Friday, February 06, 2009

Tea at Wayne Manor

"When was the last time you had sherry in the afternoon?" one of the ladies asked me as she sipped from a delicately gilded sherry glass.

One of the pleasures of civilized life for me has always been tea. We used to have very un-fancy teas in the afternoon in the physics lab at my alma mater, but even without frills or furbelows, it's still one of the only lab traditions that I miss.

So I was thrilled when Ms. Five-and-a-Half suggested I come by for tea at Wayne David Hand's gorgeous Victorian on Divisadero.

Wayne's a talented, self-trained artist-- his work has been exhibited at Le Trianon, but you can see some of the best at Capricorn Framing, which is housed in his front parlor. He also does fabulous work in Venetian plaster, so if you're ever looking for an unusual, yet lavish decorative idea, give him a call.

Personally, I'm in love with his exquisite watercolors, especially this one of a gorgeously rich tulip.

Wayne was the fairy godmother who loaned us some of his beautiful antiques for our "Ah, Wilderness!" dinner last week, including the crystal dessert dishes, a pair of Faberge candlesticks and an beautifully bound copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam bound in gold and leather.

His own tea table is set with just as lovely and detailed and eye, Wedgewood teapots, silver service-- as elegant as tea at the Ritz with none of the stuffiness.

We feasted on canelles from Bay Breads, tiny finger sandwiches, apricot tart, and a wide array of tea choices. There was Harney and Sons' Florence, with overtones of Chocolate and Hazelnut; Kusmi's dark Petrushka Tea; and also the elusive Pu'er tea, which he describes as the European's secret --cholesterol-lowering, weight-reducing, hang-over curing. Pu'er, which has long been a prized and pricey tea, was also the subject recently of a fascinating article in the NY Times about the many victims of the "tea speculation" bubble.
Over the past decade, as the nation went wild for the region’s brand of tea, known as Pu’er, farmers bought minivans, manufacturers became millionaires and Chinese citizens plowed their savings into black bricks of compacted Pu’er.But that was before the collapse of the tea market turned thousands of farmers and dealers into paupers and provided the nation with a very pungent lesson about gullibility, greed and the perils of the speculative bubble.
In fact Wayne's entire home is filled with a luxurious and artful array of decorative objects, all obviously lovingly selected. Sitting in his dining room, you feel as though you've been transported to a far more refined, genteel era.

We can dream for at least an afternoon...

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