When Afternoon Tea is mentioned, we all think of England and pretty china cups and saucers and beautiful gardens. Elegant finger sandwiches and pastel Petit Fours. Tiered trays of truffles, and scones with clotted cream and jam.
And of course, tea in the garden at Buckingham Palace. I have a friend who actually did that. And now you can have the chance to do it, too. Secret London says:
For the modest price of £125, you can spend 2 hours in one of the Queen’s many living rooms, chatting about swans and corgis until your heart’s content. If you’re willing to part with a little extra cash, there’s also the option to upgrade to the Jubilee package, which includes an afternoon stroll in the Palace gardens with Liz and her corgis.
Let’s see. If £125 is $160, then upgrading to a stroll in the gardens might be $250? I couldn’t find anywhere online to buy tickets, so I just have to guess what the Jubilee package might cost.
Since I don’t expect to be heading to England anytime soon, I thought it might be fun to plan a tea in my own garden (or not, since it’s 103 F in Arizona today).
1. Mother’s Day Sunday Tea
This lovely cookbook has been in my stash for years. It came into my life at a time when tea parties and fancy recipes still happened. I get nostalgic pulling this book out, because it brings back some fine memories.
It’s not just a pretty cover, either. It has some very yummy recipes, that help you fake it till you make it. They look high society, but are actually fairly simple. Others, well, let’s just say they seemed a little too challenging even in my gung-ho young years.
For our Mother’s Day Sunday Afternoon Tea, we’ll borrow my friend’s house. The one with big patio doors looking out over a beautiful, green backyard. We’ll stay inside with the air conditioner turned low, and have tea from the comfort of indoor wicker and potted plants.
The lemons squeezed during the lemon drop days will be perfect for the raspberry lemonade. Unfortunately, we can’t actually drink hot tea here in May.
I inherited a white battenburg tablecloth with matching napkins from my Mother-in-law. (Don’t tell her only daughter, okay? This will be our secret.)
Mother-in-law also has a china cabinet heaping with mismatched china plates, perfect for this country elegance. I’ll also slip an old quilt out of her linen closet. She’ll have the perfect one, because she has made and collected quilts for almost 80 years.
The cheesecake? Easy. Costco has the best New York Style Cheesecake. Slice kiwis and load fresh raspberries in the middle. Buy seedless raspberry preserves, warm till runny and pour a thin glaze over the raspberries to look irresistible. This cheesecake is already sliced, so don’t slice the fruit until you serve a piece into each guest’s plate. It will not look irresistible after slicing. But I promise it will be delicious.
Not shown in the above picture is a basket of warm bagels you sliced into pretty wedges, with a bowl of smoked salmon or onion and chive schmear on the side. This is all ready to pick up at the Einstein Bagels store on the way to the party.
The only work of this party is transporting and setting up. No long hours in the kitchen.
How sweet is that?
2. Picnic Tea in the Pines
Since transporting a tea is so easy, let’s try a get-a-way to the cool shade of the Mogollon Rim for a Picnic Tea in the Pines.
Think of this as a girl’s fun day, because the guys will be on the lakes fishing. No pinkies in the air for them, and this is a for-real rustic-elegant tea-on-the-ground (rocks).
You will need that quilt from the other party, and also the battenburg tablecloth and napkins.
Find a nice wooden crate for the china teapot, cream and sugar, serving trays, cups and saucers, luncheon plates, and some packing excelsior. If you’re packing fine china teacups, you have to do it right. Don’t forget a trolley for transporting the crate. Empty, the crate will be your table. After you’ve carefully unpacked the china, turn the crate upside down on the quilt and drape the tablecloth over it.Set the food on this tiny table, and use the lid as a tray for the tea ingredients. (Uh, take a big garbage bag for the excelsior because those dishes have to come home. And the Park Rangers might wonder how an excelsior tumbleweed ended up on the Rim.)
Since it’s cool up on the Rim, pack your favorite teas. Tea bags might work better than loose tea, but I’ll leave that to your discretion. The same menu works for this tea as for the Sunday Afternoon Tea. The difference could be buying a different flavor of cheesecake, with a fresh fruit tray on the side.
3. American Girl Tea
Hands down, the American Girl Tea takes the least effort on your part, and brings the most joy to the little ladies that get to join in this time. Moms and Grandmas get to stand by and smile.
All it takes is a phone call to your nearest American Girl Store, some giggling girls with dolls in hand, and a credit card. This Mother’s Day Brunch is at our local store in Scottsdale, and you might need to rush with that call.
Mother’s Day Brunch
May 14, 2017
10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
What could be a better Mother’s Day treat than a special outing with your girl? Together, you’ll savor a delicious meal in our restaurant, and you’ll make new memories both of you will cherish! When you check-in for your reservation, you’ll hand your girl a fresh-cut flower. Then, your together-time will fly by with a fun dice game, a make-your-own “memory board” craft, and lots of conversation. Plus, you’ll get a spiral book to record the best moments of your “girls’ day out” as well as a picture frame.
$28 per person (Please note, prepaid event reservations are non-exchangeable and non-refundable), (gratuity not included), Reservations required, For girls ages 8 and up.
Put on your best gowns, then, and head on over to American Girl Store. Here in Arizona, y’all might even see pink cowboy boots peeking out from under the pretty skirts.
Bonus: High Tea
If you want the men in your life to attend a Mother’s Day Tea, you might want to consider High Tea instead of Afternoon Tea. This is how TeaTimeMagazine.com explains the difference:
Laughter and conversation flow easily around the table when people are enjoying a well-planned tea party. If you are thinking of hosting such a gathering, be sure to know which type of tea party you plan to host, be it an afternoon tea or a high tea. Though these terms are often used interchangeably, they are actually distinctly different.
High tea is not a fancy tea, as many people assume. Delectable scones, tea sandwiches, and cakes are the hallmark of an afternoon tea, which is served in midafternoon. A high tea, however, includes much more substantive fare, such as meat, fish, and egg dishes, as well as breads and desserts, and is offered in the early evening. Think of it as a light supper served with tea.
Afternoon tea, also known as “low tea,” is most often taken at a low table, like a coffee table in the sitting room before a warm fire. (Of course, it can also be served at a dining table.) High tea gets its name from its tendency to be served at a high table, like a dining table or high counter, at the end of the workday. Whether you choose to serve a more luxurious tea or plan a heartier meal, both are lovely ways to savor teatime and to entertain your guests.
And, she says with nose in the air, the pronunciation of scones is “scawns” to rhyme with prawns.
I don’t care how it’s said, just pass me the clotted cream and jam. Which, she says with a sniff, you do not slather on the scone and slap the two sides together like a cowboy biscuit. No, ma’am. You watch your hostess closely, and eat it the way she eats hers. If she slices hers and eats one slice with cream, and the other slice with jam, that better be how you do it, too.
If your hostess slurps her tea, you can too. But if her pinky is in the air while she daintily sips, “she” suggests you practise at home so you don’t embarrass yourself.
Have fun and have tea!