Jolie Tea Company
Jess Days. Catchy, right? I try to schedule one monthly for a healthier life balance between work, miscellaneous obligations, and personal fulfillment. The day finds me wandering solo, blending into in the background of anywhere mood permits. Retreat, fade, and reflect. Sometimes this will include a visit to an art gallery. It could be a new city. A lecture. A new store, even. Jess Days are purely for rejuvenation. This May necessitated something extra magical, as Mother’s Day inflicted some heavy emotional complexities that left my soul ragged. The adventure needed to reassemble the pieces of a splintered spirit. It had to be special. After this realization, social media serendipitously introduced me to a French-themed tea parlor and café in downtown Salem: Jolie Tea Company. Within a swift minute of the happy discovery, I booked a morning for high tea, and Jess Day was looking its best yet. Pinkies up!
High tea is a beloved pastime I share with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Years ago, we made it a solid holiday tradition, one that will hopefully continue throughout the generations. Once you have a decent scone presented on a fancy tiered tray and accompanied by a soothing cup of warm tea, kissed with just a touch of honey, it’s a done deal. You’re happily committed. This time I’d be enjoying high tea by myself, a first. Not knowing what to expect, I allowed my imagination to run rampant with ridiculous scenarios of high society chatter. These silly daydreams found me sipping earl grey on a crimson velour chaise lounge, or something else that might have once been a posh prop for Downton Abbey. I don’t actually know a duke or a duchess, or anyone of nobility for that matter, but I fantasized conversing with royals about charitable galas and summer stays at the Hamptons. In case you haven’t guessed, I don’t socialize in large groups that much. Nonetheless, the sweet anticipation of a lovely experience found me scurrying to my destination the morning of my reservation. Approaching and turning the corner to Essex Street, I spotted a modest brick building that was typically Salem- quaint, slightly askew, and plucked directly from the pages of a prosperous maritime history. It wasn’t a mansion. It wasn’t ostentatious. It was simple. It was like me. I felt an unusual grimace stretch across my face. This was better than I imagined. There would be no talk of yachting in the Hamptons today. Pinkies down, Lady Jessica.
With a meek pull of the front door, I entered Jolie Tea Company. Have you ever experienced love at first sight? The initial draw pulls together with an immediate and unstoppable force, greater than any physicist could explain. It’s the feeling of intense spiritual connection. That what I felt. Jolie Tea Company is a paradise that instantly delights the francophile’s every fantasy. French paraphernalia everywhere. Casual accordion music playing in the background. The hint of glitz and glamour demurely adorns the café. The interior is an assortment fashionable trends funneled into a single space: cozy, shabby, chic, rustic, and artful. The giant storefront window cheerfully illuminates an already merry area even in the gloomiest weather. Minimalists will appreciate the natural woods, bright color schemes, and the impeccably symmetrical tea storage, while those who savor a more eclectic taste will swoon over the many tea pot displays, sassy prints, marble café tables, and turquoise velour sofa seating- the accent piece from my dreams.
The most impressive element of Jolie Tea Company is not actually its style, however. The café boasts a menu of TWO HUNDRED varieties of tea. Two. Hundred. Take a moment to digest that number. Two. Zero. Zero. If that doesn’t excite the average tea enthusiast, then nothing will. These blends aren’t the typical tea room offerings either. Many mimic notable cocktails, perfumes, and famous personalities- mostly French. As soon as I was greeted by the warm and remarkable host, I was seated at a charming marble café table and introduced to a comprehensive tea menu, which I thoroughly studied. Once the host returned, she asked a seemingly impossible question, “What do you think you’d like?” Granted, I did some light research prior because frankly, I am a horrible decision-maker. Going into the high tea, the choice was a slam dunk, and I’d be enjoying the Antoinette– a black tea with lemon, rose, lavender, and vanilla. However, when presented with the plethora of options, my brain collapsed. I wanted to try it all.
After the host kindly presented several tea canisters to smell, as seemed to be standard protocol, I followed my instinct in trying the Antoinette. I was then presented with some chilled hibiscus tea, an ornate tiered tray filled with goodies, and a pot of tea. Let the feast commence!
The beauty of high tea is tasting scrumptious treats without too much gluttony and guilt. Every bite, sip, observation, and minute were savored until nearly three hours later I finished and reluctantly prepared to conclude the dreamy affair. What I failed to notice while munching on madeleines was the unfailing camaraderie amongst the staff. Mother’s Day weekend is chaotic anywhere, nonetheless at a place like Jolie Tea Company. It was busy, but not the least bit disruptive to the experience. The servers smiled, giggled, and calmly worked together mixing teas, preparing trays, and addressing customer needs. At one point, an adorable little girl who accompanied her mother and grandmother for a high tea, decided to poke around the café. She had questions and curiosities, as any child would. One of the hosts graciously engaged her, responding with warmth and sincere enthusiasm. These women love what they do, and they’re happy to share with patrons young and old. That’s precisely the infectious passion that makes Jolie Tea Company unique and boomingly successful. While all the high teas I’ve experienced prior were lovely, I cannot recall a staff so knowledgeable and keen about tea. That excited me. They excited me.
In a perfect world that permitted more time, I’d compose a thesis about the three-hour tea-topia that restored my faith in womanhood and offered a renewed peace for which my soul thirsted. The experience engaged and comforted all of my senses. If you are not a tea enthusiast, worry not. Jolie Tea Company has something for everyone: gifts, books, candies, sandwiches, and other little delights. I found myself leaving with a few ounces of Eternal Spring, Chanel no. 5, and Remembering Paris teas to brew at home, plus a bonus Mint Julep sample- a nod to the Kentucky Derby. A heartfelt ‘merci’ to the staff for a memorable high tea during a time in which my spirit needed uplifting the most. Jess Day, the May edition, was awesome.
À la prochaine.
Jolie Tea Company
105 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970