Sunday, January 12, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Celebration of Tea Time

I will be thinking through and pondering my Word of the Year... Celebration!... for awhile.  Unless God intervenes with some brilliant thought on another subject.  That would have to come from the Almighty.  Along with the ponderings, I want to share some actual celebrations that I enjoy.  Of course, being there is tea in the blog title, I must begin with the subject of Tea Time.

The idea came from a question in Comments last week, asking how to use a tea pot without it breaking.  That question will be answered later in this post, as well as the question if I use all of my teapot collection.  Yes and no... which doesn't help, does it?

I have two teapots that I use all the time, both sit on my microwave in the kitchen for easy access.  They are the yellow four to six cup teapot above and a smaller two cup teapot that I bought when we lived in the Detroit area.  They are both sturdy and able to take wash ups without me having to be too careful.

If I was having anyone over for tea, I might use my Friendly Village teapot or my rather large Old English Roses teapot.  Otherwise, the Friendly Village teapot stays on the hutch and the Old English Roses teapot looks lovely in the corner china cabinet.  As far as my other collected teapots, all of them were from thrift stores or were gifts.  My very first teapot was a gift from my daughter when she was in college.  It will always be my favorite.

As for teacups... I may need an intervention there.  But when you can find beautiful teacups for a couple dollars or less at Goodwill and thrift stores, it is an inexpensive collection.  I have made a few full price purchases (and even then they were on sale) over the years and my favorite tea cups were gifts from friends and family.  Through the years, I have also sent tea cups to charity when I was paring down my collection.

I have also collected numerous china and silver plate accessories at thrift shops to use when having a more formal tea time.  They are not necessary but they are fun to use.  Just last week, I bought a beautiful silver plate candelabra at Goodwill for only $2.99.  It just needed a good rub with silver polish and it sparkled.

After having my tea grow cold over the years, I  now use a tea cozy.  The brocade tea cozy shown at the top of the blog post was only a quarter at a thrift store!  The cozy above was made for me by a dear friend.  I use it often in cold weather and when it is not in use, it covers a vintage green teapot in the Study.

I keep a variety of teas on hand and at least one box of good quality crackers to have crackers and cheese with my solitary tea times like above.  Sometimes I will have a couple cookies if they are available.  Often in cold weather, my tea time treat will be cinnamon toast.

While I have tea almost every day, I don't always use a teapot.  That is mostly in colder weather when I want more than one cup of a hot beverage.  Honestly, sometimes my tea time is simply running water through the single serve Keurig to heat it and using a tea bag in a pretty mug.  But there are times I enjoy a pot of tea done properly.

So, how does one go about brewing a pot of tea in a china teapot.  Well, first I would say that if you are just beginning to enjoy tea... and believe it or not I use to hate tea when Lipton black tea was the only option for most Americans... I would get good quality tea bags.  I will share some favorites below.

First you run water at your faucet until it is really hot.  You then swish out your teapot with the hot water and then fill the teapot with hot water.  Let it sit while you boil water in a tea kettle.  I have found most of the teas I drink should be made with water that is not quite at full boil.

When the water is at the proper boil, pour the hot tap water out of the teapot, throw in the tea bags (how much depends on what kind of tea it is and how strong you like your tea), and immediately pour in the water from the tea kettle.  You don't want your teapot to lose the heat you gained from the hot tape water sitting in it.

Let it steep according to directions on the tea box and your preferences.  I had a green tea this week in a teapot that only steeps three minutes with less than boiling water.  I do have some black teas that require at least five to eight minutes, according to preferred strength.  Some herbal teas suggest a steeping time of ten to fifteen minutes.

There was a time that it was thought tea sold in bags was not of highest quality (think Lipton's original black tea!) because they used what is called in the industry "tea dust" rather than whole leaves of tea.  However, with the popularity of tea in the past couple of decades, you can now get quite good tea in bags.

I do have whole leaf teas and a tea strainer that belonged to my mother-in-law.  The teas are usually quite good in whole leaf form but clean up can be messy.  Although there are now bags and other objects one can purchase to put your whole leaf tea in while steeping.

So what about your teacups?  Should you preheat them?  It is actually a good idea when using fine china tea cups.  Just put some of the hot tap water in them while preparing the tea.  I actually do this for my coffee mugs on cold mornings while the coffee is brewing, too.  It warms the mug which keeps the coffee hot longer.

You may know that there is quite a heated discussion at times in Great Britain whether one should put their milk in the cup before pouring the tea or after pouring the tea (should one take milk in their tea).  According to what I have read, the poorer folk put milk in first to keep their teacups from cracking and the well to do put their milk in afterwords because they could afford their teacups to crack.  At least such is legend...

It is rare that I get to go to an actual tea room these days.  The above photo was taken many years ago when my girls (Anna was still a baby) and I went to a tea room in a nearby town when we were visiting Colonial Williamsburg.  I love beautiful tea rooms that serve good food like this one did. 

If you have family and friends nearby, it is fun to have a tea party and it doesn't have to be elaborate.  Just some tea, cookies or little cakes, perhaps slices of quick bread (when baked in mini loaves, the slices are cute), and sandwiches with the crust removed and cut in triangles... all come together to make a celebration!

However, even if you live alone, don't forget the importance of solitary tea times.  By using your teapot and a pretty cup, adding a couple cookies or cinnamon toast, perhaps some cheese or a sandwich cut in triangles... you are giving yourself a treat and providing an atmosphere far better than grabbing a mug of tea and a sandwich in the kitchen.

If you want further information, I will add a link to some favorite books below.  Don't forget to celebrate life once in awhile.

Some of My Favorite Tea Time Books and Tea
If Teacups Could Talk by Emilie Barnes (The book that started many of us on a lifelong love of Tea Time)... here.
A Little Book of Afternoon Teas (a really little book packed with Tea Time recipes)... here.
Victoria magazine's The Pleasures of Tea... here.
Victoria magazine's The Charms of Tea... here.
Time for Tea: Tea and Conversations with Thirteen English Women. (This is such a fun book to read about what Tea Time means to various British women)... here.

Let's Have a Tea Party by Emilie Barnes (for kids)... here.
My Very First Tea Party board book (for toddlers)... here.

Butterfly Tea Set for little girls (I bought this for Piper's first tea set at Christmas when she was only 1 1/2)... here.

Below are some of my favorite teas.  I have tried other teas by these sellers that are good, too.

Harney & Sons Paris tea... here.
Harney & Sons Cherry Blossom green tea... here.

The Republic of Tea Decaf Ginger Peach tea... here.
The Republic of Tea Spring Cherry Green tea... here.
The Republic of Tea Downton Abbey Christmas tea... here.
The Republic of Tea Mrs. Patmore' Pudding Tea... here.

Twining Lady Grey tea... here.

Celestial Seasoning Candy Cane Lane tea (I couldn't find this at the local stores this Christmas!)... here.

PG Tips tea (this is a very good basic black tea)... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.


Deanna Rabe said...

I’ve just ordered ‘Time for Tea’ thanks for mentioning it!

I have a serious tea cup addiction and many pots too!

Have you ever tried Yorkshire Gold tea? It’s very good!

gracie said...

There is nothing nicer than tea in a proper cup. I have a collection of tea cups from back in the 60s as well as a few tea pots. It is nice to use them rather than save them. I have been looking for a knitted cozy pattern like yours for a long time.

Anonymous said...

I find your word for this year fun and interesting! Can’t wait to hear more in the subject! I enjoy making myself a pot of tea, rather than just a mug, on occasion, to treat myself, too, especially when I’m by myself for the afternoon. Thank-you So much for sharing the links to the books about tea parties! My daughter is expecting her second baby in May and we just found out she’s having a girl! Her first child is a boy and our son has a boy, so I am over the moon excited about having a granddaughter and can hardly wait until she is old enough for teaparties!! Oh Joy! 😉
Hugs and Blessings!
Laura C. (WA)

Unknown said...

Bigalow make a similar mint tea to the one you were looking for.

Suzan said...

My mother is form Yorkshire and I often feel tea rules our lives. I have been making tea for her since a I was preschooler. My memories of tea are not pleasant and I find the stuff nauseating. Even the smell is awful. Now I am her carer I would make five or six cups each day. I am told how to prepare her tea almost each time I make it.

Having had my whine I must say I have never broken a pot. I have had the bottom fall out of my Royal Albert cups. I have had a coffee pot explode on me. My granddaughter plays tea parties with her other grandmother. With us she feeds us copies qualities of wooden and felt food. Such fun.

Vee said...

It must be that I have been making tea time a little extra complicated. I have always boiled the water for the pot. And thank you for mentioning that the tea cups could be warmed...never have done that, but will the next time. And thank you also for saying that a good cup of tea can come from tea bags. The other is much too fussy for me, though my daughter-in-law won't take tea any other way.

Jane said...

Interesting post on tea Brenda! Being English, I love my cups of tea. I now live in Scotland, and am rather interested that up here, they put a freshly made pot of tea (if metal) on the hob to keep it on the boil.
My husband refers to 'milk first' people as 'prelactarians', and 'milk afterwards' people as 'postlactarians'. He sometimes asks people, when we are about to pour tea, which they are, and they think that he is referring to some important doctine, and their position on it, and they look rather worried that they don't know about it!

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

A tea party is a wonderful kind of celebration! I have several tea pots and too many tea cups, mostly inherited or as gifts. And there are now so so many kinds of tea available! I see Harney's now has a New England Breakfast tea available.

Debbie Nolan said...

Lovely post about tea...being mostly a coffee drinker do not drink much tea. Yet when I am ill (which is rare) - do love a warm cup of tea sweetened with honey. Love your word "Celebration". Have a great day.