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Michael Harney talked tea, shared family history at Townsend's tea tasting event

Tea tasting at The Townsend Hotel featured five Harney teas and afternoon tea fare. Each guest received a Harney tea tin to take home.
Tea tasting at The Townsend Hotel featured five Harney teas and afternoon tea fare. Each guest received a Harney tea tin to take home.
bj gulley

Last Saturday afternoon, The Townsend Hotel hosted a tea tasting event featuring Harney teas with special guest, Michael Harney. Harney, a member of the three-generation family that owns and operates Harney & Sons, spoke to guests who filled up the hotel’s front lobby. He described two of the teas that were served as part of his formal presentation and then came around to each table to chat more leisurely about the remaining three teas that were on the menu, as well as answer any of the guests’ questions.

Rachel and Barb Gulley with Michael Harney of Harney & Sons tea at The Townsend Hotel
bj gulley

Michael Harney, son of John Harney who founded the tea company thirty years ago in Connecticut, has an easy-going style which is compatible with table-side tea chat. Although clearly in possession of a strong sense of detail regarding the tea that was served - from how it was prepared, to where it’s grown and in what conditions - his relaxed manner, as he shared both family and historical anecdotes, made the event seem more like a tea party with friends than an impersonal seminar.

Along with a delicious, slightly abbreviated, afternoon tea menu (and emphasis is on “slightly”) that included scones, tea sandwiches and two miniature desserts (chocolate mousse in a chocolate tea cup and a bite-size cheesecake delight), the hotel staff served up two of the teas which started the presentation. The first was Japanese Scent of the Mountain Sencha, a green tea that Harney described as “very vegetal”. To prepare at home, he recommended heating the water to a temperature of 175 degrees and a steeping time of two minutes.

The next tea to be served was Harney & Sons’ Namring Darjeeling. It comes from northern India and is a second flush tea, which refers to the time of year it’s grown and harvested. This tea is from the crop grown later in the season, so it is darker in color and bolder in taste than tea picked earlier in the year.

The remaining teas served were Earl Grey, an afternoon tea standard, Cinnamon Spice, a black tea with cinnamon bark and orange peel and a Harney best seller, and Raspberry tea, a sweet herbal packed with fruity flavor which contains no caffeine.

When asked if there is anything new coming out from Harney & Sons, Michael Harney said “always”, but the latest to watch for are a beet root herbal and a “thieves tea”.

In addition to the tea tasting and afternoon tea treats, each guest received a tin of Harney tea to take home.

For more information on or to order teas, see Harney & Sons tea company website.

To make afternoon tea reservations at The Townsend Hotel and view upcoming events, see The Afternoon Tea page on The Townsend Hotel website.