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Sipping tea helps soothe the senses at a frantic time of year.

Byline: KIMBER WILLIAMS The Register-Guard

THE HEADY AROMA of spices drifts about the displays at Ruthie B's Antiques, where patrons are invited to cozy up next to a warming candle and steaming pots of spiced Christmas tea, among the many seasonal festivities brewing at area tea rooms this month.

From Teddy Bear teas to events steeped in Victorian tradition, from Dickensian carolers to holiday menus that boast Christmas treats straight from the history books, Oregon tea parlors are opening their doors to the season in dramatic style.

"I think Christmas teas are all about making memories," said Jess French, who is "aid to the chief" at Ruthie B's antique shop and tea house in Springfield.

"Tea takes us back to a place that was kind and gentle," something we may yearn for now more than ever, French added.

Tea rooms have flourished in the Northwest in the past decade, with nearly 40 emerging in Oregon alone. Specialty tea events at Christmas offer "an excuse to slow down, to be with loved ones," said Myra Plant, owner of the Campbell House, a historic Queen Anne-style inn at the base of Skinner Butte.

"The whole season has this rushed energy to it," Plant said.

"Coming here and listening to carolers, sipping tea and nibbling on wonderful delights is a soothing, magical antidote."

In that spirit, we offer an assortment of Christmas teas and specialty events planned at regional tea rooms throughout the month of December.

Campbell House 252 Pearl St., Eugene (541) 343-1119

Victorian Christmas teas are a longstanding tradition at the Campbell House, which borrows heavily from Old English custom in presenting three courses of scones, finger sandwiches and desserts. Carolers in Victorian costume complete the ambience of the historic home, which is elaborately adorned for the holidays.

"We go a little bonkers this time of year, covering every inch of the inn with Christmas," general manager Lydia Lindsay said.

The formal high tea lasts about 1 1/2 hours. It will be offered at 1 p.m. on Dec. 9 and at noon and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 14-16 and Dec. 21-23. Cost is $21 per person, and reservations are required.

Children also are invited to a special holiday tea event, as local storyteller Mark Lewis narrates "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." Youngsters will gather in a guest cottage at Third and Pearl streets for a tea luncheon with a playful twist. The menu features tea, herbal tea, punch, milk or juice, peanut butter sandwiches and other kid-friendly teatime fare.

Children's tea will be served at noon Saturday and Dec. 9, Dec. 15 and Dec. 16. Cost is $18 per person.

Flinn's Tea Parlour 222 W. First Ave., Albany (541) 928-5008

The tablecloths are antique lace, the tea service bone china - even the chairs are from another era. So it's no wonder that the holiday delicacies are Old-World authentic, gleaned from recipe books that date back to the 1700s and 1800s.

At "Flinn's Christmas Tea Time Around the World," patrons are invited to sample historic fare: Swedish cardamon yule cake, Polish plotsik and English date pudding from the 1800s.

"We just collect cookbooks," explained Ellen Lilja, who operates the tea parlor and dinner theater with husband Bill in the historic Flinn block in downtown Albany. "We have over 1,000 cookbooks in our collection; maybe 50 or 60 were printed before the turn of the previous century."

Christmas is an excuse to serve holiday treats from centuries past, which is why the Liljas refer to it as an "historic" tea, not an English tea. Guests will sample a changing assortment of tea breads, a wine-poached pear presented as "a partridge in a pear tree," three tea sandwiches and a dessert course. Add to the mix homemade peanut brittle and chocolate-covered coconut bon-bons.

Christmas tea is offered Dec. 1 through Dec. 22 in two seatings, at noon and 2:30 p.m., by reservation only. (Children over the age of 6, please.) Cost is $15.25 per person.

Mon Ami 490 Highway 101, Florence (541) 997-9234

"Holiday tea is a celebration of friendship," said Cindy Brent Wobbe, owner of this coastal tea room and antiques store, which blurs the boundaries of both venues. Guests are invited to be seated among antiques throughout the vintage-laden setting, located in the historic Tidewater Electric Building on the Pacific Coast Highway.

The fourth annual Victorian Tea features a variety of fresh-baked scones and shortbreads, tea sandwiches and cream puffs served on vintage china and table linens.

Seatings for the holiday event are offered at 11 a.m. through 3 p.m. on Dec. 14 and 15. Reservations are required and often fill quickly. Cost is $9.95 per person.

Mrs. B's Special Teas 55 W. Grant, Lebanon (541) 259-5100

"The Nutcracker" ballet inspires the "Sugar Plum Fairy Christmas Tea" at Mrs. B's this season. "Sugar plum tea is by far our most favored herbal tisane (infusion)," explained Barbara Brown, proprietor of this 30-seat tea parlor and bakery.

Along with other tea choices, guests are invited to sample homemade sandwiches, tarts, truffles and a sugar plum cake on Brown's extensive bone china collection in a formal Victorian dining room.

Holiday tea is offered by reservation from noon to 4 p.m. on Dec. 21-23. Children ages 6 and up are welcome. Cost is $10.50.

Ruthie B's Antiques 100 Main St., Springfield (541) 988-4791

The atmosphere leans toward the eclectic - a fascinating rabbit's warren of antiques and vintage-inspired handcrafts. And the service is downright zany - servers wander through with soap bubbles and laughter abounds.

But teatime means easing yourself down at a table and indulging in a pot of Taylors of Harrogate Spiced Christmas Tea (lemon, orange and cinnamon) and scones with clotted cream straight from England.

"Everything here is done by hand and heart, really," said Jess French, who helps owner Ruthie Ballenger run this casually off-beat tea parlor and antiques emporium.

Christmas began the day after Thanksgiving, with special seasonal teas and an a la carte menu that boasts Christmas "crummy cake," smoked turkey and cranberry sandwiches and a ruby-red tomato soup, among other festive goodies.

Tea and lunch is served daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but you may want to stop by on Friday after 1:30 p.m. or on Dec. 15 for special holiday-themed treats.

Savoure 201 W. Broadway, Eugene (541) 242-1010

"Savoure" means "savored," and the December salon tea at this downtown Eugene tea shop offers a French teatime experience with a holiday twist.

Savory selections include croque monsieur; quiche with spinach and pine nuts; tuna salad tartlet; and an apple, blue cheese and walnut pita. Seasonal choices include scones, Christmas petit fours, chocolate macaroons, ginger cookies and orange melts. Cost is $12.50.

The holiday tea of the month is Mariage Freres' Esprit de Noel, which hails straight from Paris. Call for more information.

Sunriver Teddy Bear Tea 1 Center Drive, Sunriver (541) 593-4609

Teddy bears and children are invited to a traditional English tea exclusively designed for the young at heart.

At Sunriver Resort, a banquet room at the lodge is transformed into the North Pole, and families are offered tea, treats and a casual education on teatime traditions. Your host? A life-sized teddy bear.

Handmade gingerbread houses are on display and children's tea sets are for sale. Young guests get a complimentary teddy bear.

The afternoon event is offered from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 15, Dec. 22 and Dec. 26-29. Reservations are required. Cost is $13.50 per person

Tea Events 915 N.W. Gasoline Alley, Bend (541) 382-5515

The spirit of Dickens inspires "Fezziwig's Christmas Carol Tea" at this reservation-only tea house, home to the Ladies Tea Guild.

The two-hour holiday tea offers a five-course menu inspired by Old English tea traditions, served by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. "We chose to name the tea after Fezziwig because he's the happy, jolly character," tea mistress Dawnya Sasse explained.

The program includes seasonal music, carols and dramatic readings. Seatings begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Dec. 15, 22 and 23. Reservations are required. Cost is $25.

Tudor Rose Tearoom 480 Liberty St. S.E., Salem (503) 588-2345

British tea room atmosphere abounds in this parlor, located along picturesque Pringle Creek, with a menu designed for the holidays.

Specialties include bisque in puff pasty, finger sandwiches, cranberry-spice scones, pumpkin tart, ginger shortbread and chocolate hazelnut petit fours. Holiday tea features two savory courses and four dessert courses.

Seatings are from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Reservations are required. Cost is $9.95.

CAPTION(S):

Caption goes here caption goes here. Christmas teas offer a way to slow down and enjoy the magic of the season. At Ruthie B's Antiques in Springfield, Priscilla Ackerman (left) and her sister, Donna Bieselin, get decked out in vintage clothing to share a steaming pot of tea amid the holiday splendor. NICOLE DeVITO / The Register-Guard
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Title Annotation:Holidays
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 2, 2001
Words:1500
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