You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 10:27 a.m.

TeaHaus: Go for the tea, stay for the food

By Kim Bayer

Ann Arbor is undeniably a coffee town, with crowds of the faithful paying daily obeisance (and treasure) to experience the mystic alchemy of artisan roasted single-origin expert preparations at any number of establishments. For the tea lovers among us, the pickings are slim. Just one place makes an attempt to elevate the tea drinking experience (minus the irritating self-consciousness of the coffee shrines), and that one place is TeaHaus on Fourth Avenue in Kerrytown.

By "elevate" I mean carefully selecting quality tea and focusing attention on its preparation and service. TeaHaus' 179 varieties of tea come from "Europe’s most reputable and highest-quality tea company, located in Germany," which is "the only tea company that has their own testing facility, testing for both pesticides and heavy metals residues," according to TeaHaus owner Lisa McDonald. She notes that she was trained as a "tea sommelier" and that in her shop they are "first tea connoisseurs, who also happen to have really great food."

While the tea is excellent, the food stands on its own merit. With interesting choices influenced by France, Germany, Sweden, and Africa, McDonald says she's chosen her menu based on "where I've lived and what I liked."


Tea Haus
204-206 N. 4th Ave., Ann Arbor
  • Hours: Mon-Sat: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun: noon-5 p.m.; Tea Room Hours: Tues-Fri: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun and Mon: kitchen is closed.
  • Plastic: All
  • Liquor: None.
  • Prices: Inexpensive to moderate options. Tea sandwiches $1.50 each. Two scones served with clotted cream, lemon curd and jam. $5.95.
  • Noise level: Moderate
  • Wheelchair access: Yes
Although she doesn't advertise it, she says that she shops in season at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, just a block down the street. She buys whatever produce looks good for their all-vegan soups and for the fruit and berries from which she makes their jams and preserves. She says, "I think my regular customers know—and, duh, it's obvious, the market is literally right there."

The food at TeaHaus— including finger sandwiches, soup, salad, scones and other sweets, is all "Haus-made" as they punnily write on the menu, and it is well put together and delicious in an un-fussy way. No matching hat, handbag or gloves required.

I recently made a reservation for the "Full English Tea Service" with some of my lady friends. Although TeaHaus offers a "quickie tea service" option with no reservation required, a 1-2 day notice in advance is needed for the long-playing "full" version that comes with soup, savory finger sandwiches, scones (served with jam, lemon curd, and clotted cream), along with pastries and petit fours, and all the tea you can drink.

This full English tea is not the posh watered silk and hushed pinkie-curling experience of the iconic Fortnum and Mason in London. The vibe at TeaHaus reminds me more of Apartment Therapy, with a sort of organic, modern, euro slant. The space is painted a rich brown and has funky gold and crystal chandeliers suspended from the high ceiling. Bright euro-mod and Asian tea wares share space with antique leather tea caddies and a collection of white porcelain teapots in many shapes — my favorite is the elephant.

After a somewhat lengthy wait (10 or 15 minutes), our afternoon tea service started with a round of white porcelain mini-cocottes holding a richly flavored roasted red pepper soup, appealingly infused with coconut green tea. The soup, with its felicitous melding of warm tropical flavors and a hint of astringency from the tea, was just one example of many items that are made to include their teas.

After the soup and another significant wait (in which we wished for accompanying bread or crackers — and "Downton Abbey"-style attentiveness), my friends and I were thrilled with the triple-decker serving contraption that appeared, filled with layers of sandwiches, scones, and pastries.

Attempting to follow English tea etiquette in a manner that would have made Lady Grantham proud, we started with the petite open-faced and crustless sandwiches on the bottom layer and worked our way up to scones and finally to the tea sweets at the top.

It may not have been very traditional, but the spicy salami with black pepper served on an herb buttered baguette was particularly flavorful. The chicken salad — a scoop of finely chopped chicken with a sweet and sour poppy seed dressing and bits of dried strawberry and tarragon on a small toasted round of baguette — was also delicious. And I enjoyed a thick, melty slice of Brie topped with a confit of apricot stewed with their ginger rooibus on a sturdy slice of baguette. Both the egg salad on wheat and the triangles of cucumber and cream cheese on white were tasty — but in the way my grandmother likes: plain and very rich.

Lemon-blueberry and traditional scones were buttery with a tight, tender crumb. A bit on the dry side, they go well with the tea and also the "Haus-made" plate of delightful accompaniments — silky lemon curd, fresh clotted cream, a stewed berry jam, and an orange marmalade that our server told us they "doctor up with elderflower tea."

The ladylike portions meant that we still had room for a final layer of pastry sweets that included: chewy, buttercream-filled French-style macarons in Easter egg colors (also made with their teas); richly moist carrot cake balls covered in a white candy shell; and dark chocolate covered peanut butter petit fours with a triumvirate of dragees for decoration.

One friend exclaimed that our teatime was so delightful that she was adding it to her list of "top food experiences." Except for the lengthy waiting times, I was pleased with it too. The food was delicious, fresh, and abundant, the tea was excellent (if somewhat under brewed for my taste), and the company was excellent.

However, in my note to self for visiting on my own nickel, I could be just as satisfied with the "quickie," which comes with fewer sweets, no soup, and one pot of tea. Lots of tables seemed to be ordering it — and I would get it for the lemon curd alone.

On a follow-up visit to TeaHaus with other friends, we ordered from the regular menu, which McDonald says changes from week to week. I was curious about the North African "dukkah," a platter described as "nuts seasoned with coriander, fennel and other spices (including their Darjeeling or Assam tea). Served with bread, olive oil, dried fruit, olives and cheese," our server explained that you eat this dish by dipping the bread in the olive oil, then in the nuts, and choose a sweet or salty accompaniment with each bite.

Lisa McDonald explained that she offers this dish as a reminder that tea culture is worldwide, and that tea is second only to water as the most common beverage around the globe. She said dukkah is something that would often be on the tables at meetings in Europe, "a fun nosh that's filling yet healthy, and it's sustaining throughout the day." While I loved the crushed nuts with fennel and coriander, the cheese, olives and dried fruit may have been sustaining, but they weren't compelling.

We also tried the Swedish pannkakor, a large pancake folded in quarters like a crepe, but puffier. It was filled with frozen strawberries that had been stewed with their popular strawberry-mint-lavender tea. Topped with whipped cream, this would be phenomenal with the fresh berries that will be here in a few weeks.

What stood out for me on this visit were some of the sweets. In particular, a dark chocolate pot de creme was fantastically rich, thick, creamy and deeply chocolatey without being too sweet. The "oreo" macaron, two chocolate meringues sandwiching vanilla buttercream filling, was, according to my guest, "what an oreo should be like" and definitely on the order again list. But it was the delicately soft and buttery strawberry-mint-lavender infused house-made caramels that will keep me coming back again and again.

Tea Haus owner Lisa McDonald observes that tea culture in the world is ancient, with 1500 year old tea plants still under cultivation for teas that we drink today. "Tea is an agricultural product that should be revered just as much as a wine or scotch," she says, and at Tea Haus, "the food is just a pairing to our amazing tea." I agree that the tea is excellent, but the food is just as delicious — and you should go there for both.

Kim Bayer is a freelance writer and culinary researcher. Email her at kimbayer at gmail dot com.


Delores Sell Wurst

Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 11:21 p.m.

I have been going to Tea Haus for quite some time on a regular basis. Since the food offerings have been added I go about every week for the Quickie English Tea or at least dessert. The Quickie is just that. It takes little time to prepare. The full Tea takes some time as it is for special occasions such as a Birthday celebration for my friends' big BD recently. It is meant to take time for you to savor the food and tea and each other. It is very time consuming to make a proper tea. I know as I have had friends over for tea every fall. It takes a ton of time to make it. All fresh ingredients. I have tried to take people with me every chance I get as I think this place is a gem. I love the Swedish pancake with lemon curd on top. I just take the lemon curd from the scone plate and it is heaven. I cannot eat much of the desserts as they have things I am allergic to(various nuts) but I always find something I can eat such as the wonderful lavender shortbread (also very good with lemon curd on it at my request) or the sometimes available cranberry rosemary gluten free walnut bar. I always have the Jasmine green tea and they have 3 types of that for any taste. Keep up the great work all the staff as well as Lisa. Tealover


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

I was just reminiscing earlier today about a recent visit to the TeaHaus. While the restaurant is lovely and just fine, it's not the food nor the tea that makes me smile.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

I love their tea, both to sit and sip and also to brew at home. Next step might be some gluten-free offerings. (Hint, hint)

Delores Sell Wurst

Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 11:24 p.m.

There as of late have been some gluten free shortbread I have been meaning to try.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 11:01 p.m.

Ash- we actually have several things we can serve gluten free. The macarons are always GF since they are made with almond flour and we keep gluten free crackers to serve instead of bread with some of our savory items.

Tom Joad

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 6:12 p.m.

Green tea should be drunk sparingly as it is replete with fluoride and is contraindicated for taking some medications.

Delores Sell Wurst

Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 11:25 p.m.

I am so glad there are several types of tea at Tea Haus. I cannot drink black tea due to the caffeine. Roibos and herbal teas are available as well as decaf so lots to choose from.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

This review seems to be ENTIRELY about their food and nothing of their Tea. No offense...but I could care less about what foods they offer being that they are a TEA SHOP... I'm a HUGE tea snob. I'm very curious about her methodology. Is she specific to different types in that she offers 2nd, 3rd, or 4th infusions...possibly at different temperatures. Some tea you can get entirely different flavors out of depending on the temperature you infuse it, and others you get better more delicate flavors out of a 2nd or 3rd infusion. I'd like to know if she offers this service.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 10:53 p.m.

I am glad you are such a tea enthusiast! Upon request we will save your leaves and re-brew them. Of course some teas lend themselves more to multiple infusions than others. My personal favorite is the second brew of our milky jade Oolong with the water at 176.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

They have water pre-heated to three or four common temps, plus thermometers for any others. Every infusion is carefully timed. They generally brew the tea and serve it without the leaves (to prevent overbrewing) but if you ask when you order they will be more than happy to bring your wet leaves in a separate dish and do second or third steepings for you.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

Well it does bode well that they handle the infusion process entirely on their end. You can ruin a pot of tea by letting it infuse too long.


Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.

"I'm a HUGE tea snob." You sure are.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

I'm a tea drinker but not a tea connoisseur. When I have ordered a pot from their huge collection of teas (it occupies an entire wall), it is apparently infused before serving - there are no tea leaves in the pot. I've always found it to be satisfactory for my purposes. The owner and her employees are enthusiasts. I'd encourage you to visit and have that conversation.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

But you left out the cucumber sandwiches! I'm not an eater of sweets but I enjoy the Tea Haus' willingness to make just a couple of sandwiches for the tea drinker. A favorite thing of mine when meeting a friend is to have just a couple of cucumber sandwiches with a pot of tea. Not a meal, but a welcome refresher.

Lizzy Alfs

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

Wow, I didn't even know about this. It sounds great. I have read all these studies on the health benefits of tea, and I'm trying to switch some of my coffee to tea.