Harney & Sons Fine Teas in Millerton, Dutchess County

Stop in for lunch, choose some brews, and browse until teatime

The wife of the Governor of the Bank of England, a “green guru,” according to the press, recently caused a kerfuffle by announcing that tea bags are an environmental disaster. British journalists, ever alert to the important issues of the day, concluded that using too much loose tea was even worse. I imagine that the English responded to this as they do to all news, by making a fresh cuppa.

Still, I cringe to picture them plonking a teabag in a mug and pouring boiling water on it instead of brewing it properly in a teapot. True, the mug method is an improvement over the American practice of dunking a teabag in a cup of tepid water until some tea color leaks out, which leaves you with an insipid beverage whose main resemblance to real tea is that it’s wet. And then there’s the soggy teabag, lying there all sullen in the saucer. Open one of those teabags, incidentally, and you’ll find something that looks more like dust than tea leaves. That’s because it is mostly dust, left over after the aromatic, whole, tasty leaves were packaged as loose teas. No wonder Americans come 70th on the list of tea consumers worldwide. Most have never tasted the good stuff.

english breakfast tea scones with clotted cream and jam

At Harney & Sons Fine Teas in Millerton, there’s a dazzling array of the good stuff — black, green, oolong, flavored, herbal and organic — amounting to between two- and three-hundred blends. The teas are sold loose in tins, in sachets (the next best thing), and bags. The family business is now 30 years old, and the Harneys have earned a sterling reputation as master tea blenders, with a wealth of info on their Web site (www.harney.com), including brewing instructions. (It’s really not difficult. Pour boiling water on tea leaves. That’s about it.) Michael Harney has even written a Guide to Tea, for those who want to learn more. The shop carries kettles, teapots, strainers, scoops, and other tea paraphernalia, along with books and a few baking mixes. 

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You can have lunch in the little cafe in back or on the terrace. There’s a short but tempting menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches, grilled or toasted, and a platter or two. The guy in the antiques shop nearby was enthusiastic about the beef sliders with caramelized onions. Or go for afternoon tea. Try one of the blends, indulge in a couple of scones slathered with English clotted cream and French strawberry jam, and delight your inner Brit.

» Harney & Sons named one of our favorite tea shops in 2011
» Visit Harney & Sons Fine Teas in Millerton, NY
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