“I didn’t like tea when I was a child,” admits Grace Unger, adding, “I was the outcast in my English family. Now I like fruit teas.”
And now she and her sister, Georgia, offer the public an authentic English Afternoon Tea at their restaurant, The Tuck Shop, located at 2245 N. 12th St. The two were born in Manchester, England and raised in America and eventually acquired a taste for the English tradition.
The tea service started in September and has been growing in popularity ever since. “We’ve had amazing feedback,” she says. “It’s like going back in time.” Every Saturday from Noon to 3 p.m., tea is served.
The menu is a selection of finger sandwiches such as prime rib roast beef, smoked salmon, classic egg salad and cucumber and chive cream cheese.
“I designed the tea menu,” says Grace’s mother, Renate Unger, who points out that of course the crust is cut off the bread.
Renate and her five sisters were taught how to bake by their father. Today she uses his recipe for scones. Guests are served two types of scones and a selection of miniature desserts, pastries and cakes. The hard part is deciding from a list of 20 teas. No worries, the English mum is happy to help you select the right tea.
“I keep a watchful eye,” she says.
For the record she has no title other than “mum.” She’s obviously proud of her daughters and is willing to lend a hand with their business as does her husband, Lee, who helps keep an eye on the books and food orders. His family has been in the food industry business for more than 300 years, according to Grace. They have done everything from owning restaurants to food manufacturing and processing, so Grace says she knew quite well how much work it would be to own and operate a restaurant.
“I like to create a space for people to meet,” she says and adds that Tuck Shop is “a cool environment for tea.”
That includes kids. The cozy eatery serves two teas that are geared towards children: “Tutti Fruity” and a strawberry tea. Both are caffeine free.
“Would you like a cuppa?” is the proper way an English person would invite you to tea and you would most definitely not drink that tea with your pinky finger pointing up. “Fingers are a no no,” says Renate.
You can add a glass of champagne to your teatime as well. Tea with a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve is $45 and tea with a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose is $50.
Fittingly the china pattern is named Gracie China. A Christmas-themed tea party is being planned for Dec. 18th. Check the website or the Facebook page for details closer to the date.
Future specials will have themes around events like the Kentucky Derby, Mother’s and Father’s Day, the U.S. Open, and others.
It’s a mixture of sophistication and fun. Already the local Jane Austin Society has enjoyed English Tea at Tuck Shop. Grace says about 70 of them dressed in character showed up for tea recently.
Renate also points out that 98 percent of the tea comes from states that are a part of the Ethical Tea Partnership, which monitors the working conditions of workers in the tea industry.
Tea is served Saturdays, and you must have reservations at least 24 hours in advance. Call Grace at 602-354-2980 or visit www.tuckinphx.com. You also can sign up for an e-newsletter to keep updated on special events, or follow Tuck Shop on Facebook.
The Arizona Biltmore, 2400 E. Missouri Ave., offers a High Tea Service Thursdays through Sundays for $50, and a special Teddy Bear Tea for kids now through Dec. 24. The $75 cost includes a stuffed Biltmore Bear for the child and a glass of champagne for the adult. Reservations are required. Call 602-955-6600 for details.
The Phoenician, 6000 E. Camelback Road, offers a Holiday Tea through Dec. 30. Cost is $67 without wine or champagne and is served daily starting at 2 p.m. Reservations are required. Call 480-423-2530 for details.