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story.lead_photo.caption A cup of fruity Blueberry Lemongrass tea and a cranberry pecan scone with all the spreads is perfect for a rainy afternoon snack at Abbi’s Teas & Things. - Photo by Jennifer Nixon

You walk through the door, step on a creaky floorboard and hear a bright "Hi! Can I make you a cup of tea?"

Is there anything cozier?

Abbi’s Teas & Things

Address: 2622 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock

Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 1-8 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: Tea, snacks and sandwiches

Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V

Alcoholic beverages: No

Reservations: for the party room

Carryout: Yes

(501) 246-5077

abbiteas.com

A warm, comfortable feeling permeates Abbi's Teas & Things, a Hillcrest tea shop with just the right blend of hip and homey.

Little Rock has no shortage of stylish coffee shops with exotic, specialty and plain old brews and most coffee places will sell you a cup of tea, but it feels a little like an afterthought -- a sideline to the main attraction.

Now, thanks to tea blogger Abbi Siler, tea is getting its turn as the star.

It's obvious the cheerful and friendly Siler, who can usually be found working the register, knows a lot about teas and she's quick to offer suggestions to help novice or adventurous drinkers pick just the right blend.

And there are a lot to choose from.

I'm really more of a black tea fan with a taste for The Earl (aka Earl Grey, $2.79 per cup or $6.99 for a full pot), Ceylon ($3.29 and $7.49) and Yunnan Noir ($3.79 and $8.99). But I also like to branch out occasionally and Abbi's menu is a long one, with herbals like the Cherry Chamomile ($3.29 and $7.49), green teas like Jasmine Pearl ($3.99 and $10.99) and specialties like the Mango Mate ($3.49 and $7.99). There are also a few matchas and chai and herbal lattes on the menu, by the cup only.

If hot tea is too hot, there's iced tea ($2.75) and San Pellegrino ($2).

The menu changed between my first and final visits, and there are special teas daily, so you can never be sure what options you might have.

As some teas contain caffeine, the menu has a handy star rating system to let drinkers know whether they're about to down something soothing (Chamomile) or more jolting (Yunnan Noir).

Orders are placed and paid for at the counter. If you drink in, your properly brewed beverage will be delivered to you at one of the four- or two-top wooden tables or at the single-seat bar. Each table is decorated with a quilted place mat, a colorful plant and a porcelain tea bag or spoon rest. On nice days, there are tables and chairs on the patio.

It's a comfortable sort of place. Siler's helpers are her relatives. The walls are decorated with family photos and small works by local artists, all for sale. Also for sale are pieces of jewelry, books, tea pots, mugs and bags of Abbi's tea blends to take home.

Accompaniments like sugar, sweetener and honey are self-serve. Staff members come through now and then to clear tables and check on the customers, and while they're helpful, there's no hovering -- just right for a tea shop, where relaxation is the goal.

Inside or out, it's a perfect setting for sitting and talking, reading or just watching the action in Hillcrest. And, with free Wi-Fi, it's also a good place to work or study with a snack.

Abbi's will accommodate large groups, too. There's a party room at the back of the house specifically for special occasion tea parties.

Single cups of tea are served in glass, asymmetrical teacups on a matching saucer. A pot of tea, big enough for four cups, comes to the table ready to pour with a strainer and tea for re-steeping if desired. The cups of tea and the pot of Ceylon I tried were all perfectly steeped for my taste.

Every tea order comes with a small triangle of sweet, flaky pastry. But those who like their tea with something a little more substantial are in luck. Abbi's is stocked with baked goods provided by Old Mill Bakery.

On most days, the baked goods are muffins, brownies, scones ($3.50 each) and cookies ($1.50). There are also loaves of Old Mill breads ($6.50-$8.50) and sometimes sweet bread by the slice. The flavors of all the goods change daily and once they're out, they're out, so keep that in mind.

For a heavier meal, try the Roast Turkey Sandwich, Chicken Salad Sandwich or Ham & Swiss Sandwich ($8.95 each) on Old Mill Bread served with a small bag of Lay's Potato Chips. They come pre-packaged but if you're eating in, they give you a plate to put it on. Mayonnaise and mustard are available to dress sandwiches. On Siler's recommendation, I tried a balsamic bacon vinaigrette dressing and it was a perfect complement to my turkey on spinach feta and cup of aromatic Cherry Green Tea ($3.29).

On another rainy afternoon, I sipped a cup of Blueberry Lemongrass ($3.29), a custom blend herbal tea that was pleasantly fruity and not too strong, that was a nice complement to a cranberry pecan scone with all the spreads ($3.50).

The spreads were basically smears on the plate: one each of salted butter, clotted cream, strawberry jam and lemon curd. Not exactly the traditional English cream tea method of giving everyone a heaping serving of cream and jam. The amount was just enough for my dense, bready scone but those who prefer to slather on their spreads would find the smears inadequate. I didn't have a need to ask for more, but I have a feeling Siler would have been accommodating if I had. And if you just want the traditional cream and jam, that's possible too.

Abbi's is a friendly, cozy place, just as a tea shop should be. And, if that wasn't encouragement enough to make multiple visits, there's a rewards program: Buy five cups of tea, get a free scone.

Photo by Jennifer Nixon
Sandwiches, like this roast turkey on spinach feta bread from Old Mill Bread served with Cherry Green Tea, make a hearty lunch at Abbi’s Teas & Things, a new tea shop in Hillcrest.
Photo by Jennifer Nixon
Pots of tea at Abbi’s Teas & Things come with a bag for additional steeping and can fill four cups to share or enjoy solo.
Photo by Jennifer Nixon
Tea orders at Abbi’s Teas & Things, like this cup of the custom blend Blueberry Lemongrass, come with a bite of sweet flaky pastry.

Weekend on 03/22/2018

Print Headline: Abbi's in Hillcrest perfect spot for tea

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