By Ava Stryker-Robbins
“It’s always tea time,” writes Lewis Carroll in the classic Alice In Wonderland.
That idea led to the creation of the long-beloved Upper West Side restaurant, Alice’s Tea Cup, on West 73rd Street. Owners Haley and Lauren Fox grew up drinking afternoon tea with their mother, typically at hotels. Their father was also a tea drinker who drank, “like, 20 cups a day,” said owner Haley Fox in a phone interview with the West Side Rag. “We grew up with it as a culture.”
When Haley was living in Los Angeles after graduating from New York University, whenever she overlapped with her sister they got together and drank tea in either hotels or restaurants. They became familiar with the Los Angeles-based Chado Tea Room, a family-run business with tea fields in India and Sri Lanka. Haley and Lauren became friendly with the owner and eventually learned that Chado distributed teas as well. When Haley moved back to New York, she asked her sister, “Do you want to open a tea place?”
Haley walked by a store that was for rent and decided to go for it. “We just pretended we were doing it until suddenly we were really doing it,” she said. The restaurant now has three locations — one on the Upper West Side, one on the Upper East Side, and a location in Brooklyn that is not a full-service restaurant, but “a very, very cute cafe” — and serves many dishes and types of tea.
Formerly known as the Mad Morning, the Mad Brunch is a triple-decker dish with a scone on the top tier, eggs in the middle, and yogurt with granola and fruit on the bottom. This dish comes with a pot of tea and a free refill. It is only served during weekend brunch.
The pumpkin scone was delicious, moist and flavorful. Haley said that she initially wanted to serve scones, because they are typically associated with afternoon tea, but she wanted to make them more muffin-like and moist compared to dry ones typically seen in Europe. The recipe for the pumpkin scones was developed from scratch by a baker who worked at Alice’s Tea Cup. The pumpkin scone was initially served only as a holiday special, but customers loved it so much that it was placed on the year-round menu.
The poached eggs were cooked to perfection, the yolks were runny while the egg whites were cooked all the way through. Eggs can also be ordered scrambled or sunny side up.
The fruit served on the bottom tier was ripe and perfectly enhanced the Greek yogurt. The granola delicious. Haley is a big granola eater and said “she wanted to make sure she loved it.” She worked with their cook and played with the recipe to create something that was “not too sweet and very crunchy.”
The Alice’s Tea — one of the signature teas served at the restaurant — was the creation of Lauren Fox. She blended rose green and vanilla black teas, playing with the proportions until she found a blend they liked.
Haley takes pride in the fact that Alice’s Tea Cup “seems to mean a lot to people…it is an escape from NYC while being in NYC.” it is cozy and sweet, and people feel familiar there.
The sisters would like to open Alice’s Tea Cups in other locations, but want to ensure that it does not feel like a chain. “Each of our locations has its own personality and we want to keep it that way.” They’d like to see new locations emerge in hotels “who want something a little whimsical.”
The Mad Brunch costs $38.
The Dish: Mad Brunch
The Restaurant: Alice’s Tea Cup (102 West 73rd Street between Amsterdam and Columbus)
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