There’s something about afternoon tea that warms my heart. Though I drink a dark roast coffee from early morning to late night, the afternoon seems to call for something else. It calls for a pretty antique tea cup, a silver spoon and for me the fragrant brew of jasmine, apricot or earl grey tea.
I might enjoy this tea while alone in my room, all by myself, enjoying the peace and splendor of solitude. At other times I might enjoy the company of a letter friend. I’ll make a pot of tea and pull out a letter to answer, a letter from one of my many delightful pen friends. And there are the days when I delight in sharing tea with one of my many “dead friends”. On such days all I need do is pull out a biography and the star of that book becomes my teatime companion.
But once a month I treat myself to the company of living, breathing, in-person friends to join me in the ceremony of afternoon tea. Though I might fuss a little with the setting and spend some time in the kitchen preparing edible treats, the real delight at these afternoon teas is in the company.
Sure, I could meet these friends at a tea house, but there’s something special about sharing my home with them. It’s art, the forgotten Art of Hospitality. Do you know many people who entertain in their homes these days? Are you such a person? I hope so. To open our home to others is a beautiful thing. Home is a reflection of self. When we invite people into our home we are not only sharing food and drink, we are sharing our private world as we share ourselves.
Entertaining is a bit of work, it’s true, but it’s artful work. It’s creative work, and all creativity rewards us with a sense of sweet accomplishment. Entertaining at tea time or any other time is a great way to have a good time. . . at least I think so.
The first step in creating my tea is to decide where I will serve. In Winter months a favorite room is my library because I can have a small fire going in the fireplace to create a cozy setting.
The next step is to choose the linen. For this tea antique linen found some years ago on an outing in the country seems just right for its golden embroidered edging co-ordinates nicely with the colors in my library.
The china is chosen – once again antique. Somehow The ancient Art of Tea seems to call for antique accessories – at least in my 1853 Jeremiah Brown House. If you live in a modern dwelling you might choose very different serving pieces.
Lately I’ve been running into a lot of French recipes for cream puffs – puffs filled with cheeses for cocktail time and cream puffs stuffed with all sorts of yummy fillings for dessert. So cream puffs are made for this tea – such an easy recipe too.
Ingredients: 1 cup water,1/2 cup butter, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 4 eggs
Process: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat water and butter to rolling boil. Stir in flour. Stir vigorously over low heat fro one minute. Remove from heat. Beat in eggs, all at one time; continue beating till smooth. Drop dough by scant 1/4 cupfuls 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until golden.
I like to fill my cream puffs with coconut pie filling into which I add plenty of whipped cream.
A little chocolate icing and the cream puffs are all set.
Another tea treat for my guests at this tea is pear oatmeal scones. The recipe comes from my dear pen friend Almita. My tea-loving friends enjoy sharing their favorite recipes with me and I with them ( and with you.)
Pear Oatmeal Scones
Ingredients: 1 and 1/4 cup flour, 1 cup old fashioned oats, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3 Tblsp. unsalted butter chilled and sut into small pieces, 3/4 cup plain (or vanilla) yogurt, 1 egg slightly beaten, 3/4 cup fresh pear unpeeled and finely chopped, 1 tsp. vanilla (if using plain yogurt).
Process: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheet. In large bowl combine flour, oats, sugar, powder, soda, spices and salt. Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl combine yogurt, egg and vanilla if using plain yogurt. Add to dry ingredients and mix until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently stir in pear. Place 1/4 cup of dough on sheet 2 inches apart. Bake 17 to 20 minutes until golden brown.
Strawberry-Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches
I thought one more item might be nice and I chose these tea sandwiches.
Ingredients: 12 slices firm white bread, 2 and 1/2 cup chopped chicken, 1 cup chopped strawberries, 1/2 cup toasted pecans, 1/3 cup chopped celery, 1/4 cup chopped green onion, 1 (11 ounce) can of mandarin oranges, drained and chopped, 1 recipe of Poppy Seed Dressing
Process: Mix all ingredients and add Poppy Seed dressing to taste. Fill white bread squares and garnish with a slice of strawberries.
Once all the food treats are prepared they are assembled on tiered cake plates and the only other thing needed is to put the kettle on for tea. A few fun hours in the kitchen with lovely aromas floating through the house. This is fun in itself on a cold Winter’s day, but though creating the food is delightful, then to devouring it, there’s even more fun anticipating my guests and sharing all this with them.
And here comes a guest now. It’s Joni.
Joni is a local friend and a regular tea guest who is always bearing gifts. This time she brought me a lovely Calla Lily. Joni and I will often go out for coffee or for lunch, but we also enjoy inviting each other for tea. I hope you have such a fun friend as Joni.
And here’s another guest. It’s Janet.
Janet is a new friend, a neighbor I don’t know very well – yet! But what a nice way to get to know a neighbor or anyone else – to invite them into your private world for tea. I hope I see Janet many times in the future. The ball’s in her court.
Another day, another tea. It came and went in a most pleasant way. The preparations, the conversation and the visiting, the nibbles and the tea itself – all delightful. Now the china is resting back in its cupboard and thoughts begin to tiptoe in regarding the next tea I’ll put together. Where shall I serve? What baking will I do? Who shall I invite? Maybe YOU! It’s all fun.
Sharing Tea – Sharing Joy!