NEWBURYPORT (CBS) — It happens here in Newburyport. Originally a fishing hub, the town is also known for manufacturing pistols and silverware. It was home to prominent abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, and some people claim this was the site of a tea protest days before the Boston Tea Party.
Nowadays there is a different tea party in town at the Garrison Inn, which is steeped in history. Named after William Lloyd Garrison, old abolitionist newspaper clippings and women’s suffragist posters are on display in the dining room.
“I feel that it’s almost lost in time,” explains Nia Araujo.
Araujo has worked in the hotel for more than five years. She started folding laundry overnight and worked her way up. These days, she manages the high tea service inside the new Lady Finger Tea Lounge, a renovated space decorated with oil paintings and soft pink chairs.
Landing the position was not in Araujo’s original plan. Her knowledge of tea was limited.
“I was one of those people that would put a cup of hot water into the microwave, microwave it, throw in a tea bag,” she said.
That’s when she began intensely studying the brewing process: the exact amount of loose leaf tea to use, the perfect water temperature and even the precise amount of steeping time for each variety of tea she serves.
If guests know nothing about tea, Araujo guides them through the selection process.
“I wanted to have as much knowledge as possible,” she said. “The whole entire point of Lady Finger Tea Lounge is to come in, sip some tea while you spill some tea and have a great time.”
By ‘spill some tea,’ she means gossip. Her one request– get those Instagram pictures out of the way early, then put the phone away, sit back and enjoy a good face-to-face conversation.
To finish off the high tea experience, there is a tower of traditional snacks developed by The Garrison Inn’s head chef Stu Cunningham. He’s been with the hotel for years and sees the new tea lounge as a unique experience in town.
“We’ll have people that live in town and they’ll come in and go, ‘What a hidden gem, we never knew this was here,'” he said. “It’s not an everyday experience. It’s special.”
Reservations are required for high tea in the Lady Finger Tea Lounge. For more information or to make a reservation visit their website or call (978)499-8500.