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RestaurantsSanta Cruz
February 28-March 7, 2007

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Country Court Tea Room

Photograph by Carlie Statsky
More tea, dear?: Reconnect with your inner English country garden at Country Court.

Tea for One

A genteel escape is guaranteed at Capitola's classy Country Court Tea Room

By Selene Latigo

There are times when this vast and intricate age of advanced communication really gets to me. The endless email checking and cell phone ringing makes me feel like I'm constantly running in circles with no end in sight. On days like these, of which I've had an abundance recently, I try to set some time aside to drop out of the race and spend the day all alone, doing whatever I want just for me at as slow a pace as possible. This weekend I indulged in a leisurely two-hour tea for one at the Country Court Tea Room in Capitola.

Any trace of my girly self who refused to wear anything other than pink or purple, and drove my family crazy with discarded glitter piles and Barbie garments underfoot, certainly resurfaced during this private tea party I threw for myself. Upon entering the small cottage, there is a quiet sense of calm, and for me, exactly the kind of peaceful solitude I was looking for. The scattered tables throughout the three rooms all had pressed linens and delicate, lovingly kitschy adornments everywhere, lending even more to the floral-fabric-store-meets-Grandma's-house motif. The profusion of teapot décor and secret garden thematics would make some patrons run the other way, however, for my alone time and for the mother-daughter dates drifting through during the afternoon, this quaint spot fills a special-occasion niche. They even offer etiquette classes if you happen to feel yourself slipping a bit. Be sure to call ahead though, because on several attempts to visit during normal hours they were unexpectedly closed.

The menu is surprisingly long with two pages' worth of meal combinations from the daily soup, salad and sandwich specials to more sturdy items like the Cornish pasty or quiche. I'm certainly not the high tea expert, but the mention of the daily-changing jello salad made me grimace. However, from my tucked-away table overlooking the garden patio (unfortunately out of commission on this amazingly warm and sunny winter day) I overheard almost every other customer inquire about the jello salad. ... Perhaps I'm missing something.

I decided to really treat myself like royalty and went for the "Queen Victoria" ($21.95), which included a personal pot of tea and a two-tiered selection of sweet and savory nibbles. I never actually saw a comprehensive tea list, but my request for Darjeeling was accepted and soon after my little pot arrived steaming and fragrant with this softly floral black tea. A miniature pitcher of milk, one with honey and sugar cubes were at my disposal throughout the career of my constantly replenished tea pot, poured into the kind of fragile cup and saucer that my mom never let me use as a kid, making each cup that much more enjoyable.

I was curious about the curried pea soup, and even though it wasn't included in my order, my server generously brought a small cup for me to try. It was vibrant green, thick and pure with just a hint of curry seasoning and I was glad for the extra substantial offering.

After quite awhile, appropriately noted on the menu with the "allow extra time" warning, my bite-sized feast began. The double plates were garnished heavily with fresh kiwi, pineapple and grapes, although the out-of-season berries were pale and lacked flavor. In contrast, the small pot of zingy lemon curd was a gem at the height of the Meyer lemon glut and enhanced everything. The heating treatment from the microwave detracted from the otherwise flavorful apricot-walnut scone, making it rubbery without the characteristic buttery crumble.

There were two varieties of tea sandwiches on light whole wheat bread, cut into triangles with the crust cut off, of course. The egg salad was a classic, rich with mayonnaise, and the chicken salad was studded with toasted cashews and crisp celery bits. One tiny cheese quiche, also microwaved, was a nice pair with the remaining spoonfuls of soup. Two teapot cutouts of white bread held a slice of cucumber with dill, the other with tomato and parsley, adding yet another visual treat.

My favorite item from the array of sweets was the unique potato chip cookie, just like shortbread with the occasional salty hint of chip. Despite the mini size of this meal, I was quite full from the totality of all the detailed bites, crafted with obviously meticulous care here at this special-occasion hideaway.

Country Court Tea Room

Address: 911B Capitola Ave., Capitola

Phone: 831.462.2498

Hours: 11am-3pm Tue-Sat

Price Range: $4-$22.

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