Monday, September 17, 2018

Basket of Friendship Tea

One of the ladies who went on the Southern Tea Time Getaway last May used to have a tearoom and gift shop in Defiance, Ohio called Flowers & Friends.  If you remember, one of my blog posts about the trip was Judy treating us to a wonderful traveling tea party on the van the first day.  

Even though Judy's no longer open for business, she said she'd have a combination tea party/reunion to celebrate the friendships made on the trip after she recovered from hip replacement surgery in July.  On August 27th our invitations arrived in the mail.

The tea party was last Saturday [September 15th] at 12:00 noon.   Judy brought her niece, Cheryl, on the Southern Tea Time Getaway, and the two of them hosted the gathering.  It was one of the nicest tea parties I've ever attended.

The tearoom used to be a Grain/Corn Bin House located on a neighboring farm.  Judy and her husband had it moved to their farm where it underwent an amazing transformation, while still maintaining most of its original rustic interior.  Judy was inspired to open a tearoom/gift shop because all the men congregated at a local cafe, and she wanted a place where ladies could gather.  It's mostly used for family gatherings now.

Below is the main entrance.

Four tables were set up and they were stunning.  The invitations and table dรฉcor carried out the "Basket" of Friendship theme.  Each table had at least two vintage glass baskets - a large one as a vase/centerpiece, and a smaller one as a candle holder... 

And two lovely teapots, along with two beautiful vintage candlesticks. 

Aren't the vintage glass baskets beautiful?  Judy gave each of us a basket to take home.

Judy - the hostess with the mostess!

~ With her niece, Cheryl ~

Judy is also a gardner and their farm property has beautiful gardens.

~ Lori and Me ~

~ Barb, Linda, and Louise ~

Back inside, iced tea and sparkling limeade awaited us at the bar.

Fancy, fruity ice cubes...

And individual bags of Caramel Corn and Friendship Mix.

Teresa made a fabulous Shutterfly album of all the pictures she took on our trip, and Lori and I enjoyed looking at it.

Our tea meal will be a separate post since this one is already quite lengthy.  Come back to see what Judy served.  I'll give you a hint... it looked as good as it tasted!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Another Day at the Whitney

I promise all my posts going forward won't be about The Whitney, but I had an opportunity to take a few more pictures today that I thought you might enjoy seeing.

Today was a private tea party for a lady named, Connie, who celebrated her 102nd birthday. She was so perky and alert, and definitely didn't look 102.  She came from England, so honoring her at Afternoon Tea was the perfect way to celebrate.  The private tea party was held in the Reception Room, next to the Drawing Room.

~ Main entrance to The Whitney ~

~ Great Hall, looking towards the Music Room ~

Below, a picture of David Whitney, Jr. hangs in the Great Hall.  Sadly, he only got to live in his beautiful mansion six years before he passed away at the age of 70.   Both he and his wife died in the house, so there are lots of tales about their spirits inhabiting the second and third floors, as well as the elevator. One employee told me she was afraid to go into Mr. Whitney's bedroom closet because she has a fear of getting locked inside it.  Yikes!  That's where I store all my tea things.  I enter it multiple times everyday.  So far, his spirit hasn't bothered me.  ;-)

Below is the area where I prepare the tea.

On another subject... thoughts and prayers go out to those in the path of Hurricane Florence.  Last year at this time I had to cancel the Southern Belle Tea Tour due to Hurricane Irma, and now residents in multiple states are reliving the same nightmare with Hurricane Florence.  I complain about Michigan's lengthy, cold winters, but I'll take the snow anytime over devastating hurricanes. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Afternoon Tea at the Whitney

Today was my one week anniversary at The Whitney.  Every day I feel more relaxed and at home at the mansion.  Annie, one of the servers, has taken me on a tour of the entire mansion.  I've been up to the pastry kitchen on the third floor and watched the chef in action, and I've been down to the basement where the large walk-in refrigerator and other storage areas are. My goal is to make Afternoon Tea at the Whitney the best it can be.

My youngest son oversees Human Resources at his company, and he recently posted this motivational message that's a great 'recipe' for success.

Afternoon Tea is presently served in the Drawing Room on the first floor.  This is the room where Mr. & Mrs. Whitney would have received and entertained guests.  I'm sure many cups of tea were enjoyed in this room when the Whitneys were residents.  Look at the detail on the ceiling.  The top portion of the large windows are leaded glass.

The fireplace in the Drawing Room is one of 20 fireplaces in the mansion.

I took these pictures on Monday when we had 10 guests for Afternoon Tea.

The tables were set with the first course - two scones with Chantilly Cream and Preserves.

Two ladies wrote me off-list to ask what my responsibilities as Tea Director entail, so I will attempt to briefly answer that question.

I am responsible for making the tea for the guests to enjoy, and I pour their first cup. I check their teapots throughout the tea meal to make sure they have as much tea as they want.  A rule of thumb is 3 cups per person.  Some will drink more, and some will drink less, but that gives me a good starting place.  

Presently the guests have their choice of a Tisane [herbal] which happens to be the Whitney's signature tea called Garden Blend.  It's made with hibiscus [steeps into a beautiful rose color], camomile, rosehips, ginger, cinnamon, and peppermint. It is very popular.  For those who want caffeine and tea from the camellia sinensis plant we offer a black tea called Gentle Earl Grey.

Once the guests are seated I do a little presentation with the Garden Blend, explain how to steep tea [temperature and time] and give the origin and ritual of Afternoon Tea.  Below is my demonstration tray.

When the guests are almost done I give them an opportunity to sign a guest book [e-mail address only] where I can contact them about future events, as well as sending them a thank you note for choosing The Whitney for their Afternoon Tea experience.  If they are agreeable, I also take their picture and send it with their thank you note.  Both the e-mail and photo are an idea I asked to implement.  

I am responsible for washing the teacups, teapots, and warmers and putting them away before I go home.  

Last week I eased into my new job with 6-8 guests on Wed. thru Friday.  This week has been busier with 19 guests yesterday and 13 guests today.  Almost every day there's been at least one lady celebrating her birthday over Afternoon Tea.

I don't have to wear a uniform, but whatever I wear has to be predominately black.  Kind of like what Henry Ford told his customers about his Model T - they could buy it in any color as long as it was black!  ;-)  I'm on my feet from the time I walk into the mansion until I get into my car to go home, which is anywhere from 3-5 hours, so comfortable shoes are a must. After wearing four different pairs of uncomfortable black shoes, I stopped by Designer Shoe Warehouse [DSW] on Monday after work, and purchased a new pair - they're dressy black flats by Skechers with memory foam.  If you want a comfortable pair of shoes, try these.  They were $49.99 and I had a $20 off VIP coupon, so they turned out to be affordable as well as comfortable.

I'll end this post with the photo of a lovely figurine I purchased last Saturday.  It just seemed to coincide with the time period of the Whitney mansion.  It's hard to tell in the photo, but the figurine is holding a teacup in one hand and a book in the other.  I like to think she's Mrs. Whitney or one of the three daughters - Grace, Katherine or Flora Ann.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


We all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when news of the horrific terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001 unfolded.  Today we remember the victims and pray for their families, our country and peace.

[Internet Photo]

In my family, the date 9-11 is a happy day.   My first-born grandchild entered the world on that date in 1989.  Happy Birthday, Brandon!

~ Brandon, Venessa and Charlie ~

Thank you to everyone who posted comments on my post yesterday about my new job.  Two wrote off-list and asked if I would explain exactly what the responsibilities of a Tea Director are.  I will do that in my next post.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A New Chapter In My Tea Journey

As you know, I only posted twice last week, and you may have wondered what was going on in my little corner of the world. For those who aren't friends with me on Facebook, here's the explanation: I have a new job!

In February 2007, The Whitney restaurant in Detroit was purchased by Arthur [Bud] Liebler, and reopened under his ownership four months later.

In September 2007, I went with a friend for lunch and was seated at the table pictured below in the beautiful music room.  

The 52-room mansion, built in 1894 for lumber baron David Whitney, Jr., is awesome.  The tapestries in the music room are originals.

Original leaded glass windows.

Aspiring to put my tea knowledge to use in the hospitality industry, I commented to my friend, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to work here as their Tea Director?"  They definitely needed one - their tea was served in a small stainless steel teapot placed on a doily-lined plate accompanied with a lemon wedge.  So far so good, but it went downhill from there because inside the teapot was a generic tea bag [made from fannings] from King Coffee, priced at $1.50 on the menu.

That's when my communications with The Whitney first began.  I wrote to Mr. Liebler and all three General Managers that held that position from 2007 thru 2012, but the Tea Director position was filled internally with servers and banquet managers.  A top-notch tea program just didn't seem to be a high priority, so I suspended my pursuit.  

This past June I learned their Tea Director was no longer with them, so I decided to make one last attempt.  I sent my letter and waited.  As time passed I began to think it was another futile attempt, until I received an e-mail from the Director of Operations on August 20th.  An appointment was scheduled to meet with him on August 27th, I attended an orientation on August 28th, and began work as their Tea Director on September 5th.  My dream finally came true!

The teacups used for Afternoon Tea are stored on the shelves where the music used to be kept [pictured below].  

The Whitney Mansion [below] viewed from across Woodward Avenue.  It is such a privilege to be a part of this historic restaurant that is one of Detroit's 'crown jewels'.   

If you've followed my blog for any length of time you know I've done many presentations about J.L. Hudson, and his magnificent department store. I found the historic connection between David Whitney, Jr. and J.L. Hudson very interesting.  I'll share with you what I posted on Facebook.  

"In 2015 I was privileged to coordinate a fundraiser tea in J.L. Hudson's former home on East Boston Blvd. 

In 1889 J.L. Hudson borrowed $242,000 from his friend, David Whitney, Jr., to purchase the property at Gratiot and Farmer for his new 8-story department store [which expanded greatly over the years].  

Now I'm privileged to serve tea in Mr. Whitney's former home.  My designated tea storage area is a large closet in Mr. Whitney's bedroom.  How cool is that!  If tea is the only thing in his closet after he expired, he lived an upright life!"  ;-)

Local readers, I hope you'll come visit me for Afternoon Tea from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m.  I'll be there Monday thru Friday.  Afternoon Tea is $34.95 per person [tax and tip excluded] and reservations are required [313-832-5700].  

I'll continue to keep in touch on my blog, but my posts won't be as frequent as they used to be.  Thank you for understanding.