The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Taking Time for Tea

I spent a quarter studying in London as an undergrad. It was a literature and theatre program, and like all study-abroad experiences it changed my life: I fell in love with the art of afternoon tea. Well a lot of other stuff happened too, but for this blog post we’ll stick with the tea.

I had my first afternoon tea with two girls on that trip – Megan and Tera at Harrods (paid for by friends at home – shout out to 415 peeps! – who wanted me to enjoy the experience). Looking back now, it’s hard for me to imagine what I was like before I lived in London – this is why I love travelling, you set out to discover another place, another culture and you end up revealing a little bit more of your own soul.

So, tea is still a pretty big part of who I am and I still enjoy it with my friends Megan and Tera: Apparently unlike Vegas, things you do in London don’t stay in London. Wow, how do you all take me seriously? Yeah, so tea; good stuff in many different forms! You should try it if you haven’t – herbal, black, green, white, rooibos, chai or oolong, there are so many different kinds out there to treat yourself to.

I received a wedding shower gift last year in the form of a tea of the month subscription. Every month I get two boxes of tea in the mail. I decided this would be a great gift for my tea friends, but turned it into tea-and-treats-every-time-we-get-together. Last week I baked some Amish Friendship Bread and packed it up with some summer type teas like White Peony and Pomegranate Oolong.

There’s something about baking or cooking for friends. Finding the right combinations of tea and tea snack goodies is really a lot of fun (even if some of their husbands eat all of the goodies before anyone else can…it just means it was really good bread, right?!). I think the bread came out well – if you’ve never tried the friendship bread, it has a cinnamony coffee cake flavor…but so much better. The starters are out there – and if you don’t have a starter, or you let yours go, there’s plenty of websites with recipes on them. You can also put different stuff in, try different versions and even make muffins instead of bread. I’ve tweaked my recipe a little, but it’s mostly the original recipe I received. Plus, wow does it smell good.

What’s so great about afternoon tea you ask? Well, it takes a good hour and a half to two hours if you do it right. There’s lots of tea, some fun and tiny sandwiches, yummy desserts and scones. Most importantly there is lots of talking and sharing with friends…the best part of afternoon tea by far. Taking time for tea every once in a while is actually like slowing down time to look around and enjoy what life has to offer. It’s both energizing and reflective at the same time.

Like everything else I’ve been reevaluating lately, my extensive knowledge of tea, little tea shops (for some reason I want to say shoppes in reference to tea) and tea sellers makes me think this is something else I can be – and should be – writing about. There’s my next goal/new idea – putting together a tea book. Since this means trying out lots of recipes, as well as different gathering/tea themes – you may be getting a lot of tea related blogs in the near future. Alas, you can’t all try the baked goods to tell me which ones are best, but your input will be greatly appreciated.

Oh, book club themed teas…I might have to start with that!


  1. You've put my mind into brain-storm mode...

    Maybe you have friends who collect tea cups or have them handed down? Have a “Bring your own tea cup/ tea pot” party and participants can give a little history or story about it.

    I seem to remember a couple of light mystery books based on tea? Not really my genre so I can't be sure.

    Have a party where you sample teas and write descriptive phrases that describe the tea or the feelings the tea evokes. Maybe you'll get some good fodder for your writing?

    Story idea – the villain leaves clues based on teas? May have gotten that from one of the tea mystery books I thought I heard of. Not exactly YA material though.

    Harry Potter tie-in – read tea leaves. That means, as host, you get to dress up like Professor Trelawney!

    Have you read The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson? Probably most amusing to Disney fanatics like us. I just checked Amazon and there are a few more in the series. Maybe you could do a take off including the tea cup ride and the Mad Hatter if it hasn't been done already? Also means you can expense a trip to Disney as “research”! :)

    “Wear your best tea hat” party.

    Book Club idea – read books about or that take place in different countries and serve teas from that land. African Roobios, Chinese Dragon tea, etc. Tie it in with the tea tradition in that country.

    I'm guessing other cultures have traditions/customs/ceremonies that involve tea. Have a party that centers on one of those.

    “Little girl” tea party theme. Dress up in your gaudiest “party dresses and jewelry” and bring your “best friend” i.e. A doll or a plush.

    For your die-hard tea savvy friends – a blind taste test. The one who can identify the most teas gets a free bag of tea.

    Hope that inspires.

  2. Karen, Thanks! I'm using you if I need to brainstorm anything at all from now on. Some of these ideas are fantastic. If the book gets published I'm going to have to list you as a contributor.

    Do your friends still sell tea and tea accessories? I might be interested in interviewing them for an article or sidebar.