Tea and Chromosomes

Buckingham Bee
2179 Fourth St., White Bear Lake; (651) 653-9533
British Cream teas served 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; reservation-only Brass Bell teas served Friday and Saturday 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.; call for information on occasional Sunday theme teas.

Murray's
26 South Sixth St., Mpls.; (612) 339-0909
High tea served Monday to Friday 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Café Latte
850 Grand Ave., St. Paul; (651) 224-5687
High tea served daily 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Diana Watters

Location Info

Map

Buckingham BeeTea Room

2179 4th St.
White Bear Lake, MN 55110

Category: Coffee Shops

Region: White Bear Lake

Murray's Restaurant And Cocktail Lounge

26th S. 6th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Category: Restaurant > Steakhouse

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Cafe Latte

850 Grand Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Macalester/Groveland

Sometimes when it's a slow news day and the other writers are holed up in the conference room throwing luaus, or seances, or luau-seances, where they summon the ghosts of Don Kalana and the Tahitians and make them sing "Bali Ha'i"--sometimes it does a girl good to take stock of things. For example, I have been carting around a pair of X chromosomes for I don't know how long. Down through the frozen-foods section. Out to the lake. Through the airport metal detectors. Everywhere I go, they go too, and what have they ever done for me? Hitchhikers! Layabouts!

With a different set of chromosomes, life would be easier. Statistically, I'd earn more. Chanel wouldn't snare me like a roach on a glue trap every time they introduce a new mascara. Most important, I'd understand Skater Pain, the underground video that recently came over my transom.

Skater Pain is aptly named. It contains about two zillion fast-paced scenes of skateboarders pancaking their flesh upon unforgiving surfaces. Faces on steps. Crash. Shoulders on curbs. Clunk. Heads on asphalt. Swoosh-squash. Most prominent, and most impressive, gonads on banisters. Slam. Again and again and again, fleshy bits of teenage boys make violent contact with architecture.

And I ask, from my X-chromosome-tinged ignorance: Why? Why would anyone do this? I think if you showed a roomful of women a tape of a sport and said: This sport, why, this sport will require frequent belly flops on concrete and your parents' health insurance, few would participate. What gives?

To understand the world, you must first understand yourself--or at least that's what the fortune cookies say. So I set out to understand the extremes of the X chromosome. I set out to a land far, far away, all the way past St. Paul. All the way north of 694. A land where teddy bears rule.

If you have never walked down the streets of downtown White Bear Lake, let me warn you: The town is full of fuzzy-wuzzy white bears. Big white bears, little white bears, WBs wearing hats, WBs requiring corrective lenses, WBs wearing jaunty scarves, lone WBs, and WBs posed in sociable groups, doubtless discussing a WB mutiny. White Bear Lake is more than a town: It's a motif, a cuddlesome-wuddlesome eight-year-old girl's dream come true.

I was in White Bear Lake to take tea at the Buckingham Bee, a small space tucked deep inside a movie theater-turned-mall. British Cream teas (tea, a scone, Devonshire cream, and a choice of shortbread cookies or a lemon bar, all for $6.95) are served daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but the more extravagant "Brass Bell" formal teas ($12.95) are offered only Fridays and Saturdays and require reservations.

I arrived for my Brass Bell midafternoon, and the tiny, windowless space was buzzing. A woman, wearing a bonnet and possessing painstakingly pretty enunciation, explained the details: Choose a tea variety out of a half-dozen possibilities, and a pot of the loose, brewed tea appears with a tea cozy, a tea strainer, a bowl of sugar, a little spoon, and a pretty little creamer. Faceted water glasses join the vase of fake flowers on the table; when you're ready to proceed, you either ring the actual brass bell that sits next to the flowers or wait for the lady with the lovely consonants to return.

But first we had to admire the china, which is worth the trip in itself, all beautifully mismatched antique cups and saucers. Squarish pots with gold accents, tall pots with feet, stubby pots painted with roses; jewel-accented cups, embellished with miniature posies, suspended from bird-bone-thin handles. Oh for cute! My double-X girlie heart leapt.

The precious little courses arrived. First, the non-pastries: Little crustless bread rectangles covered with a parmesan spread; wee crustless cucumber sandwiches; cheerful pineapple-kiwi toothpick skewers; and itsy-bitsy cherry tomatoes stuffed with mustard-egg cream. While nibbling, I glanced around at the dozen-or-so tables; all were filled with (mostly) ladies, including a clutch of thirtysomethings in vintage hats and an adorable trio of a mother and two ten-year-oldish girls in contemporary, ribbon-trimmed hats.

I have hats! I could have worn a hat! If I had known it was a hat party, I'd have hatted! (Now I see my future: I must author an underground video to go head-to-head with Skater Pain. It will be called Sipper Hat, and will feature snippets of chapeau descending on brunette! Ah. Pillbox adjusting on redhead! Oooh. Veil settling on blonde! Mmm.)

Next was the scone course: Two scones for each guest, and glass bowls on the table filled with thick, excellent strawberry preserves and Devonshire cream--the thick, unsweetened paste one gets by boiling unhomogenized cream. The scones were hard, crumbly, and very good, except for one that contained artificially cherry-flavored chips; they tasted like Chapstick and made the whole pastry inedible. In between scones, one may gaze upon all the little gifty things the Buckingham Bee also sells--teapot picture frames, teapot pillows, cutie-pie kitty-cat stickers, little-bittle teaspoons, eensy-weensy gift bags, ootsie-bootsie ickle-wickle la la la la...Oops, sorry.

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