d stick with Liptons for that much of a straightforward lift.
I love the neat grid of blond wood cubbies and dark brown tea tins lining the walls of the tasting room, which we visited after lunch. The staff always have two teas brewing that you can try and each visitor is allowed one tasting. The Chef and I tried the two Chinese teas on offer,and I was impressed by how avid and knowledgeable the Harney’s staff members were—a young man and women discussing notes of hay and malt among themselves. We ended up buying a small tin of the Panyang Congou tea, the one with an undernote of hay. What better flavor to ride out on at the tail end of our vacation. Walking through farmland once, we stopped to smell hay baled in a rotting barn. It held the smells of wildflowers, cow, grass and sun, an elixir of summer. Oh, to have had a perfect "Brigitte" ham and butter sandwich while stopping to picnic there. “Summer afternoon.” “Afternoon tea.” “Picnic Basket.”
The Millerton Shop/ Harney & Sons
13 Main Street, Millerton, NY
And there's a sweet Harney & Son's tasting room and cafe right in New York City!
The Soho Shop/ Harney & Sons
433 Broome St.