Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2011 Ladies' Spring Tea - A Royal Tea Fit for a Queen

Every year I coordinate a Spring Tea for the ladies of my church.   Our 2011 tea was held on May 7th - one week after the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Since the wedding was already past when my tea was scheduled, I knew I couldn't use the royal couple as a theme, so I decided to honor Queen Elizabeth II.    The tea was titled: "A Royal Tea Fit for a Queen."   Since Her Majesty is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee this year, she'd make a splendid guest of honor at a 2012 tea party too.

Our tablescape colors were purple and gold symbolizing royalty.  Our programs were rolled up and tied like scrolls. Inexpensive gold tiara combs carried out the theme and were favors, as well as a Darjeeling tea bag [which is said to be one of the Queen's preferred teas] placed inside of a tea bag envelope bearing Her Majesty's photo.

Each table had its own silver teapot which was filled from large urns of tea. I once attended a class taught by Alda Ellis where she said, "Silver is the jewelry of the table." I totally agree!

Gold card stock crowns with craft jewels affixed were placed on each table to indicate where each lady would be sitting. 


An "honorary" Queen attended on behalf Queen Elizabeth II, with her ever-present handbag! [She's a dear retired pastor's wife who attends our church.]

We did, however, have "official" greetings from Queen Elizabeth II. I wrote a letter to Her Majesty telling her that we were honoring her at our tea, and to my delight she had one of her Ladies-in-Waiting [Philippa de Pass] write a letter on her behalf to be read at the tea. It was one of the highlights, indeed!  

These three charming ladies were the "reader's choir" [or trio!] and entertainment at the tea. They shared snippets of the Queen's life from birth to present from a script I wrote.

According to Darren McGrady, who worked as a chef in the royal kitchen at Buckingham Palace for 11 years, the Queen's favorite tea cake is Chocolate Biscuit Cake. You may recall Prince William requested it at his wedding for his Groom's Cake. The recipe is found on page 31 of Darren's book, Eating Royally. It can also be found at his website,

In honor of Her Majesty the Queen and her favorite tea cake, I made individual, bite-size chocolate biscuit cakes for each of the ladies. They were perfect for a tea party and so regal! 

I modified Darren's recipe, doubling the amount of chocolate [from 4 oz. to 8 oz.] because it seemed too dry without additional chocolate. Darren's recipe calls for "almond-sized" pieces of McVities rich tea biscuits, but since my biscuit cakes were bite-sized, coarsely crushed pieces worked best.   When the biscuit cakes were set, I melted Merckens chocolate wafers to frost the tops of the cakes.  

In keeping with the gold color scheme, I purchased gold foil mini candy cups - available at cake decorating and candy supply stores - as "containers" for the biscuit cakes. For stability I placed the foil cups in miniature muffin cup tins until the cakes were set.

Using a candy mold with assorted crowns, I melted yellow candy coating wafers and poured it into the molds. After they were set I lightly brushed them with "gold luster dust," and "glued" one on top of each cake with a dab of melted chocolate. It was a putsy endeavor, but well worth the effort. The gold crowns can be made well in advance and stored in a container in a cool place until time to use them.

We also served a decorated Union Jack cake, made by a budding pastry chef at church.

It was such a fun tea and I hope these photos have provided ideas and inspiration for a tea in your future.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Christmas Present from Dean & Deluca

Even though we're two months past Christmas, I'm still enjoying a gift I received from a dear friend - "Discovering the Cultures of the World" gift box of fine teas from LE PALAIS DES THÉS.

There are  12 tea samples in aluminum vial-like tubes, each producing six cups of tea.  A 128 page guide book accompanies the teas, taking the reader on a tea journey of cultures and flavors, with photos of tea estates and tea utensils from the countries visited.

The teas are from Africa, Argentina, China, India,  Iran, Japan,  Sri Lanka,  Taiwan,  and Turkey.

The very first tea I wanted to sample was a second flush darjeeling from Margaret's Hope tea estate.   The story of how this estate was named  is interesting [although the  stories vary].  According to some accounts, the garden was owned by a man named, Mr. Bagdon,  in the 1930's.   He and his two daughters sailed from England to India to visit the garden.  The younger daughter, Margaret, fell in love with the estate and "hoped" to return.  But during the return trip to England, she became ill and died.  In her memory, the grief-stricken father changed the garden's name to "Margaret's Hope."   It is nestled in the Kurseong Valley of the Himalayas.

Darjeeling teas are high altitude teas.  They are one of the most prestigious teas in the world, and are reserved for export.   According to the book, there are 90 tea plantations in the Darjeeling area.  That's a lot of tea bushes!

"Second flush" means the tea leaves were plucked in the second harvest between May and June [summer], before the monsoon season.  This tea produces a shiny, golden color, as you can see in the above photo.  [Notice the dry leaves before steeping, and the wet leaves after steeping.]  This sample was described as an ideal morning tea with a fruity, invigorating flavor.

It is steeped at 205 degrees F [just under boiling] for 3 minutes.    For me, it is a perfect  Afternoon Tea choice.

Stephanie, at Steph's Cup of Tea blog, visited Darjeeling last September and stayed at Glenburn Tea Estate.  She experienced first-hand what I've only been able to read about. 

These 12 teas are providing a fun learning experience, and I am enjoying it very much.

Monday, February 27, 2012


About a year ago a Hospitality Committee was officially formed at my church.   Beth, whose husband was our Worship Pastor, was our youngest member - her youthfulness clearly identifies her in the photo.  Her husband's recent resignation meant she would no longer be a part of our committee.  

Tea is known as the universal gesture of hospitality, so there could be no better way of saying thanks to Beth, and the other ladies as well, than a tea party.

It was held in my home this past Saturday, February 25th. 

The Committee

My tablescape for the occasion was red, white and blue since we celebrated President's Day earlier in the week.   Our presidents are honored for serving their country, and these ladies are honored for serving their church!

These items produced...

This dessert - triple chocolate miniature Bundt cakes.

The dessert was the first item on the menu to be determined and prepared.  They're a bit putsy, so required a little more prep time.

With the tablescape and dessert determined I moved on to  putting the rest of the menu together.

Scones with dried cherries, cherry preserves and mock Devonshire cream.
[You may have to click  on the photo to enlarge it for a better peek at the scones.]

Zuppa Stracciatella
[Very similar to Italian Wedding Soup without the tiny meatballs.]

Mandarin & Dried Cherry Salad with Asian Sesame, Ginger & Soy Dressing

Party Quiches with Steamed Broccoli

This was a new recipe and everyone liked it.   Since some of the ladies requested the recipe, I decided to share it in this post.   The original recipe called for using miniature muffin pans, but I opted to use a jumbo muffin pan instead since there were no other savories.

1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/2 cup finely diced ham [or 1/2 lb. bacon cooked until crisp and crumbled]
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup pancake mix
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Sauté onion in butter until tender.  Remove from heat and mix in diced ham.  Combine eggs, pancake mix, half-and-half, salt and pepper.  Stir well.  Add in onions, ham and shredded cheese.  Grease muffin tins.  Pour mixture evenly into muffin pans.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until tops are golden.   Remove from tins.  Serve while still warm.   [Or reheat briefly in microwave.]   Yield:  6 jumbo party quiches

We drank bottomless cups of Harney & Sons Cranberry Autumn Tea - a blend that combines black teas from China and India with dried cranberries, oranges and cranberry flavoring.  So good!

What a delightful afternoon we spent together.   Thanks ladies for your invaluable help on the committee, and Godspeed to you, Beth, on this new chapter in your's and R.J.'s life!

Friday, February 24, 2012

My New / Old Tea Caddy

If you love tea, you probably love all the accoutrements and equipage that accompanies it, both  present and past.

A tea caddy  from the nineteenth century was on my wish list for a long time.  I drooled over them on E-bay and in antique stores, but they were either out of my price range or not the highest priority at the time.

I discovered last December that being in the right place at the right time sometimes has its advantages.   Visiting a  shop  for other purposes brought me face to face with two nineteenth century tea caddies.   How awesome was that?!   And the prices weren't exorbitant either - a very nice surprise!

I looked longingly at each of them, but left without either one.   I must confess, however, they kept resurfacing in my mind, and a few days later I rationalized that it if was meant for me to have one, they would still be at the shop when I returned.  A big smile crossed my face when I walked in and saw both of them sitting right where I had left them.

Decisions!  Decisions!  Which one would it be?  After much deliberation, I made my choice, and at long last I became a twenty-first  century owner of a nineteenth century tea caddy!


The tea caddy I selected has three compartments, two of which can be lifted out.  They are for storing green tea, black tea, or sometimes brown sugar [which was also expensive].  The compartment in the center holds a mixing bowl for blending the tea.  I was pleased the key was still with the caddy, because often they were lost over time.

chatelaine would be nice now - the chain where the mistress of the house often kept the important keys for her home, and attached  it to her belt.  Because tea was so expensive, the task of brewing it was never left to the servants, but was always done by the host or hostess, or one of the daughters of the household.   The guardian of the tea caddy carried the key everywhere, even away from home.

Tea caddies were designed to hold one pound of loose tea.   Tea drinking was fashionable, but due to its cost,  proper storage was necessary for its preservation.  Tea chests with sturdy locks affirm it was a valuable commodity that  had to keep kept safe and secure, as well as fresh. 

The inner compartments were usually lined with a tin foil, or a lead and tin alloy, known as tea pewter.  Alas, these had been removed from my caddy.

The mixing bowl to my caddy was broken as well.   Due to their age, this is  a common occurrence, but the shop keeper substituted a Waterford crystal glass in the mixing bowl's place.   Though not original, I was happy with it.

The caddy is solid wood - mahogany, I think - and sits on turned wooden feet.

I am very happy to own this piece of tea history.  If tea caddies could talk I wonder what mine would say about its previous owners and the many tea times it provided in bygone years.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tea for Every Generation

 This is Madison.  Isn't she sweet?  I think she's going to grow up loving tea, what do you think?  She and her parents attend my church.

This is Madison's mom, Kim [standing], and her grandma, Tina.  They like tea too!  Kim said she acquired her love of tea from her mother and grandmother.   Don't you love the way tea is multi-generational?

The above photo was taken at our 2009 Christmas Tea at church.  For three years Kim was  one of my  table hostess volunteers - which means she had to come up with a theme and coordinating tablescape, and fill her table with eight guests. 

Theme: "Winter Wonderland."

Kim's table at our 2010 Christmas Tea.    Her theme was "Visions of Sugarplums."  She was a real trouper volunteering for a table in 2010.   She was pregnant with Madison and wasn't feeling too perky.

Kim setting up her 2008 table the night before the tea.  She wasn't married yet, but she wanted to hostess a table.   I love her spirit!

Kim's table.  By tea time the next day all the boxes and totes in the foreground were packed away and out of sight. 

Theme:  "Starry Night."

Based on Kim's creativity and love of tea, I predict there will be lots of tea parties in Madison's future!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Silver Boxes and Scripture Tea

Recently I met with several ladies from my church for an evening  of fun and fellowship.  As soon as I walked into the room and saw the tables draped with silver cloths and small boxes wrapped in silver paper, it was apparent we were going to talk about Florence Littauer's book, Silver Boxes - The Gift of Encouragement, in some way.   The evening brought back such wonderful memories I decided to blog about it.

The book is an excellent resource on encouraging one another with uplifting words, because in reality our words either build up or tear down the people to whom they're spoken.

The book, available on, has an enduring message as  indicated by the review dates of 1997 through 2011.  [The book itself was copyrighted in 1989.] And  of 30 reviews, written by both women and men,  23  gave it five stars.   The book is based on Ephesians 4:29 "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
My mind drifted back to October 1999 when I coordinated a "Silver Boxes" theme dinner for a group of ladies.

At each place setting was a silver wrapped package containing a silver trinket box for each lady to take home as a reminder that every word spoken to someone should be like a "verbal present" - a silver box with a bow on top!

The feathers on the tablescape were to show the similarities between feathers in the wind, and unretrievable spoken words.

Carrying out the "Silver Boxes" theme in the Fellowship Hall.

I first saw Scripture Tea at the local Christian book store, but I order it directly from  Scripture Tea  by the case [wholesale], so I  have plenty on hand to give away.  The tea is available in green, white or black tea, caffeinated or decaffeinated.  What could be more encouraging than seeing an inspirational scripture verse dangling from the tea bag tag in a teacup stating: "I will never leave you or forsake you."  [Hebrews 13:5]   Cracker Barrel carries Scripture Tea's counterpart - "Promise Tea," [packaged by the same company] with the lyrics to Gaither inspirational songs printed on the tea bag tag.

A box of Scripture Tea is always included in every "Encouragement" or "Bereavement" basket that ladies at church are recipients of.

God's Word [the Bible] is His "Silver Box" to us!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Paczki Day!

If you're not of Polish descent, or don't live in a geographic area where the day is celebrated you may be wondering, "What is Paczki Day?"

I'm not of Polish descent, but many residents  in Southeastern Michigan are, and particularly in the Metro-Detroit area.

Paczki Day [aka Fat Tuesday] is the feast of plenty before the Lenten fast begins for Polish Roman Catholics, the day before Ash Wednesday.

On this day traditional deep fried pastries [similar to jelly doughnuts] are enjoyed.  Paczki is the plural noun for these pastries, and is pronounced "punch-key."  The reason for making paczki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house because they couldn't be eaten during Lent.

Whether a Polish Roman Catholic or not, people know a good holiday when they taste it!   I stood in a long line at the bakery yesterday to get my pastries so I could have them to photograph and share with you today.  Many bakeries opened very early this morning  as  lines will be long with customers getting paczki on their way to work to share with co-workers, or to take home to enjoy with their families. 

They're filled with a variety of fruit and creme fillings, then glazed or covered with granulated or powdered sugar.   I purchased three types - raspberry, apricot and lemon - not all for hubby and me, but to share with friends.  Supposedly,  a small amount of alcohol is added to the dough before frying.  As it evaporates, it limits the absorption of oil into the dough.

My  neighbor, who is Polish,  loaned me the Polish dolls and flag in the above photo.   The doily was crocheted by her grandmother.  [Click on photo to enlarge.]

By the way... there's a reason this day is also called "Fat Tuesday"-  paczki typically contain 300 to 450 calories, and 22 to 27 grams of fat since their rich dough contains eggs, fats, sugar and milk.  

What kind of tea is likely to be sipped in Poland on this day?   Lipton, Tetley or Dilmah teas are all very popular there.  Poland is a leader among European tea consumers placing third after Ireland, and Great Britain according to one source.   

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tea on President's Day

George Washington
1732 - 1799

First President of the United States  1789 - 1797
"The Father of our Country"

In honor of George Washington's Birthday, I went to my tea cabinet to see what tea would be appropriate for today.  I think some Boston Harbour Tea [Mark T. Wendell Tea Company] would be appropriate.  It's a blend of black teas from Sri Lanka and Darjeeling.

And for tonight's caffeine-free beverage, "Liberty Tea" by Eastern Shore Tea Co.   It's an herbal blend of raspberry leaves, rose hips, peppermint, spearmint, lemon verbena and/or lemon balm.

Interesting snippets of history are printed on the back of their reclosable bags of tea.  The Liberty Tea bag states:  "Our forebears, in forsaking the pleasures of China tea for the principles of liberty, needed a "tea substitute."  New Jersey red root, sage, and raspberry leaves were among the plants touted as "equal to or better than" tea.  But none, by itself gave the same satisfaction.  With a spirit and resolve, the Colonial Dame looked to her larder, garden, and fields, to create an acceptable substitute.  And she succeeded, from Maryland to Massachusetts, by using native plants and the herbs at her disposal."

Fitz & Floyd's 1993 George Washington Collectible Teapot

If this teapot could talk, I think it would say "Real Men Drink Tea!"  George Washington certainly did, and his tea was always the finest available.
In the book,  Tea with Presidential Families, [pictured above] the authors state:  "George and Martha Washington were both confirmed tea drinkers well before he became President of the United States."
Tea was the preferred breakfast drink throughout British North America by the mid-eighteenth century.  At Mt. Vernon, George Washington's breakfast included three cups of tea, without cream or sugar [the best way to drink green tea], with three small hoe cakes slathered with butter and honey.
George's first recorded tea order to England in 1757 was for six pounds of the finest Hyson tea and six pounds of the finest green tea.
After his swearing in as the first American president, tea became the beverage of choice served during all state occasions.
After leaving the Presidency, he remained a dedicated tea drinker the rest of his life.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

An Extended Birthday Lunch and a Recipe

I probably won't write Saturday posts on  a  regular basis, but I wanted to share yesterday's lunch as well as some recipes that were requested.

Connie, a long-time friend, treated me and another mutual friend to lunch yesterday.  I blogged about Connie on February 12th - the lady who gave me the computer sign!   She was invaluable during my years as a church secretary.  Only the Lord knows how many Sunday bulletins she helped stuff, or how many address labels she affixed to church newsletters!

What lunch would be complete without a cup of tea?  I chose Darjeeling from the tea chest.   The brand was "Rituals."  I had never heard of it before but it was enjoyable!

We made it easy for our server, Jeffrey, [who is also a blogger] by all ordering the same thing: pecan crusted chicken salad with honey Dijon dressing.  Yummy!  If you're reading this Jeffrey, thanks for your wonderful service!

Connie baked a yummy carrot cake for the occasion - and for the record, I didn't eat it by myself! ;-)  Jeffery brought the ladies their cake after the photo was taken.   Pictured L - R :  Lori, Me and Connie.   We chatted, laughed and enjoyed each other's company for <<gasp>> 2 1/2 hours!   The restaurant wasn't crowded, so Jeffery gave us his blessing.   Spending a wonderful afternoon with special friends is my cup of tea!


Angela at Tea With Friends  inquired about the recipe for Bacon Tomato Puffs that are pictured in my February 16th post A Granddaughter's Valentine's Tea.  I called Donna at Miss Spenser's Blog to ask if I could post the recipe here.  She graciously granted me permission.  It's taken from her cookbook Teatime at Miss Spenser's [Volume I].  They are a delicious tea time savory.
Bacon Tomato Puffs
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper according to taste
5 oz. Swiss cheese, grated
2 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
10 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
16 oz. tube of Pillsbury Grands Flaky Biscuits

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray mini muffin tins with non-stick coating.  Cut each biscuit into quarters.  Press a quarter biscuit piece into each muffin cup.  Combine all other ingredients.   Fill biscuit cups with filling.  Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Yield:  32 puffs

Friday, February 17, 2012

Isabella and Brooke at Tea Party Castle

On March 25, 2010 I took the two youngest granddaughters [Isabella 6 and Brooke 9] to tea at Tea Party Castle.  The establishment asks the girls to come in play clothes, and upon arrival they're taken  into a dressing room where they pick out their own "gowns," have their hair done, and become beautiful princesses for the evening.  It was like stepping into a fairytale for them and they've never forgotten it.  Their moms said they took their photos to school for Show and Tell!

Izzy and Brooke arriving at Tea Party Castle

While the girls were in dressing rooms becoming princesses, I was busy taking photos of the interior of Tea Party Castle. The owners have thought of every detail to capture a little girl's imagination.

Fairytale Wall Murals

Every princess needs a Knight in Shining Armour!


Izzy being introduced to the audience.


Brooke introduced and leaving the stage.


Izzy, stopping for a photo, as the girls danced and paraded around the tea room.

Brooke [second from front] in the dance procession.


Tea Time!  The food was child friendly -- chicken nuggets, grapes, cheese and crackers, cupcakes and decorated sugar cookies.   They served flavored hot tea, lemonade and ice water.



Princess Isabella


Princess Brooke

Nana and her two Granddarlings!