When Xak and I got married back in July 2023, we knew afternoon tea would be a top priority for our honeymoon. A year of busy work projects and wedding planning meant no time for afternoon tea. With the wedding behind us, it was time to end this long, terrible drought of no tea.
Since we were planning on visiting the Shenandoah Valley area, we decided to visit an afternoon tea place during the drive to our rental cabin on the first day of our honeymoon, and also make a reservation at a second tea room for our last day coming home. I knew I would be sad that our trip was coming to an end, but afternoon tea would make it a little better.
For our return, we decided to visit The Tea Cart in Berryville, Virginia which we’ve visited previously in 2021. We loved our initial visit and knew this would be a solid choice that would certainly provide the comfort I needed on our last day.
For the start of our trip (July 6, 2023), we decided to visit a “new to us” place in Culpeper, Virginia called Miss Minerva’s Tea Room. Culpeper, Virginia is about 1.5 hours away from Washington, DC and the northern Virginia area, and on the way you pass a Moo Thru. It took great restraint to not stop and pick up some chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream prior to our tea, so by the time we arrived, we were eager and hungry.
About Miss Minerva’s Tea Room
Miss Minerva’s Tea Room is located in downtown Culpeper and has been around for several years, with its most recent owner taking over in 2020. Their goal is to provide an English tea experience which features all the things you expect at a traditional afternoon tea including loose leaf tea and three tiered trays. In addition to sitting down for afternoon tea, Miss Minerva’s also has tea available for purchase and a gift shop with tea themed trinkets.
Miss Minerva’s is open from Wednesday – Saturday. There are also special themed events such as a Hobbit tea and the Nightmare Before Christmas Halloween tea.
A few weeks prior, Xak made a reservation through the website for July 6th at 1 pm. The reservation process is very simple: the site lists the available times and dates, you select your desired date/time and then enter your information on the next screen.
We received a confirmation email for our selected date immediately after making the reservation. During the week of our reservation, we received a reminder email. The email also has a “Manage Reservation” button in case you need to make any changes.
We found free 2 hour street parking directly across from the tea room, which we figured would be adequate time for us to leisurely enjoy tea time. There are additional parking lots available which provide 3 hours of parking. You can find more information including a map of all the available parking lots on the county website’s parking page.
The Tea Room
After parking and crossing the street, we entered the tea room and saw several tables and chairs in a large room. An employee came out to greet us, confirmed our reservation, and told us to sit wherever we wanted. Since we were visiting on a Thursday afternoon, the tea room was not crowded. With the exception of “Miss Minerva”, only one other party was there during our visit.
As we walked by the tables to sit down, I noticed some tables had only patterned tablecloths while others had a glass top on top of the tablecloth. Xak and I had the same blue place setting at our seats, but other tables had different china. We each had a napkin with an M monogram underneath our teacup, draped on top of a plate.
Artificial florals and greenery were dangling from the ceiling and chandeliers. The walls were adorned with mirrors, shelves, boas, headbands, and hats which were available for customers to wear. If you’re wondering, the hats get sanitized after each use (yes, I was wondering).
There was background music playing through a speaker and I heard some classics such as a Chopin nocturne, Fur Elise, and Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1. There were also instrumental contemporary covers as well. It was overall very pleasant and appropriate for enjoying afternoon tea.
After we were seated, our server came by to take our tea and food order. There were 50+ varieties of teas and I appreciated some of the inspired names including Anne of Green Tea Gables which featured raspberry pieces as a nod to Diana’s raspberry cordial incident and the Dowager Countess Grey, a nod to Maggie Smith’s famous role on Downton Abbey.
Note: As of August 2023, there appears to be a new tea list and menu posted on Miss Minerva’s Facebook page.
Since we were only able to select one choice of tea, I ordered my standard English Breakfast and Xak ordered Darjeeling. We also asked for two glasses of water. Our tea was prepared in the kitchen, and brought out after about 10 minutes, steeped and ready to be poured. Both Xak and I were very fascinated by the set up of our tea pots. Typically when we have tea parties, the tea will drip at the end of the spout after pouring, splatter on our table cloth, I curse, and then we have to clean up later.
For our personal teas, we’ve worked out a very “sophisticated” method to prevent tea leakage: tying a little napkin “bib” at the end of the spout.
However, Miss Minerva’s solution was much more interesting looking and seemed to be even more effective than our “sophisticated” solution.
Our table was already set with sugar packets, sugar cubes, and tongs. We were asked if we wanted any milk or agave to accompany our tea. I asked for milk and it was promptly brought out in a little pitcher.
As we waited for the three tiered tray to make an appearance, Xak and I enjoyed our respective teas and discussed how we could replace our teapot napkin bibs for an even more “sophisticated” solution. I also spent about 15 minutes freaking out over the heart that appeared in my tea cup.
For the food, there are set menus at different price points. Some of the other options include less savories or less desserts and an a la carte menu.
Xak and I both ordered the “English Afternoon Tea” which included the following:
- 5 tea sandwiches
- 2 savories
- 3 desserts
- 1 scone with cream and jam
- 1 choice of loose leaf tea.
English Afternoon Tea contains the most food which is why I naturally gravitated to it.
Our server arrived with our three tiered tray full of food and explained what each item was.
Just as the menu promised, we were served 5 sandwiches. I have a tendency to serve rather oversized sandwiches at my home teas and I’m sure any afternoon tea connoisseur would be horrified.
Tea sandwiches are meant to be eaten in 2-3 bites and the sandwiches appearing on our tray seemed very appropriately sized for those specifications.
The sandwiches included the following:
- cucumber and cream cheese
- chicken salad
- cucumber and radish
Cucumber Cream Cheese Sandwich
The cucumber cream cheese sandwich is the standard afternoon tea staple. The cucumbers were cut very thinly and the cream cheese was mixed with a dry herb/seasoning. I’m all for herbs in my cucumber sandwiches, but I prefer fresh herbs like dill. Whatever was added to the cream cheese didn’t add much flavor.
The egg sandwich was served on white bread and overall tasted very neutral and plain. There did not appear to be much seasoning, salt, or a lot of flavor. It tasted like a hardboiled egg on a piece of bread.
Chicken Salad Sandwich
The chicken salad sandwich was served in a half croissant and had some crunch with the celery and a bit of sweetness with the raisins. Chicken salad is one of my favorites, however again, there wasn’t too much other seasoning or flavor. I was beginning to notice a trend.
Cucumber and Radish Sandwich
The cucumber and radish sandwich also had some dried herbs and was served on white bread with thinly cut vegetables. I don’t eat too many radishes, but I did taste some much desired saltiness upon finishing.
Jam Sandwich (Jam Penny)
The jam sandwich was small, round, and basic but had a good taste of strawberry. It reminded me of a child’s after school snack. Oddly enough, I don’t think I ever had a jam sandwich growing up. Even more surprising, this was my favorite sandwich of the day.
When I saw on the website that savories were part of the menu, I was expecting a small cup of soup or perhaps a sausage roll. However, the savories were quite small (you could eat it in one bite) and included the following:
- sweetened cream stuffed date
- a pepper full of cream cheese sprinkled with more dried seasoning on top.
Xak and I like dates, and we were perfectly happy gobbling this date up. Dates are versatile, and I’ve enjoyed them in the past plain, and with parmesan cheese, but the sweet cream also went well with it.
I did not care too much for the pepper though since 1) I’m not a big pepper fan to begin with (sorry fajita lovers) and 2) the cream cheese and seasoning weren’t mixed together so there wasn’t too much flavor.
The scone was mango and served with some cream and strawberry jam that tasted the same as the jam used on the sandwich I had earlier. The scone broke in half well, however I could not distinguish the mango flavor and it also seemed to be a little too crispy and overdone.
The good news is that cream and jam can make anything taste better.
The top of our tray contained three desserts for each of us:
- Watermelon Macaron
- Cream Puff
Upon first glance, I was a little hesitant to eat the watermelon macaron. Our server explained that the black sprinkles on top were supposed to represent watermelon seeds, but they unfortunately melted. I appreciate the attempt, but the holes and dark residue of the macarons were a little off putting.
The macaron filling was mint flavored and once I got past the melted sprinkles, the macaron was overall quite tasty.
I don’t eat too many eclairs on a regular basis, but the ones I’ve eaten in the past have been the stereotypical eclair: filled with cream and topped with chocolate icing. While I normally appreciate anything chocolate, I found the icing on this particular eclair to be a little messy and the interior of the eclair was cold when I took a bite.
Cream puffs are also not high on my list of favorite desserts and I was a bit surprised that two similar tasting desserts were served. I personally think cream puffs taste a little plain and when I took a bite, it not only tasted how I expected, but was also unfortunately icy cold as well.
The bathroom was single occupancy, but quite large, clean, and pleasantly decorated. There were some magazines laid out for reading, which I passed. I wonder if anyone actually reads them. 🤔
When we were finished with our meal, our server came by our table with our check. The English Afternoon Tea experience is typically $35 per person (not including tax/tip), however, for that particular week only, English Breakfast tea orders received a $7 off discount! What are the odds that being an English Breakfast tea lover would save me money? Definitely honeymoon luck. We paid and then headed into the gift store area located behind the dining room.
The gift shop contained loose leaf tea available for purchase, tea cup candles, books, and other tea themed gifts. We perused all the shelves and, after careful consideration, ended up purchasing a small Harry Potter themed tea bag rest.
After our purchase, we walked to our car, checked to make sure no parking tickets had been issued (whew) and then headed off for our honeymoon cabin life to begin!
As someone who has mastered getting my money’s worth at All You Can Eat Kbbqs and Never Ending Pasta Bowl at Olive Garden, I am completely aware that afternoon tea isn’t the time to stuff your face and I always go in with a different mindset. However, even with my adjusted appetite expectations, I still left Miss Minerva’s feeling pretty hungry and a little disappointed. Xak and I still had a pleasant time together, but for our inaugural afternoon tea as a married couple, I think we were both hoping for something more.
Bonus: The Grocery Store Trip
After leaving Miss Minerva’s, we stopped by the grocery store to pick up food for our temporary cabin life. About 1.5 hours later, we walked out with an entire grocery cart full of things like watermelon, avocados, corned beef hash, tater tots, and a receipt length that rivaled CVS. There was zero chance I would be hungry for the remainder of our trip. Good thing I no longer had to worry about fitting in a wedding dress. 😅