Review: Tea on the Tiber

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. I’m sure many of you are getting your flowers and cards ready, but in our family we like to take mom out to High Tea. In that spirit, my friend Babs and I recently visited Tea on the Tiber, a “Victorian Tea Room and Gift Shop located at 8081 Main Street in historic Ellicott City.”

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Babs and I set a reservation for 1 pm on Friday and arrived about ten minutes early. I gave us lots of time to get there because parking in Ellicott City is an Odyssean ordeal. We were seated right away at a quiet table in their second floor tearoom. Tea on the Tiber goes for a Victorian aesthetic, with lace and flowers in abundance. The tearooms are quaint and charming, and I give it a 9/10 for atmosphere.

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Since we had requested the Afternoon Tea, as opposed to the pared down Shopper’s Tea, we were given tea menus that listed the pre-set foods and the tea options. Tea on the Tiber’s tea selection is fairly broad, with a little bit of everything on offer. They had at least a few choices in Green, Oolong, and Herbal/Tisane, and had plenty of Black teas available. The only tea type absent from the list was Pu-erh.

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I ordered the Hot Cinnamon Spice, a black tea blended with a mix of cinnamon, and Babs ordered the Orchid, a floral Oolong. Both were quite good, loose leaf served in tea sleeves that we steeped ourselves. Being allowed to control how long my tea steeps is always a plus to me, as I’m fairly picky about steep times.

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The pre-set tea menu included sweets, savories, and scones. Fairly traditional, as far as tea goes! The savories included tomato tea sandwiches, cucumber tea sandwiches, strawberry tarts, and chicken salad sandwiches. The sweets were slices of coconut cake, shortbread cookies, and macaroons. We were brought two each, so there was one of each for both of us. The scones were larger than I’d expected, almost as big as the cake slices were, and were served with clotted cream, lemon curd, and fruit preserve.

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Overall, the food was good, although I wish there’d been a bit more emphasis on savories, as I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. That, however, is purely a personal preference. The service was quick and very friendly, and at no point during our over two-hour tea were we pressured to move along. There were sadly no refills on tea, but the pot provided serves roughly five cups.

Out total came to $22.50 a person, which is very reasonable in the DC/MD/VA area.

After our tea, we wandered through Tea on the Tiber’s gift shop. The shop is more of an afterthought as the emphasis is clearly on the parlor, but they had a few cute knickknacks for sale and Babs wound up purchasing a set of teapot shaped earrings for a friend.

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On our way out, I asked Babs what her final rating was. “B+,” she said. She likes very traditional English-style High Tea and had been a bit disappointed by Tea on the Tiber’s “Americanized” tea sandwiches, but enjoyed the experience as a whole.

For me, Tea on the Tiber makes an A-. The décor was enjoyably old-fashioned and the tea selection was broad enough to satisfy almost any taste. The food had been a little on the overly sweet side, but that’s not too far from the norm when it comes to Afternoon Tea. I did mark off for the lackluster gift shop and inflexibility in food options.

If you’re in the area, give Tea on the Tiber a try! Be sure to make a reservation and arrive early to find parking. Ellicott City is a historic area with a good dose of old-world charm, and Tea on the Tiber fits right in. It’s definitely worth the visit.


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