I don’t know what I love more – afternoon tea, a beautiful day outside near the garden, or getting together with friends. Well, this day I was enjoying all three of these things at once for I was serving tea to some of my friends on the patio with my garden in full view. I suppose I like the idea of afternoon tea so much because it’s such a gracious old world pleasure and I find old world pleasures delightful. They help in offsetting the stress and pressures of modern life.
So I pulled out one of my many tea books for inspiration – this one is called Tea Party by Tracy Stern, and I got to work.
Since I had some cream and buttermilk scones leftover from my last tea, tucked in the freezer, I decided to make tea sandwiches for this tea. So to work I went! First to cut the bread into rounds,
That was quick and easy.
Next to whip up some cucumber sandwiches –
a little cream cheese, salt, white pepper, thinly sliced cucumbers and a sprig of fresh dill, and another sandwich was complete.
The sandwiches were placed on a tray, covered with a damp tea towel, and were placed in the fridge where they would stay fresh until my guests arrived. That was easy, wasn’t it, and it didn’t take much time at all.
So I had scones and tea sandwiches and also a cake which was purchased – something savory and something sweet for my guests to enjoy.
My only contribution to this cake was the flower from my garden which I placed on top of it. There’s really so little work involved in having guests in for tea I wonder why more people don’t enjoy this celebration more often.
If a person feels like going all out they can prepare elaborate hot food for their tea and call it a high tea. If they feel like taking it quite easy, they can serve only cinnamon toast or bread and butter as certain characters in Agatha Christie’s “Miss Marple” stories do. As in the Art of Letter Writing there are no hard and fast rules. The Art of Tea allows us to do our own thing – all sorts of our own things.
I set everything out on the counter in my kitchen, so everything would be ready, just to be carried out to the patio at tea time, and then I could relax and anticipate a fun afternoon doing other things till my guests arrived.
Besides the necessary glasses, sugar bowl and silverware, there’s
strawberry jam and Devon cream for the scones,
mint and lemon for the tea,
the cake, and a selection of plates I needed to choose from,
the flowers for the table
and of course the tea, plenty of tea, ready for ice cubes.
I also enjoyed a little art play by creating place cards for each guest which would be set into these cute little silver tea pots at each guest’s place.
Everything was now ready except for me. Time to dress and make myself presentable. It was also time to walk through the house and do a little fluffing and polishing, but not too much because my guests and I would be outside on this beautiful day.
At the appointed hour I carried all the ingredients out to the patio.
The potted geranium was removed and set at another location, and the tablecloth came out.
I’ve been collecting vintage tablecloths for years. They make a table look so happy.
The scones and tea sandwiches were set out on the tea cart along with the cake
and the scene was set. Now all I needed were my guests
And here they are!
We may not be ladies of leisure all the time, but this afternoon that’s exactly what we were! We sipped, we munched, we chatted, we breathed in fresh air and enjoyed the sweet sound of birdies and the scent of old roses. Was this heaven? It was heaven to me! I hope it was heaven to my guests too.
Tea has a long history of being associated with the finer things of life and today vestiges of extravagant associations remain. Having tea is such a simple thing, but such a luxury! To invite friends to tea is a fine way to pay them a compliment. It means you want to spend time with them. It means you relish their company. And just as the gift of a letter is an old world nicety, forgotten by many, but still capable of creating delight for the writer as well as the receiver, so too is the Art of Afternoon Tea – especially afternoon tea shared because…
Sharing Doubles the Joy.