Tea ‘events’ in San Diego have been springing up in unexpected places, like chocolate shops and, in this case, my favorite San Diego distillery and ‘tasting room’ (read: cocktail lounge), You & Yours in the East Village.
When you go to a tea room, you know what to expect. There are unwritten rules for how things should go. But with events like these, it’s anyone’s guess. I came in expecting one thing: Amazing cocktails. I found them – oh yes – and discovered new depths to how much I love this woman-owned distillery.
THE ATTENTION TO DETAIL!
Adorable, multi-page printed menus greeted us as we sat down in a cozy nook for two. My companion today was graphic designer Sarah Salaverria, so there was a bit of gushing over the menu design (and the interior design, and the little branded tea bag ‘flag’). What is the name for the little paper on the end of a tea bag string? Anyhow, this menu immediately set up some very grand expectations.
I’ve never seen a menu like this at a tea room, but it was absolutely brilliant in this context because: You & Yours doesn’t typically offer afternoon tea. Its patrons may not typically go to afternoon teas. So, this menu lays out exactly what to expect for the uninitiated – and, it highlights how they created each menu item around their gin.
Yep, nearly every item was either inspired by their gin flavor profiles, or actually included gin in the making.
Now, I’ve had their cocktails, and they are ALL well crafted, well balanced, never too sweet, never overpowering, with surprising and inspiring flavor juxtapositions. This menu was created with that same sommellier-level palate.
Adding gin to the lemon curd and soaking dates in gin before baking them into scones are two tricks I’m taking home to my own kitchen.
As exciting as the savories and sweets were – the real highlight of the afternoon was the cocktail menu. The ‘Welcome Punch’ was the “Shirley Rose” with Y&Y Sunday Gin, rose petal tea cordial and lemon.
Pink, delicious, delightful – and so charming to have a punch bowl of a really good gin-based cocktail. We have lost the art of the party punch. You & Yours found it again.
In addition to that, we had our choice of three cocktails, all involving tea as a primary ingredient.
- The Green Flash – Y&Y Summer Citrus Vodka + green tea + strawberry + lemon + mint
- Violet Macaron (pronounced “mack – ah – rawn” please, not macaroon) – London Dry Gin + black tea + blueberry + lemon + honey + lavender sea salt rim
- San Diego Sunset – Barrel-rested Provisional Gin + rooibos tea + blood orange + lemon + sea salt + bubbles
I ordered the Violet Macaron, of course (don’t bother me with Vodka, even very good vodka, and rooibos is for the weak). It was as lovely as it sounds, but the surprise was in the lavender sea salt rim – they used sugar with the salt! Sweet and savory, with a hint of ground lavender.
For their very first afternoon tea, You & Yours hit it out of the park. Their characteristic attention to detail was evident in every single touch – except one.
An important one.
Did you notice I haven’t mentioned the actual tea part of this afternoon tea? Probably not – and I wouldn’t blame you. Because the ambiance, design, food and cocktails are attention-grabbing enough. But the tea was the one tiny gnat in the sangria.
Here’s what they did very, very right:
They sourced the tea locally, from Point Loma Tea, which created a custom blend inspired by their Sunday Gin. Green tea with mint, rose hips and grapefruit paired perfectly with everything on the menu and the cocktails.
That is no mean feat.
And for this reason, I forgive them for not having a selection of teas from which to choose. Sometimes if you give people choices, they make wrong choices. Best not to risk it in this case.
And here’s where they missed a step:
Each person had a single bag of this lovely blend, and a teapot of warm water.
And that was the problem.
You can’t keep water in a teapot from turning tepid without a teapot warmer. And, you can’t properly steep your tea without hot water. Notice how light the water is in the tea cup pictured above.
If they did have properly hot water, a single tea bag would have over-steeped very quickly, ruining the tea. With the single tea bag and warm water, the tea didn’t over-steep, but it also didn’t steep enough. Still, the flavor was good, which is a minor miracle.
Y&Y does get extra points for including steeping instructions in the menu – if only the water was hot enough! Timing is everything with tea, but it’s nothing without hot water.
This was an afternoon tea that was more about the gin and nibbles, and that’s okay
- Ambiance – Modern and sleek, like Anthropologie but with cocktails and light, breezy jazz.
- Service – Excellent service, even when we sent them back for hotter water multiple times.
- Quality of the tea served – Point Loma Tea, loose leaf, custom blend, very good.
- Tea sandwich quality & inventiveness – Bloody brilliant. Soaking salmon in vodka before rolling it up with cucumbers? Aaaah!
- Scone quality – Perfect scone, though I did find the explanation of the scone in the menu to be funny. “British scones are more dense and less sweet than American scones.” Because some bumpkins need that explained.
- Tea cakes & sweets – Gin-infused chocolate truffle with toasted marshmallow on top on a graham cracker crust. Need I say more?
- China Cuteness Quotient – Top marks. Mismatched China with pretty colors and roses everywhere.
Is the tea room suitable for:
- Children – Not unless you’re weaning them on gin.
- Large parties – Yes, there were a couple of large tables for groups.
- Bachelorette Parties / Bridal Showers / Baby Showers – Yes, Yes, and Yes if you’re into boozy baby showers.
- Friend Get-Togethers – Perfect.
- Theme Days & Events – This was an Event, they don’t offer afternoon teas as a rule. I recommend following them on Facebook (or join my Facebook group for notifications of future tea events).
- Hat Lovers – There were 3 ladies wearing hats, two of those ladies were us. Overall, the dress code was distressingly casual for my taste. C’est San Diego.
- Anglophiles & Tea Aficionados – Yes for the clotted cream, jam, lemon curd and scone, and the gin, but NO for tea snobs. Or, perhaps I’ll say “not yet.” Y&Y is clearly helmed by perfectionists, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t have teapot warmers the next time they host this event.
- Wheelchair accessible? Yes.
- Are high chairs / child seating available? No.
- Gluten free options – Didn’t see any
- Vegetarian and/or vegan options – Yes to vegetarian