Afternoon tea at Zhi

Silver Needle Buds white tea in a Good Life pot at Zhi Tea

Silver Needle Buds white tea in a For Life pot at Zhi Tea

(NOTE: UPDATED BELOW ENTRY)

One of my favorite indulgences is afternoon tea (never to be called high tea, contrary to popular belief). There is something about the simplicity of the tea and the decadence and delicacy of finger sandwiches, scones (with clotted cream – oh my!), preserves and other little treats that makes me feel like I’ve treated myself well and gets me energized for the rest of my day.

This makes sense, because traditional English tea was just that, a respite to energize the aristocracy and the otherwise upper crust between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Recently, I enjoyed tea at the Zhi Tea Gallery in Austin (4607 Bolm Rd., 512-539-0717). It’s a cozy little haven off the beaten path. In fact, though I lived in Austin for five years before relocating to Houston a couple of years ago, I only discovered it just the other day. It’s truly one of those hidden gems. The owner is delightful and he and the staff are happy to answer questions, make recommendations and all around make you feel at home.

Inside, you’ll find a lounge area with comfy sofa, chairs and a coffee (er, tea) table, the retail shop, which includes a vast selection of the colorful and modern little For Life teapots in which the tea is served on the table service side, as well as a seating area with light wood tables and chairs. There also is a little library, if you’d like to stay and read a magazine or book.

The menu includes a stunning array of loose leaf teas and also cheese plates, hummus and veggies and delectable baked goods. On the retail side you can buy any and everything you need for tea at home. All of the tea pots are lovely and would make perfect gifts to tea-loving friends.

Since finding it, I’ve visited twice and each time I had a wonderful experience. The first time, I had a pot of the Single Needle Buds white tea and the next time a pot of the Ambrosia white tea. The former was mellow and light and latter sweet and smooth.

By yourself or with a friend, tea is an inexpensive treat that feels like a big luxury.

What’s your favorite inexpensive indulgence?

UPDATE: Zhi is having a Valentine Tea and Chocolate Pairing on Feb. 9, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Enjoy four courses featuring chocolate from The Chocolate Makers Studio. It’s $25 per person or $40 per pair and attendees get 10 percent off all teas in the Gallery and a tea sample to take home. RSVP in person with credit card or cash at the gallery (address above) or  via credit card by calling 512-539-0717 or via PayPal by emailing jeffrey@zhitea.com.

Weekend getaway gift: Felted soap

Throughout the summer, many of us find ourselves spending weekends with friends or family in another city, because of weddings, vacations or yearly visits. We’ve discussed before that you should do everything possible to be a great guest when someone is kind enough to open up his or her home to you. By bringing or sending a hostess gift (or both), you are on your way to being invited back for another fun-filled getaway.  We often gift little luxury items, because while we like to indulge in the small, but decadent things in life, we try not to go overboard and therefore love to get them as gifts ourselves.

One of the best places to find fabulous toiletries, especially fancy soaps, in a pinch or otherwise is Anthropologie. Yes, it’s a chain, but by golly, it’s a chain that gets it right every single time! From the store’s music and decor; to the clothes and accessories; down to the scents and quirky books and household items we just love it in spite of ourselves. Oh, and they gift wrap. For free.

So, for your next hostess gift purchase, we’d like to recommend the natural, handmade, Fiat Luxe Felted Soap, $14, at Anthropologie:

Image courtesy of Anthropologie

These pretty little soaps are wrapped in felted wool to create a sort of washcloth. The wool is naturally antibacterial and it serves as an exfoliator (remember, exfoliation is your key to the fountain of youth). If that wasn’t enough, the felt shrinks as the soap is used, so when the original “melts” away, pop in a new bar.

Find them at your nearest Anthropologie store or order online by clicking here.

We like to buy several at a time and keep them handy for gifting. Also, it’s always fun to have a “signature” gift, especially when it’s something as divine as delicious smelling soap.

Happy travels this weekend and beyond and remember to send a thank you note (Anthropologie has those too).

Cheers!

M