Afternoon Tea is a splendid way to socialize

At Beans in the Belfry we started to serve Afternoon Tea right from the beginning in 2004.  Melanie, our proprietor, had spent some time in London during her high school years and become familiar with this very comfortable and tasty ‘meal’.  Her mother, Hanna, lived in Oxford, England for several Christmas Tea Party 2013years and had gone for Tea Service at the local Randolph Hotel many a Saturday afternoon, to the annoyance of the lobby waiter there who looked down upon the foreign au-pair girls trying to experience British culture.  “In order to stretch our tea time”, Hanna recounts, “we would ask for more hot water for the tea pot and he grudgingly complied”.

So, what should you expect when gathering for this delightful traditional British afternoon interlude?  Of course a properly brewed pot of tea to begin with.  Choose from all types of tea: black, white, green, red, oolong, herbal, fruited, floral and blended, the most traditional being a robust loose leaf black tea such as Organic Breakfast, Earl Grey or Orange Pekoe.  Cream is never used. Use only milk and lump sugar. It is important to large selection of mighty leaf tea note that the milk and sugar go into the cup after the tea, never before. Stir your tea without allowing the spoon to strike the side of the cup. When using lemon, be sure to introduce it after the sugar has settled.

It was Portuguese and Dutch traders who first imported tea to Europe, with regular shipments by 1610. England actually was a latecomer to the tea trade, as the East India Company did not capitalize on tea’s popularity until the mid-18th century.  Afternoon Tea for Two tea sandwiches close upIn the early 1800’s ships carrying tea from the Far East to Britain could take over a year to bring home their precious cargo.  Then, the first clippers came on the scene.  Their sleek design and tall masts’ full sail allowed them to speed along at 18 knots, nearly as fast as a modern ocean liner.  The most famous was the Cutty Sark, built in 1868.

Once you are comfortable with your tea selection, on comes a three-tiered stand with the goodies:  three sorts of very thin tea sandwiches, usually  tomato and chives, minted cucumber and a delightful ginger carrot cream cheese spread. It could also be egg or chicken salad, or watercress of the utmost delicate flavor.  Presented on a bed of lettuce leaves to keep them moist, they are garnished with parsley sprigs, afternoon Tea for Two 3 tier standchives flowers, or blooming rosemary twigs.  One starts with the savory food and always sipping from your tea cup in between bites, and sharing bits of news with your tea companions, it’s quite a filling “meal”.

Just about then you think you might fancy a little sweetness after the savory, and on comes the plate of fragrant freshly baked scones, served with a bowl of clotted cream and two kinds of jam.  Depending on what’s available, you can have cranberry, blueberry, apricot, poppy seed or ginger-orange scones.  There are two scones for each guest, so you can enjoy different flavors. The most “approved” way to eat a scone is to break off a little bitesize piece, apply the clotted cream and jam to each individual piece just as it is to be eaten. Remember, preserves go first, then follow with a dab of the cream.Afternoon Tea for Two scones and sweets close up

By now, you are no longer hungry but the sweets are beckoning, and they are such dainty morsels, like Scottish short bread, cream puffs, pastel  meringues, a tiny square of chocolate cake, or fresh strawberries dipped in sugar. Depending on the season, you might find rose pedals, little field violets, or pea blossoms on your sweets plate. If you feel totally sated now, dare for more and ask for a floral or fruited tea to go with your sweets.  A white orchard or caramel and pear blend will satisfy the ultimate wish for the perfect pairing.

Our vintage tea china comes from the four corners of the world.  Turn over your plates and you will find inscriptions such as Royal Ironstone made in England, or a famous Wedgwood piece, a blue patterned cup made in afternoon tea for mother and daughterBavaria, or saucers from Italy, plates from Japan.  The heritage silver spoons might have a family crest or some secretive looking numbers stamped on them.  Some table linen and napkins are hand embroidered, who knows what glamorous or ceremonial times they have witnessed  before arriving at Beans in the Belfry.

Each tea pot has its own character, tall and slender, alabaster white, thick and pouchy, ornate with curly swirls, jolly pink or blue.  They all want to be ‘tipped over and poured out’.  Each contributes to a lively tradition of taking tea in the library or drawing room.

Afternoon tea is gaining popularity among Americans, many of whom adopt the European tea service format.  But never call it High Tea, that was actually the evening meal of the working class during the industrial revolution.

Holiday Afternoon Tea at Beans in the BelfryTake afternoon tea as a light leisurely repast or in place of the business executive lunch.  Statistics show that tea has become the world’s most popular beverage, consumed around the globe in amounts second only to water.

At Beans in the Belfry everything is prepared to order, therefore it is important that you call ahead at least 24 hours or better a week to make a reservation.  Your carefully decked table will be waiting for you.

Red Hat Society Tea

Red Hat Society Tea

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Prepare for outings on the C&O Canal towpath

Some time ago we became members of the C&O Canal Association.  It was initially a gift from one of our dear regular customers of Beans in the Belfry.  Thank you again Karlen!

C&O Canal picture of mules b&w photo


As members you can sign up to ‘level walk’ to help keep the towpath clean, go on guided walks with a naturalist, join canoe or kayak trips and dinners. It’s been very rewarding.


Just recently their newsletter suggested reading books about the C&O Canal and the people who made it work.  It’s the perfect thing to do on a damp day and you’ll get more out of your next walk or bike ride on the towpath. C&O Canal rest stop for mules and barges b&w photo Here are some suggestions from their January newsletter:

The Geology and Engineering Structures of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, written by William E. Davies, is an invaluable reference for students of the C&O Canal. The 636-page book is a 1989 draft of a lifetime work by Davies, a noted geologist and expert on flooding. Although published after his death and unfinished, this work is a mile-by-mile description of structures and formations along the 184-mile length of the canal. Even though the document is a combination of typewritten pages and hand-written notes, online readers can use the search features of their software to locate relevant material.

C&O canal aquaduct

The Story of The Potomac Refining Company, written by Andrew Clemens, chronicles the history of a company incorporated in 1908 to extract manganese and other minerals from a site along the canal near Dargan Bend at mile 65. Widely advertised to small investors, the company saw its officers indicted for fraud in 1912. The officers were acquitted, but the company entered bankruptcy in 1913.towpath and bridge overpass mules people and barge

Contact Andrew Clemens at if you have any questions or comments.

When you are out and about on the towpath near mile marker 55, no towpath trip is complete unless you stop in the little railroad town of Brunswick, right across the railroad tracks.  You’ll find a charming beanshistoric main street and that’s where we are, Beans in the Belfry Meeting Place and Cafe, on 122 West Potomac Street in a century old brick church building.

Have a feel-good meal, espresso drink, refreshing iced or blended drink and a cozy chair or couch to enjoy it all.   Let us know if you have found us and how your visit was.

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Farm to Fork Frederick 2015 Odysee

Farm to Fork Frederick menu, living off the land

Have you been wondering in what exotic, dangerous and forbidden corners of the world the intrepid, courageous and novelty seeking exploration team of Beans in the Belfry has gone to in search of

Farm to Fork 2015 menu, Beans in the Belfry

Farm to Fork 2015 menu, Beans in the Belfry

something to excite the sophisticated and somewhat blasé palates of its fiercely loyal patrons for our annual Farm to Fork Celebration?

If you have, you must be thinking of some other “Beans in The Belfry”!

The whole point of “F to F” is, of course, to bring fresh, locally sourced dishes (and glasses) to you offering something just a little different for the 11 day experience, from Friday, August 28, to Laborday, Monday, September 7.

We are just back from a relatively leisurely tour of several of our local suppliers.  Cider Works, our hard cider supplier who participated in F to F last year, Orchid Vineyards Meadery  (as in Mead, not meat) for an interesting new choice for our wine menu, Mead, and Caprikorn farms which supplies us for the first time this year with goat cheese for Melanie’s own  fantastic Chevre Quiche.

They would have delivered their products to us but it seemed part of the F to F spirit to actually visit the sources of our delicious local ingredients.

Distillery Lane

(hard cider)

When you approach DLC in nearby Jefferson there is no doubt what the basic product is.  Apples!

vintage cider apples at Distillery Lane Ciderworks

vintage cider apples at Distillery Lane Ciderworks

At this time of the year, August, apple trees heavily laden with red, gold and green fruit stand row after row stretching down the slope and up the other side and surround the modest building that houses the “Works”.  Across the drive way from the grinders, tanks, etc. is the tasting room.

This was our second visit to DLC and it was intended as “just a courtesy call” but as-long-as-we’re-here. . .

We tasted four hard ciders including the Jefferson Cider that has been on our menu for several years and decided that we – and you – might like to try something new. Our new offering is a hard cider called DLC, aged in charred oak rye whiskey barrels.   It’s light on the tongue, has more of an “appley” taste with a

DLC road sign

DLC road sign

smooth finish.  Rob, the cider master, explains that it is made with three kinds of vintage cider apples, the Roxbury Russet, Newtown Pippin and Virginia Crab, or Hewes.  And (drum roll Maestro), this is the apple cider chosen to be served at Mount Vernon! Yes, George’s place across the river.

Our hostess, pouring cider to visitors, is a local English language arts teacher but we just talked a little bit of history and just sipped cider, there was no quiz. She’ll be heading back to school soon so she probably didn’t want papers to correct.

Caprikorn Farms

(goat cheese)

Caprikorn Farm banner

Caprikorn Farm banner

You probably knew that goat cheese comes from goat milk and were also probably aware that goat milk comes from goats.  We did too.

But goat farms become very involved in the – shall I say, the personal life of the friendly little creatures who are everywhere. When shall they be allowed to – date, and how “successful” was the date? (I wonder if they go to the movies? -J ) These are vital concerns of the successful goat farm and we understand that Caprikorn is among the best. Just before we arrived they were arranging to sell goats to Taiwan, not just the cheese, the goats.

We were invited to watch milking and I imagined someone kneeling next to mama goat with a bucket

teenaged goats chilling

teenaged goats chilling

(really) but it’s much more modern and much more sanitary than that. The milk goes from goats, five at a time, through sterile lines directly to a refrigerated tank in the next room.

One more thing about goats; if you say a person “smells like a goat” you’re looking for a fight but these goats were very clean.   When Melanie was a little girl she got dirtier than those goats do!

Melanie will integrate the Caprikorn artisan goat cheese

Berry Goat Cheese Salad

Berry Goat Cheese Salad

in a Berry Goat Cheese Salad appetizer along with fresh greens from participating farms, and berries and pearl tomatoes from our own Belfry garden.  The goat cheese is also featured in our Chevre Quiche main entrée.  Melanie combines it with farm fresh eggs, local heavy cream, and herbs from our Belfry garden and bakes individual quiche in traditional as well as gluten free pastry shells. Incredibly delicious


Orchid Cellar


If you’re wondering who was the “designated driver” after tasting both hard cider and mead the secret is our visits to the distillery and meadery were on separate days and besides “tasting” is much

Orchid Cellar meads

Orchid Cellar meads

different than drinking, even a small glass full.  Ask me some time about my first ever wine tasting experience in France!

Mead is an ancient consummation dating back at least to the Roman Empire and arguably well before that.

Just as wheat, barley, potatoes, rye seeds, etc. that go beyond nutritional needs can be “stored” and given extra value by converting them to alcohol so it is and has been with honey as well.

Considering mead as a beverage and knowing that it is made with honey the natural conclusion is that it must be sweet, very sweet but it’s not so. Mead can be dry, semi-sweet or fully sweet depending on the fermenting.

You can confirm this quickly and easily by consulting Wikipedia or at more leisure and with more pleasure by paying a visit to Orchid Cellar in the midst of the Middletown Valley.

The “Highlander Mead” we tasted would fulfill the stereo type of a sweet dessert beverage or even an

Orchid Cellar honey bees

Orchid Cellar honey bees

ice cream topping but the mead that got my vote was “Archer”.  It is subtle and well balanced with nuanced flavors of cinnamon, clove and juniper can be savored chilled or heated for the winter holidays.

Our host Andrzej dropped a hint that we just had to accept as a challenge.  The “Hunter” mead is made with chili peppers. This seemed a little farfetched so we tasted it and after the first burst of mead flavor the tingling/burning on the sides of the tongue that one associates with spicy, peppery food develops.

While this would never be my favorite mead it is a fascinating experience.  It might be, “Muy Bueno”!

Chardonnay grape planting

Chardonnay grape planting

for folks who take their habaneras, straight.

We resolved our conflict by getting several kinds of mead; so you will be able to sample three at Beans:  the Archer, my favorite described earlier,  Ambrosia, made with Chardonnay grapes from the vineyard on the hill, and Blacksmith, fermented with raspberries, blueberries and  blackberries, no additives. It will go well paired with one of our F t F desserts, a freshly baked Blueberry Buckle.  For the adventurous and those who read this blog, we have two bottles of the spicy Hunter mead in reserve.  If you enjoy a surprise punch, ask for it at our counter.  Andrzej is sure we will be back for more.

Jim Politis

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Bell towers add a new chapter in historic downtown Brunswick

In August 2015, Beans in the Belfry wrote a new chapter in the history of Brunswick and of the old Reformed Church at 122 W Potomac Street.

Erected in 1910, as engraved in its corner stone, this church building was on the outskirts of

1910 corner stone

1910 corner stone

Brunswick, but as the town expanded, it found itself in the heart of the (now historic) downtown district.  Just 53 members are credited as the first organizers.  The beautiful stained glass windows, given as memorials of loved ones in the church, have long been a notable part of Brunswick’s downtown scene.  Over the following decades, the congregation grew to include Knoxville, Burkittsville, Petersville and even Lovettsville, until its last service was held on December 27, 1968.

On October 16, 2004, Beans in the Belfry opened its doors in the century old brick structure to welcome the community, travelers, cyclists and music lovers into an eclectically furnished meeting place and cafe. An extensive menu satisfies just about all tastes for hot or cold refreshing beverages, a light meal, delicious baked goods and even craft beer and local wine.

New striped steeple roofs using stamped metal shingles

New striped steeple roofs using stamped metal shingles

Much repair, inside and out, from sewer pipes to stained glass windows, was needed, the most visible and most recent being a new main roof and the new striped bell tower roofs, just completed this month.  The metal shingles recall the same stamped pattern as the originals and were shipped from Texas by the only factory in the US that still makes historic metal shingles.  The adventurous can climb into the large belfry by way of a fixed ladder and enjoy a scenic view of the area.

In 2011, the large belfry was the site of an award winning independent film, ‘God and Vodka’ by Daniel Stine.  The central scene captured a young couple sitting in the open air belfry reminiscing about growing up in their fictional home town (Brunswick).

A mysterious disused old wooden door gives access to the smaller belfry.  The chamber behind it might serve as a special romantic dining spot some day.

When you drive or walk up West Potomac Street, or get off the C&O Canal towpath in Brunswick,

Bike Parking and Bike Wash for customers

Bike Parking and Bike Wash for customers

raise your gaze and look for the newly clad striped bell towers of Beans in the Belfry in the 100 block.  They beckon you to rest for a while, enjoy good eats, refreshing drinks and fine fellowship.   You can also say a silent prayer and thank our creator for the beauty in life.  For cyclists, there is safe parking in the enclosed gravel lot and a bike wash.


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OPEN MIC as seen by Frederick New Post – Third Thursday 7 to 9pm Meet Tomy Wright and Gary Free

Open Mic scene at Beans

OPEN MIC sponsored by SAW and F.A.M.E.

Colin McGuire –  thank you for your visit – do come back with your guitar.  Down a bottle of Morning Glory espresso stout before you play to inject some wickedness into the evening. 


Beans In The Belfry, 122 W. Potomac St., Brunswick

When: 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month

Best Moment: Meeting Gary Free, a 76-year-old local musician who wouldn’t stop telling the 14-year-old’s mother that her daughter needed to “learn some standards” for the next time she plays.

Open Mic performers in Feb 2015

Open Mic performers in February 2015

Synopsis: Have a family? Feel like hanging out in a 1910 red-brick church building? Like to sit on couches? Love walking into rooms that look like Martha Stewart’s zany new-age nephew might have decorated? This place is for you. Hosted by Tomy “One M” Wright (almost one year of Frederick Playlist, and writing “Tomy ‘One M’ Wright” still delights me to no end), it’s the cleanest, kindest, warmest, most-welcoming option you have on a Thursday night. The open mic has been running for six years, according to Wright, and if you have a kid who can play a ukulele and write songs — much like Gabrielle Zwi, whose mother warned me of her mom-eratzi status very quickly and

Tomy One "M" Wright

Tomy One “M” Wright

somewhat aggressively — there isn’t a single good reason in the universe to not take advantage of this platform. It’s as family-friendly as it gets and the talent in Brunswick is worth the 15-minute drive. There were members of Willie And The Chaperones and Signs Point East there, and Wright, himself, had no problem sitting in with pretty much everyone, making it a communal atmosphere that goes a long way

Gary Free, free as a bird!

Gary Free, free as a bird!

for parents who don’t want to see their daughter cover a Disney song on a ukulele in the middle of a bar that sometimes smells like french-fried urine. Also: They get bonus points for shouting out to “the guy from the newspaper.” Also (again): They get bonus bonus points for having someone like Free on hand, reminding me every three minutes that he once played with Patsy Cline at the firehall in Brunswick. Legendary.

Quote Of The Night: “My name is Gary Free. Free as a bird.”

Rated On A Scale Of Justin Bieber To Razorblade: The Soundtrack To Disney’s “Frozen.”

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