After all those tea excursions in England, this blog needed a U.S. experience, and I had the perfect place for the inaugural entry: Tea at the Belvedere in Bristol, Rhode Island, home to the longest running annual Fourth of July parade in the U.S. The post was delayed for several months, and I was looking forward to finally adding it to the blog when some sad news arrived. The owners of Tea at the Belvedere, Victoria and Diamantino Fonseca, announced last week that they would have to sell or perhaps even close this wonderful establishment.
Tea at the Belvedere is part of Revival, a tea/gift/pastry shop that opened in 2007 on the street level of The Belvedere, a 1901 brick building that once functioned as a hotel for wealthy visitors. Located in the Historic District of Bristol, a town founded in 1680 on a peninsula in eastern Rhode Island, Revival joined a neighborhood of gift, craft, antique, jewelry, and other shops that appeal to tourists and local residents alike.
In 2013, Revival’s owners created a seating area within the shop for afternoon tea, and Tea at the Belvedere debuted Thanksgiving weekend. As Victoria mentioned in her announcement, she was diagnosed with an illness while working on installing Tea at the Belvedere. Her condition is treatable, but running a business will no longer be possible. Victoria confirmed on Facebook that she still hopes to sell the business.
For now, Revival remains open at 423 Hope Street, and Tea at the Belvedere will continue to offer “casual” Afternoon Tea (tea, scone, two tea sandwiches, and a pastry) from 2:00-5:00 daily until further notice. The expanded afternoon “high” tea option that we enjoyed during our visit is no longer available.
Rather than our standard assessment, the next section will serve as a tribute to Tea at the Belvedere and illustrate why we hope this establishment can be preserved. Making their Tea and Scone Hop debut are Beth and Sara, two of our friends from college, who joined Dorene and me for this visit.
What we love about Tea at the Belvedere
Tea, of course
With about 25 varieties to choose from, including SoRen and Elmwood Inn teas, we each selected a different type, with Dorene trying two.
Dorene started with Cashmere Creme: “A tropical blend of white peony tea leaves with the creamy essence of island coconut.” The coconut flavor and aroma were excellent, and Dorene returned to it for her third pot of tea.
In between she tried Coco Chic: “Fruity South African rooibos with succulent hints of organic banana, apple and rich cacao.” The aroma was wonderful.
Beth selected Abigail’s Blend, named for Abigail Adams. This enjoyable blend of black teas is reminiscent of the teas thrown overboard during the 1773 Boston Tea Party.
English Breakfast (decaf) was Sara’s selection.
I chose Fleur de Mint: “An exotic blend of organic white tea with the soothing essence of mint, accented with delicate rose petals and a hint of lavender.” This was my first time trying white tea. I loved smelling the mint each time I sipped.
Revival is known for carrying a variety of scones, and four flavors were offered the day of our visit. We selected one of each, all excellent:
Apricot & Almond (Dorene); Raisins/Cinnamon/Walnut (Beth); Blueberry Lemon (Sara); Blueberry (Diane)
Unfortunately, I committed the most egregious faux pas of scone blogging: I forgot to get a picture of the scones before we started eating. Here is Dorene’s Apricot & Almond scone, minus a bite or two.
The Afternoon Tea Tier
Dorene and I are accustomed to receiving scones on one of the tiers and then eating the sandwiches before the scones. As soon as Tea at the Belvedere’s afternoon tea tier arrived, I understood the benefit of having the scones first. With such generous offerings of savory and sweet treats, we did not have to worry about saving room for scones.
With no sightseeing planned for this visit to Bristol, we had the luxury of pacing ourselves, lingering over each bite, and thoroughly enjoying (and finishing!) each tier.
The white and beige motif, gold-trimmed china, chandeliers, and black and white photographs create a sense of warmth and elegance. The interior decorator in our group (Beth) was impressed by the stenciling on the walls. Folding screens designate the section for Tea at the Belvedere, which blends well with the rest of the gift shop.
The elegance of the room combined with the flavor of the community creates a welcoming and refreshing atmosphere. Both tea lovers and novices can recognize respect for the tea ceremony, while finding ways to have fun with tea culture too.
Hopefully new ownership can be found for Revival and Tea at the Belvedere, preserving the wonderful experience that Victoria and Diamantino have created. I want to wish Victoria all the best as she receives treatment and moves forward to the next phase of her life.
Update: Tea at the Belvedere closed in 2014.