Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kevin and Afternoon Tea at the Phoenix Biltmore

Please allow me to introduce you to Kevin.  He's the Tea Sommelier at the Phoenix, AZ Biltmore. I met Kevin recently when I took myself to tea for two precious hours while on a business trip.  It was a magical experience for me, mostly because Kevin made me feel so special.

He had a little help from grand Arizona Biltmore herself.  This stately building opened in 1929.  Architect Albert Chase McArthur, a Harvard graduate, had studied under Frank Lloyd Wright and the latter's influence is visible throughout.  More info here for you FLW lovers.

The "Jewel of the Desert" has played hostess to many a famous person.  For example, Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas while sitting by the pool.  ;-)

I arrived at the lobby at my appointed tea time.  I wanted a private, special tea to do some reflection on my life (I'd just hit a major milestone).  Kevin greeted me warmly, talked about how he also loved having tea alone, and then seated me in the best seat in the lobby.  Tears welled in my eyes, I was so touched.

Then Kevin walked me through the tea menu, helping me to select a tea that would pair well with the first course of savories and sandwiches.  I chose the white ginger pear tea to begin, and it worked beautifully with the food.

I had the opportunity to observe Kevin interact with the other guests and I was very impressed with how he gently guided them through the tea selections and experience of afternoon tea, providing tidbits of tea history, information on tea's growing and processing, and plenty of encouragement and smiles...all the while ensuring our teapots were hot and full and our courses served in a leisurely but yet timely manner.  He exemplified the professional server. 

Over the warm raisin rum scones, I shared with Kevin my love of tea and this blog.  It was then that we became friends.  I do hope to keep in touch and plan to visit every opportunity I have.  (More trips to AZ, please!)  I'm showing the jam and real clotted cream below because he suggested I try a generous serving of cream with lemon curd and a dollop of raspberry jam on the scone.  Delicious!

Desserts were amazing and plentiful!  At this point, Kevin suggested I switch to another tea and I tried the Chai.  By the way, teas were prepared as they should (in my opinion): Loose leaf, steeped to perfection and then the leaf removed, and hot. Tea Forte is the brand.

I want to say thank you to Kevin for making my afternoon tea experience one that I will never forget.  His thoughtfulness and enthusiasm for afternoon tea were true gifts and I was pampered from beginning to end.  In fact, when he discovered that it was my birthday, he left me with a gift...extra scones and a container of tea. This was a 5-star afternoon tea experience.

A few more Biltmore pictures...Sprites, originally designed for Frank Lloyd Wrght for Chicago's Midway Gardens.  They've had a perilous path to the West.  They were found in a farmer's field, restored and now grace the entrance to the hotel.
This gorgeous stained glass panel greets you as you walk inside.  Frank Lloyd Wright designed the panel and called it Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers.   Wright originally created this work as one of twelve covers commissioned by Liberty magazine in 1926-1927.  Unfortunately, the designs were rejected as too radical by the publisher.


La Tea Dah said...

There are so many things I love about this post, Stephanie. I have read it once --- and now will go back and read it again to catch all the details. What a beautiful, beautiful tea! And the service sounds excellent. I can't think of a nicer place to be right now than Arizona. The Frank Lloyd Wright addition is just the frosting on the --- scone! ;D

Snap said...

Oh, my! Stephanie!!!! What a marvelous experience. It sounds like you made a friend for life, too. Wonderful post.

La Tea Dah said...

Re-reading and I just want to click "like", "like", "like". Blogger needs to add the feature!

Marilyn said...

I agree with La Tea Dah - love!
I love anything from Frank Lloyd Wright, but this tea just is the cherry on top. Kevin was extra special too. What a perfect way to celebrate your birthday!

relevanttealeaf said...

How awesome that you got to celebrate/reflect on your birthday at the Phoenix Biltmore. And so glad Kevin made it so special for you. I loved reading your post! Hope you had a Happy Birthday and I'm sending best wishes for a year filled with blessings!
~ Phyllis

Angela McRae said...

Sorry I missed your birthday, but so pleased to hear you had this special teatime! It sounds amazing -- and I could use that sort of refreshment long about now myself!

Teresa's New Life said...

Oh, I KNOW you are having the BEST time there! I loved it when we were there about 6 years ago. It was one of my favorite places I've ever visited! The Frank Lloyd Wright influences and the "Sprites" from Chicago are so wonderful as is all the history there. And Camel Mountain- oh, I just love Arizona!
They do a spectacular tea, too! Love, love , love it! So glad you had a great birthday!

Teresa's New Life said...

I was so excited about seeing the pictures of the Biltmore, and remembering what a wonderful time we had there that I forgot to mention how wonderful your experience with Kevin sounded and how happy for you that you got to experience it. I hope you become life long tea friends.

Rosemary said...

Such a memorable experience at just the right moment when you needed it! Beautiful!

Linda @ Friendship Tea said...

Great post! We all wish we could have been there with you.

The Tea Enthusiast's Scrapbook said...

Hi Steph,

Happy belated birthday! What a wonderful way to spend your special day. It's also such a joy to read about pure acts of kindness. The world could surely use a lot more tea.

Blessings, Darlene