Witches Tea

It’s my favorite time of the year again, Halloween!  Hosting the annual Witches Tea is one of my little joys!
2015 witches tea invitation

New tablecloth!

New tablecloth!

Place setting

Place setting

Witchy details

Witchy details

Napkins

Printed and themed paper napkins are a great way to dress up glass plates.  I own a set of clear glass plates and teacups so I can have this flexibility when decorating.

napkins

Themed napkins for dressing up the table and glass teacups

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Click to enlarge

Witches' brew (matcha latte)

Witches’ brew (matcha latte)

Witches’ brew (matcha latte)

1/2-1 tsp. matcha powder (I use Royal Matcha)
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. almond milk
1 tsp. agave (or sugar)

Heat water to 180 degrees.  Add matcha powder and agave to a cup.  Pour 1/2 c. of water into the cup and whisk the tea until bubbly.  Warm up the milk (optional: use a milk frother to make foamy).  Pour milk over the top of the matcha tea.  Dust the top with more matcha powder if desired.

Halloween elixer (pumpkin chai latte)

Halloween elixer (pumpkin chai latte)

Halloween elixer (pumpkin chai latte)
(yield: four 6 oz. cups)

1 cup of strong brewed chai tea (from tea bag or from scratch)
1/2 cup milk or non-dairy milk
2 Tbsp. pumpkin chai latte mix (recipe below)

Add 2 Tbsp. of pumpkin chai latte mix to the tea.  Mix until smooth using a whisk or hand blender.  Fill a cup 3/4 with tea.  Warm the milk (optional: use a milk frother to make foamy) and pour enough milk over the tea to fill the rest of the cup.  I usually use a 3:1 ratio of tea to milk but you can use 1/2 tea, 1/2 milk.  Serve hot and enjoy!

Pumpkin chai latte mix

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup light brown sugar (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Mix ingredients together.  Use right away or keep in fridge for up to a week.  Use as needed.

Sweet potato shepherd's pie

Sweet potato shepherd’s pie by Witch Broomhilda

Purple monster eater

Purple monster eater (open faced eggplant tartine sandwitch by Witch Agate)

Dragon's eggs

Dragon’s eggs by Witch Henni

Rat tails and lizard cheeks sandwitches (see the rat tails?) :)

Rat tails and lizard cheeks sandwitches (see the radish rat tails?) 🙂 by Witch Henni

Golden enchanted pudding

Golden enchanted pudding by Witch Henni

Squeamish scones

Squeamish scones

Pumpkin guts

Pumpkin guts cupcakes by Witch Hazel

Tea party favors

Spooky tea party favors

We concluded the Witches Tea by drawing some cards from (what else? :)) the Halloween oracle!  The cards held us in thrall, revealing uncanny truths, keeping us mesmerized to the very end.

The witches outdid themselves this year.  The food was wickedly delicious and the afternoon spellbinding.  Thank you, ghoul friends! 🙂

 “As spirits roam the neighborhoods at night,
Let loose upon the Earth till it be light…”

–Nicholas Gordon

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September High Tea at Marlene’s Tea & Cakes

I was thrilled when Marlene’s Tea & Cakes agreed to cater our upcoming afternoon tea fundraiser and couldn’t turn down an opportunity to join Lady J. for a tea tasting.

It’s no secret that my favorite tea house is Marlene’s Tea & Cakes.  I have posted about Marlene’s many times and never tire of having afternoon tea there (and that’s saying a lot because I get bored easily when it comes to food).  If you have never visited Marlene’s, you are missing out!  Let me count the ways …
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The table settings are always gorgeous and meticulous (ironed white tablecloths, fresh flowers, delicate china, crystal glasses …).  Most tea houses get the table settings and ambiance just right.  However, they usually fail in one of three areas: Tea, food, or both!  I don’t care how beautiful, charming, or cute a tea house is.  If the tea house does not serve properly brewed tea or decent food, it is neither a tea house or a restaurant.  A pretty house will not keep me coming back.  Marlene’s is the complete package!At Marlene’s, the tea is always hot and, most importantly, properly brewed.  Marlene brews and tests every pot of tea herself.  She won’t serve anything that isn’t up to her standards.  I have the utmost admiration and respect for her passion and commitment to excellence and quality.  She is a woman after my own heart.

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My favorite tea from Marlene’s tea menu, (above) hands-down, is Paris.  On this visit, Lady J. and I tried the Lady Londonderry and I dare say it’s a close second to Paris.  Other wonderful teas are Creme au caramel and Roasted almond & fruit, which happen to be caffeine free.  If you don’t know which tea to choose, Marlene is happy to help you make a selection!

Lady Londonderry Tea (Black tea, lightly and elegantly flavored with strawberry, lemon balm leaves, calendula and sunflower petals)

Ahhh …! The food …!  My favorite thing about Marlene’s is the food.  Marlene excels in tea foods and makes savories and sweets equally well.  Her menu changes monthly with ingredients that keep up with the seasons–her culinary creations are imaginative, creative, gorgeous, and delicious.  I look at her menu every month just to see what she comes up with next!

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Potato leek soup with puff twist (I love that Marlene left some of the red potato peel in the soup to give it texture!)

Marlene also takes great pride in the plating of the food.  I appreciate the effort she makes in the presentation–she is an artist.

Bonus: Banana bread with our scones!

Marlene’s sandwiches are the freshest in the business.  Even though both Lady J. and I know a few tricks about tea sandwiches, we still marvel at the freshness of the sandwich breads at Marlene’s!

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Egg salad and watercress sandwich; Cucumber and carrot sandwich; Turkey, cheddar, and apple butter panini; Mini beef Wellington; and Bleu cheese mascarpone red onion confit quiche

This double chocolate zucchini bundt cake is why I love Marlene’s.  She’s always willing to push the limit and try something different.  This cake was scrumptious!

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Double chocolate zucchini bundt cake

In addition to being a top notch chef/pastry chef, Marlene is a gracious, warm, and lovely hostess.  She tries to make every visit special whether it’s a personal visit to the table, an extra pot of tea, or additional goodies not on the menu (on this day, we got some banana bread with our scones).  I highly recommend a visit–plan an elegant party, have tea with a loved one, or invite your girlfriends for tea.  You will not be disappointed with afternoon tea at Marlene’s Tea & Cakes!  NOTE: Reservations are required.

If you are cold, tea will warm you,
If you are heated, it will cool you,
If you are depressed, it will cheer you,
If you are excited, it will calm you.

–William E. Gladstone

Over the Rainbow Tea

Today is the 78th year anniversary of the film, The Wizard of Oz.  Since its release on August 25, 1939, The Wizard of Oz has been viewed by more people than any other movie.  Nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1940, it got edged out by Gone with the wind in one of the toughest Best Picture races in Oscar history!

Last weekend, Lady MH hosted her Over the Rainbow Tea for the Victorian Tea Society’s summer tea, paying tribute to this beloved film based on the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)!

A motley cast of characters (Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Wicked Witch Elphaba, a munchkin, Glinda the Good Witch, and the Mayor of Munchkin City) arrived to find Lady MH’s humble abode transformed into the magical Land of Oz!  She left no detail unturned.

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Lady J. pointed out that there is a real Land of Oz in Valley Center, CA with streets called Emerald City Dr., The Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy Lane, and Wizard Way!  There is even a Camino de Oro (Golden road).  No … Lady MH does not live here!

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Emerald City green salad by Lady K

“It’s a twister!  It’s a twister!”

Mini twister chicken salad sandwiches by Lady MH (like the tornado stuffed croissants?)

Wicked cucumber sand-witches by Lady SL

Follow the yellow brick road …

“Oh, dear! Oh, dear!” cried Dorothy, clasping her hands together in dismay. “The house must have fallen on her. Whatever shall we do?”

Petite twice baked “house” potatoes by Lady Henni

Petite twice baked “house” potatoes
(From the Kitchen of Lady Henni)
Serves 8

8 petite potatoes
2 Tbsp. cream cheese
1 Tbsp. Parmesan Cheese
1/4 tsp. pepper
Few leaves of kale
Salt, to taste

Bake or boil the potatoes until a fork easily pierces the flesh.  Add the kale leaves to the potatoes just until wilted.  Drain potatoes and kale.

If the potatoes are small, make a V-cut into the tops of the potatoes and remove the cut potato.  If the potatoes are a little big, cut them in half.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out the potato to create a “bowl” and reserve to make mashed potatoes.

Season the mashed potatoes with cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, pepper, and salt to taste.  Add more cream cheese or water/milk as needed to get desired consistency.  Fill the potato “bowls” with the mashed potato using a piping bag or spoon.  Reheat or bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 mins. until tops are browned and potato is heated through.

Wizard of Oz mushroom delight by Lady SH

Wizard of Oz mushroom delight
(from the Kitchen of Lady SH)
Serves 8

1 1/2 lbs. white button mushrooms
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. white miso
Chopped parsley, thyme, and basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix butter, olive oil, and white miso together and toss mushrooms in the mixture until coated.  Roast the mushrooms at 425 degrees for 1/2 hr. until the juices run.  Garnish mushrooms with the chopped herbs.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately, or at room temperature.

Rainbow fresh fruit cup by Lady J.

Lemon curd, cream, and scones, Oh my!

“We must be over the rainbow!  Now I … know we’re not in Kansas anymore!”

“Over the rainbow” surprise dessert by Lady KM.  I love this complete themed dessert!  Follow the yellow brick lemon bar, over the rainbow cake, to the Emerald City cookie.

Lady KM is the talent behind this impressive rainbow jelly roll cake.  These bright colors were achieved using gel food coloring or Wilton icing gels that were mixed into separate batches of cake batter.

Custom shortbread cookie by Penny’s Custom Cookies

Afternoon tea charms!  Hostess gift from Lady ML

Red slipper yoga socks! Hostess gift from Lady Henni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Lady MH for hosting an enchanting afternoon!  I enjoyed my journey to the Land of Oz with the whole gang and hope our paths cross again very soon … (will there be a sequel?!).

My favorite quotation is (of course) …

Hostess gift from Lady KM

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The Original Yogi Tea Recipe

Believe it or not, I was interested in the ritual of afternoon tea long before I actually started drinking tea!  I know that is a bit of an oxymoron, like hanging out at a coffee shop but not drinking the coffee.  Since I don’t drink coffee (I can’t handle the caffeine in coffee), I never gave tea a chance.  It’s one of the reasons it took me so long to “discover” the joys of afternoon tea.

I only started drinking tea in 2010 after meeting M. who owns a tea shop.  M. convinced me to try drinking white tea.  Surprisingly, I had no adverse reaction so that was the beginning of my tea craze!  From white tea, I graduated to drinking black teas, green teas, oolong, pu-erh, you name it!  Today, I enjoy drinking tea just as much, sometimes more (!), than I enjoy the foods of afternoon tea.  A pot of good tea deserves its own spotlight.

Coincidentally (maybe not … are there coincidences?), M. also introduced me to Kundalini yoga 2 years ago and I learned that Yogi Bhajan, the spiritual teacher who introduced Kundalini yoga to the US, was also the mastermind behind Yogi tea.  If you are a tea drinker, then you are familiar with Yogi brand teas.  Who doesn’t love the inspirational messages found on the tea tags of Yogi tea bags?  Isn’t that the main reason we all drink it?  I do. 😉
0129171646So here comes a confession: I don’t like Yogi tea.  Many of their tea blends contain two ingredients that I’m not fond of: Licorice root and stevia (I don’t like my tea sweet!  And yes, stevia is used in Ayurveda!).  Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), a commonly used herb in Ayurveda, has many benefits including calming ulcers, boosting immunity, lower blood glucose, and easing sore throats and cough.  I don’t like licorice root because, for some odd reason, it throws off my tastebuds and temporarily, all I can taste is a metallic sweetness, akin to the aftertaste I get from aspartame, stevia, and other artificial sweeteners.  Yuck!  It also increases saliva production in my mouth which is an unpleasant sensation.  I might be sensitive to it but I can’t find any information supporting such side effects.  Since it’s unpleasant, I avoid it.  Likewise, if you are pregnant, have heart disease, high blood pressure, or take certain medications, you may want to avoid consuming licorice root.

Back to Kundalini yoga … after class, my teacher always serves “yogi tea.”  Drinking tea after class with your teacher and fellow students is a longtime tradition in Kundalini yoga.  The act of sharing tea together is intended to foster community.  The tea itself is a tonic for the whole body and meant to revitalize and warm the body.  In the beginning, I didn’t want to try the “yogi tea” because I equated it with Yogi tea, the brand.  Then my teacher revealed that she made the tea herself and that got my attention.  Apparently, there was an “original” yogi tea recipe that started the Yogi tea brand!  This original yogi tea recipe included 5 traditional Ayurvedic spices: Ginger root (anti-inflammatory), black pepper (blood purifier), cardamom seed (aids digestion), clove bud (strengthens the nervous system), and cinnamon bark (aids in calcium absorption).
dsc07218-smallAccording to the Yogi tea website, when blended and brewed, these 5 “delicious and aromatic spices leave you feeling vibrant and alive, while supporting overall well-being.”  A hint of black tea supports energy and milk is added to complement the spices (soy or other milk substitutes may be used–I like almond milk).  In a nutshell, yogi tea was created “to deliver a healthful benefit to the body and a delicious flavor to delight the spirit.”

The original yogi tea recipe is no longer on the Yogi tea website but I found it in the Internet Archive (long live the Internet Archive!).  I’m documenting it here because I don’t want to lose the recipe again.  Things are never permanent in cyberspace …

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This beautiful Japanese bone china tea cup was a gift from my friend S. It belonged to her mother who was a woman after my own heart so I am very honored to have such a lovely memory of her!

“Feel Good, Be Good, Do Good.”
–The guiding principle of Yogi tea

The original Yogi tea recipe
(yield: one 8 oz. serving)

10 ounces of water (about 1 1/3 cups)
3 whole cloves
4 whole green cardamom pods, cracked
4 whole black peppercorns
2 slices fresh ginger root
½ stick cinnamon
¼ teaspoon black tea
½ cup milk or milk substitute

Using a large pot, bring water to boiling and carefully add spices. Cover and boil 15 to 20 minutes, then add black tea. Let sit for 3-5 minutes, then add the milk and return to a boil. Upon reaching a boil, carefully remove from heat and strain. If desired, add honey for sweetness.


The original yogi tea recipe is something I make and enjoy on a weekly basis.  I drank it this past winter when I caught a cold and it seemed to help calm my coughs.  The ginger is always warming and comforting where my stomach is concerned.  I drink it cold or hot, any which way!  It’s caffeine free so I even drink it at night as a dessert tea or night cap.  Putting aside the supposed health benefits, it just tastes darn good!  NOTE: The Yogi tea version of “yogi tea,” Classic India Spice Yogi Tea, has a different formula than the original yogi tea so I highly recommend trying the recipe above!

I have yet to read the Teachings of Yogi Bhajan (one of these days!) but I’ll leave you here with one of my favorite quotations from the guru himself …

by Yogi Bhajan

Yogi Bhajan (Photo: Source not identified)

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Movie Idols and Classic Films Tea

You are invited to a Movie Idols and Classic Films Tea!  Lady T. hosted the 2nd Victorian Tea Society tea of 2017 with a show-stopping, star-studded event.

Oh yes!  We got the red carpet treatment …

… and, of course, there were surprise appearances by A-list celebrities from the past and present!

Lady J. and I arrived on the red carpet first and as we made our way out of our “limousine,” a pair of familiar feet suddenly appeared before us!

Lady J. exclaimed, “Hey, WHERE did YOU come from?!”  Indeed, it was as if Mary Poppins suddenly dropped down from sky, Lady S. was so light on her feet!  It was truly a magical (and spooky) moment!

One by one, the stars began arriving.  Can you name the following stars, movies, and/or characters who showed up to Lady T.’s party?

Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables), Alicia Silverstone (Clueless), Rosalind Russell (Auntie Mame), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), June Allyson, Chinese movie star on vacation (Zhang Ziyi), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins)

Inside at Party Central, touches of Hollywood graced the sky, walls, table, trees …

During our meet and greet, Lady T. served up delicious cocktails worthy of any Hollywood party!

 

 

When Lady T. initially announced she was going to host a “Movie Idols and Classic Movies Tea,” I asked her to define “classic.”  Lady T. told me that for the purposes of her tea, the term “classic” could refer to any decade.

When I hear “classic movie,” my mind conjures the Golden Age of Hollywood from the silent era to the talkies and technicolor … movies such as Dracula, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, movie stars such as silent film stars, Louise Brooks, Charlie Chaplin, and Lillian Gish, or the 1950s and 1960s glamour of Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, or Elizabeth Taylor.  Regrettably, I haven’t seen many “classic movies” mainly because they were shown on TV late at night, when I was already in bed (all good children are in bed by 8pm, right?).  However, I was not completely deprived because I did manage to catch The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, and various Shirley Temple movies enough times to be able to recite or sing lines from those movies, which is a testament to how often certain movies are rebroadcast on TV, and always during the holidays.

Shirley Temple (date and source unknown)

Flower Drum Song (1961)

Mei Li (Miyoshi Umeki): “You smell good. You wear incense to scare away evil spirits?”
Linda Low (Nancy Kwan): “Oh no, to attract them!”

Flower Drum Song Orange Oolong Tea (photo by Lady J.)

I love Lady T.’s nod to Nancy Kwan with this Oolong tea and beautiful teapot.  While doing some research for this post, I came across an article, “Talk tea & see” in Time magazine (April 11, 1960), on a Nancy Kwan fansite (claims to be official) that I thought was about Nancy Kwan and tea (wow, what were the chances?).  The article made my jaw drop and I can’t resist including it here because I could scarcely believe what I was reading (say whaaaat?!):

Wonton-sized Nancy Ka Shen Kwan (5 ft. 2 in., 104 lbs.) is the most delicate Oriental import since Tetley’s tender little tea leaves. Last week 20-year-old Nancy was before the cameras in London filming The World of Suzie Wong, and from the first frame the part fitted like her own freckles. Furthermore, the new “yum-yum girl” has saved the movie … Lest anyone have any doubts that her East-West blend can stand comparison with Hollywood’s well-known brands, company flacks have already hastened to announce that under her high-buttoned cheong-sam (the Chinese sheath with the slit skirt), she is the equal of any Occidental. But Nancy promptly corrected the claim that she has “the ample bosom of the Nordics.” Said she demurely: “It is big for the Chinese, enough for the English, maybe small for Italians.”

Nancy Kwan in Flower Drum Song (1961)

A reflection of old Hollywood (or just Hollywood!), it is pretty crazy to think that this was considered a “compliment” at the time.  Sadly, the pressure and expectation for women to play by certain rules in order to be successful, accepted, or validated are still alive today, not just in Hollywood but in general.  The more things change, the more they stay the same?  Old wine in new bottles?  Alas, I could go on and on but this subject is technically inappropriate for pleasant afternoon tea conversation so let’s get back to Lady T.’s tea!

To test our movie knowledge, Lady T. unveiled a game to see how many movie quotations we could identify.  I got only 5 of the following correct.  Our special guest, Lady C. was a real movie buff and her impressive movie knowledge earned her 11 correct answers!  Congratulations Lady C.!  Playing games inevitably made us hungry (especially the sole “man” of the party, Harrison Ford), and Lady T. started off the celebrity tea with Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite, Chasen’s chili.  According to Hollywood folklore, in 1962, Elizabeth Taylor paid $200 to have 10 quarts of chili from Chasen’s Restaurant in Hollywood shipped to Rome, where she was on location filming Cleopatra.

Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Raintree County (1957)

Elizabeth Taylor Chasen’s Chili–by Lady T.

An American in Paris (1951)

Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly): “That’s, uh, quite a dress you almost have on. What holds it up?”
Milo Roberts (Nina Foch): “Modesty.”

An American in Paris (Strawberry Romaine Salad)–by Lady S.

Sandwiches (Cool Hand Luke Egg Salad Sandwiches, Gregory Peck Ratatouille Sandwiches (Veggie Sandwich), Chinatown Sesame Cilantro Sandwiches, The Wizard of Oz Cucumber Sandwich

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dorothy (Judy Garland): “Someplace where there isn’t any trouble … do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or train. It’s far, far away… behind the moon… beyond the rain.  Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high …”

The Wizard of Oz cucumber sandwiches (to get paper-thin bread, use a rolling pin to flatten sandwich bread)–by Lady ML

Chinatown (1974)

J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Jack Nicholson): “Listen, pal. I make an honest living. People only come to me when they’re in a desperate situation. I help ’em out. I don’t kick families out of their houses like you bums down at the bank do.”

Chinatown cilantro sesame sandwiches–by Lady J.

The actress, Bea Arthur, was a vegetarian and this mushroom toast was her preferred way to start her day, every day.

Bea Arthur’s Vegetarian Breakfast (by Lady B.) and Claudette Colbert Cheese & Olive Puffs (by Lady K.)

Claudette Colbert

Splash (1984)

Remember the scene in Splash when Madison (Daryl Hannah) digs into the lobster at the restaurant? 🙂

Alan (Tom Hanks): … I do wanna talk about what happened in the restaurant.
Madison (Daryl Hannah): Oh, I am sorry, that’s how we eat lobster where I come from.

Splash- Shrimp — by Lady T.

Annie Hall (1977)

Annie Hall (Diane Keaton): “It’s so clean out here.”
Alvy Singer (Woody Allen): “In Beverly Hills, they don’t throw their garbage away — they turn it into television shows.”

Annie Hall Carrot & Pineapple Muffins with Lemon–by Lady T.

Tea at Five (2002)

Tea at Five was a one-woman play, written by Matthew Lombardois, based on Katharine Hepburn’s autobiography, Me: Stories of my Life (1991) which included stories about her life at the Fenwick estate, her family home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, where afternoon tea was a daily ritual.

Katharine Hepburn with tea and brownies? (unknown date and source)

Katharine Hepburn: “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies–by Lady Henni

American chef, Ruth Reichl, claims, “The best recipe I have for brownies comes from a friend who got it from a magazine about Katharine Hepburn. It is, apparently, her family’s.”

Katharine Hepburn’s brownies
(from Epicurious)

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Melt together 1 stick butter and 2 squares unsweetened chocolate and take the saucepan off the heat.
2. Stir in 1 cup sugar, add 2 eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and beat the mixture well.
3. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (In the original recipe, 1 cup chopped walnuts is added here as well.)
4. Bake the brownies in a buttered and floured 8-inch-square pan at 325°F for about 40 minutes.  You can cut these brownies into squares, once they have cooled.

Or you can try my vegan gluten-free brownies…

Vegan, gluten free brownies
(yields 16 brownies)

2 Tbsp. unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 chia eggs (2 tablespoons ground chia* + 6 tablespoons water, whisked)
1/2 cup finely ground, blanched almond flour
3/4 cup chocolate chips

* NOTE: 1 Tbsp. chia seeds = 2 Tbsp. ground chia seeds. Can also use ground flax.

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.  Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together almond butter, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and chia eggs, using a spoon.
  3. Add cocoa powder, almond flour, salt, and chocolate chips to the wet mixture and mix with a spoon until incorporated.
  4. Pour batter into pan.  Smooth batter into an even layer.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool for 1-2 hours. Slice into 16 brownies. Enjoy!

La Dolce Vita (1960)

Journalist: “What do you think you like most in life?”
Sylvia (Anita Ekberg): “I like lots of things. But there are three things I like most. Love, love and love.”

Anita Ekberg’s Swedish apple cake–by Lady C.

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh): “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind Strawberry Rhubarb Fool–by Lady T.

We certainly had some great movie conversations and I got a list of everyone’s favorite movies so I can watch them later on Netflix. 🙂  Thank goodness for Netflix because I would not be able to see classic movies otherwise!  Even when brick ‘n’ mortar video rental stores were the norm, classic movies were still in short supply.

Lady B.–Little Women (1949)
Lady C.–Auntie Mame (1958)
Lady Henni–American Beauty (1999)
Lady J.–Anne of Green Gables (1985)
Lady K.–Clueless (1995)
Lady ML–Arsenic and old lace (1944), An affair to remember (1957)
Lady S.–Blade runner (1982)
Lady T.–Gone with the Wind (1939), In the heat of the night (1967)

What is your favorite movie of all time?

Thank you Lady T. for hosting a memorable and fun tea for the ages!  It was an honor to have tea with your famous friends–I learned so much and ate too well! 😉

Just for fun, I came across these entertaining “Cup of fame” tea bag holders.  Go ahead punk, make my tea!

I’ll end this post with a quotation from D.’s favorite movie …

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick): “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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Tips for organizing a fundraiser afternoon tea event

Having organized several afternoon tea events in the past, I can share a few tips.  I imagine that planning a fundraiser tea is very much like organizing a wedding, and maybe just as much work!  It is truly a labor of love because I would not want to do this for a living!

  1. Theme/Cause: Establish your fundraiser theme/cause and use it to inspire and promote your event.  Our 1st fundraiser afternoon tea event theme was “Sip, savor, & celebrate” and our cause was to fund and support scholarships and philanthropies in our local community.
  2. Establish a budget: Work with your treasurer to determine a budget.
  3. Choose a venue: The first and most important detail to sort out is the venue.
    1. Choose a venue that is big enough to accommodate your guests and accommodate your budget.  Most tea rooms cannot accommodate in excess of 40 persons so if you plan to have a larger event, consider one of the following: country clubs, banquet halls, club houses, restaurants, hotels, gardens, and churches.  Many of the same type of venues that are popular for weddings are also appropriate for high tea.
    2. Does the venue allow you to choose your own caterer and servers?  Or do you have to use their caterer and servers?
    3. Will the venue provide the china/dishes, tablecloths, tea/coffee cups, napkins, etc. for your event?  Is there an extra fee?  Or will you need to provide your own?
      1. Part of the charm of afternoon tea is eating and sipping from china.  If you have the option to provide your own table settings, and you have a motivated organization, you may wish to consider this option!  It’s a lot of work but also fun and well worth the effort.  Otherwise, the plain white table ware (including coffee cups) provided by most venues is just fine.
    4. Recommend no more than 8 guests per table, even if the tables can accommodate 10.  If you plan to use tea caddies, one caddy for every 4 guests works out well.  We once tried tables for 4, which were ideal for creating the intimacy of the afternoon tea experience but it was logistically difficult given our lack of resources (both people and time).  With twice the number of tables, the setup and cleanup was too much work.
    5. Contract details:
      1. Itemized cost for venue rental (deposit, headcount, final payment) and any extras such as use of kitchen facilities, table/chair rentals, tablecloth and tableware rental, decorations, service, etc.
      2. Include time for setup and cleanup if needed
      3. Establish deadlines and timelines
  4. Choose a caterer: Though the focus of the fundraiser is not the food, it doesn’t hurt to have decent food and service.
    1. If the venue requires their own caterer, arrange for a food tasting before committing to the venue.  Make sure there are enough servers for the event.  Inquire about tea service.
    2. If the venue allows you to choose your own caterer, inquire with your favorite local tea rooms about whether they offer off-site catering services.  There are also general caterers who cater all types of events–ask your favorite caterer.
    3. Does the caterer also provide hot tea, iced tea, and beverages (water)?  Not all caterers provide beverages (e.g., drop-off catering).
    4. Does the caterer provide their own servers?  Some caterers provide food only (drop-off catering) and you have to serve the food buffet style or hire your own servers.
    5. Contract details:
      1. Itemized cost for food, per head (deposit, headcount, final payment) and any extras such as use of kitchen facilities, service, etc.
      2. Include time for setup and cleanup if needed
      3. Establish deadlines and timelines
  5. How to price your event: Know your audience.  Add a 20-40% cushion to your per person catering/venue cost.  For example, if your base cost per person is $36, suggest a ticket price of $50 per person (40% cushion).  This way, your organization will generate some proceeds from ticket sales, if your other fundraising activities are not as successful.
  6. Reservations: Advanced reservations are a must!  No walk-ins.  Most caterers require a final headcount and 50% or full payment 1-2 weeks in advance of the event.  Suggestions to avoid any last-minute mishaps:
    1. Require payment to reserve a spot
    2. Early bird reservations may help with boosting attendance
    3. No refunds after the RSVP deadline
    4. Specify “no walk-ins” on promotional materials
    5. Specify whether children are welcome (e.g., “No children under 2 years”)
  7. Promotional materials
    1. Distribute “Save the date” cards/flyers (email and paper, see also #6) — 3 months before the event
    2. Distribute promotional flyers (email and paper) — 2 months before the event
    3. Design menu (one per table or one per guest)
    4. Design event/souvenir brochure
    5. Table numbers
  8. Ideas for fundraising activities:
    1. Teapot flower arrangements for sale or auction

      Teapot flower arrangements for auction

    2. Teapot centerpieces for decoration but can also be sold or auctioned

      Teapot centerpiece

    3. Silent auction (handmade items, spa treatments, afternoon tea packages, tea themed gift baskets, theater/dinner package, etc.)

      Silent auction (handmade quilts, hats, gift baskets)

    4. Opportunity drawings for afternoon tea themed gift baskets

      Gift baskets

    5. Invite vendors (clothing, art, jewelry, accessories, tea, hats) to sell merchandise onsite with agreement to donate 10-20% of sales.  Establish a standard policy for working with and engaging vendors.
    6. Assemble “mystery gift bags” with goodies to be sold at fixed price
    7. Bake sale (everyone loves hostess gifts and food!)
    8. Place empty glass jars at each table so that guests can “vote” for their favorite table settings with quarters
    9. Handmade and handcraft items boutique sale
    10. Decorate hats for sale or auction
    11. Monetary donations (leave an empty teapot or basket at the checkin table for monetary donations)
  9. Volunteers
    Form a committee and recruit volunteers to help plan the event and/or work the day of the event.  You may need help with the following:
    PLANNING

    1. Scout out and choose a venue; drawing up contract
    2. Choose a caterer, organize tasting, decide menu, determine final headcount, and draw up contract
    3. Take reservations and payment
    4. Solicit donations (monetary or materials goods for door prizes, gift baskets, silent auction, etc.) and write acknowledgement letters
    5. Make seating arrangements
    6. Design promotional materials (see #5)
    7. Organize tea favors (optional but recommend–nice gesture for guests)

      Tea favors (handmade plant stakes)

    8. Organize fundraising activities
    9. Organize door prizes (guests love door prizes)
    10. Create table centerpieces (these can be decorative or part of door prizes, raffles, silent auction)
    11. Organize tea music and/or entertainment (optional–fashion shows and live music are popular choices)
    12. Organize decorations and table settings (if you are doing the table settings, plan for 1-2 volunteers per table)
      DAY OF THE EVENT
    13. Emcee(s) for event (welcome, announcement of door prizes, auction close/winners, and opportunity drawings)
    14. Guest checkin and greeting
    15. Raffle ticket sellers
    16. Close of silent auctions and drawing tickets for opportunity drawings
    17. Checkout for silent auction winners and taking payment for sales
    18. Setup and cleanup (includes decoration and table settings)

And lastly, promote, promote, promote!  Promote on social media, with flyers, by email, and most importantly, word-of-mouth!

I may have left out some details but I will update this post as needed.  I’m also happy to answer any questions in the comments below.  Wishing you a successful afternoon tea fundraiser!

“Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.”
-– Henry Rosso

Queen for a day tea

Today, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 91st birthday.  In honor of her birthday, I’m posting Lady B.’s “Queen for a day” tea from last year! 

Lady B. surprised us all when she announced that she did not want any assistance with her upcoming tea for the Victorian Tea Society.  She said she wanted to pamper us and make us all feel like a “Queen for a day!”  Wow!  Talk about Royal Treatment!

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Royal invitation

Queen B.’s royal invitation instructed guests to “wear tiaras and bring (their) best manners.”  My favorite queen of all time is, of course, Queen Elizabeth I (isn’t she everyone’s favorite?!?).  I once went through a phase where I went crazy over everything Elizabeth I, especially books and movies.  I decided to pay tribute to Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, the epic poem dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I, by dressing up in a Renaissance costume, complete with a garland of eucalyptus, peacock feathers, and green foliage for my hair.  I planned to arrive to Queen B.’s as the Faerie Queene!

The road to Queen B.’s was strewn with rose petals and a Fairy Crossing!  My heart danced a little jig and I knew then I was in for a special treat.  Queen B. sure knows how to make a Queene feel at home! 🙂

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Queen B.’s Fairy Crossing (click on photo to enlarge)

After the Fairy Crossing, the queens were invited to sit on this welcoming bench as their arrivals were announced.  Notice all the crowning touches from the pillow to the accents, the curtains, and the bench cover!

Queen B's crowning glory

Queen B’s crowning glory

Once inside the palace, we admired this enchanting table in the foyer while Queen B. made an unexpected grand entrance from the staircase!

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Enchanted welcome table made by Queen B. requiring 6 yards of tulle!

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Queen B's crowning touches everywhere!

Queen B’s crowning touches everywhere … including the “other throne” room (aka commode)! (click on photo to enlarge)

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More crowning touches and some Victorian flair!

Before Royal Tea was served, Queen B. instructed us on how to be queenly with “Her Royal Highness Lessons, course 101.”

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Click to enlarge

After we successfully completed the course, we made a Coronation Toast to Queen B. to initiate the Royal Tea.

Coronation toast

Coronation toast

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Her Royal Highness Butternut squash soup

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Enchanted broccoli avocado berry salad

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Starting at 12:00m, clockwise: Kensington Palace Turkey and Provolone, Her Majesty’s Ham and Swiss Cheese, Princess Diana’s Tiara Smoked Salmon Mousse Canapes, Once Upon a Time Egg Salad, and Royal Coach Curried Chicken Salad Croissant

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Queen’s Throne Shrimp cheesecakes (these were amazing!)

Royal scepter fresh fruit

Royal scepter fresh fruit

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Tea time double chocolate scones

Double Chocolate Scones
Yield:  12 scones

2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 c. unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder or unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. fresh orange zest
1/4 t. salt
1/3 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c. dark chocolate chunks (I used chocolate chips)
1 c. heavy whipping cream
l large egg
3/4 c. pecans or nuts of your liking *optional
Preheat oven to 425F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, and salt, whisking well. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add chocolate chunks, stirring to combine. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine cream and egg, whisking well.  Add to flour mixture, stirring until just combined.  Dough will be sticky.  IF mixture seems dry, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a dough forms.  Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet.
*Optional sprinkle scones with large decorative sugar or coarse raw sugar.
Bake until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean, 8 to 12 minutes.  Cool on baking sheet for 5 min. and serve warm.
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Chocolate Cream
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/3 c. chocolate chips or more depending how chocolately you want it.
In a medium saucepan, heat cream til very hot, but not boiling.  Remove from heat and add chocolate chips whisking til melted.  Pour mixture into a heatproof glass or metal bowl and set in a larger bowl filled with ice.  Let cool whisking occasionally.  Using a hand-held mixer, beat chocolate mixture at high-speed until stiff peaks form.  That’s it.  Easy peasy!

After the scones course, we assembled outside to have dessert in Queen B.’s gazebo.

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Ha, I didn’t even notice until now that I captured a lizard running across the path in the foreground! 🙂

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Crown fold napkins, lace crowns on bottom of teacups. and embroidered crowns on lace coasters (stiched by Queen B. herself!)

Crown fold napkins, lace crowns on bottom of teacups, and golden embroidered crowns on lace coasters (stitched by Queen B. herself!)

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Dreams Do Come True strawberry cheesecake

A royal thank you!

A royal thank you!

To Her Royal Highness, Queen B.
I rarely venture out of my kingdom so imagine my delight and appreciation for the great efforts you made to make me feel at home with reminders of my beloved Faerie Land.  I was equally enchanted by your resplendent palace, scrumptious royal tea, and the company of charming visiting queens from other faraway lands.  Thank you Queen B. for the royal treatment and unforgettable afternoon.  I hope you will visit me in my kingdom someday.

Your humble servant,
The Faerie Queene

“It’s all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you’re properly trained.”

–Queen Elizabeth II

Happy birthday to The Queen!