Victorian Tea Society beginnings

Sometimes Life throws treasure your way and it would be a loss not to recognize, cherish, and appreciate it.  Thanks to Tea Maven, Lady J., I’ve had the privilege and gift of making the acquaintance of the sweet and charismatic Lady B.

Upon our first meeting, I was immediately mesmerized by Lady B. and declared her a kindred spirit.  It was uncanny, the interests and philosophies we shared.  She is not only a lady of Victorian sensibilities and sentiments but her home exudes Victorian charm and history.  Not surprisingly, she is also a fine purveyor of the English custom of “afternoon tea.”  Lady J., ever enthusiastic about sharing the joys of afternoon tea with others, arranged for a group of ladies to have tea at Lady B.’s home and it was from this humble gathering that the Victorian Tea Society was borne!

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The sitting room

The motto of the Victorian Tea Society is: “Little things mean so much.”

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Under the staircase

The Victorian Tea Society is a group of 8 women who share a love of afternoon tea and all things Victorian.  The group is purposely small to promote fellowship and intimacy.  All members get a chance to host afternoon tea for the group.

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Angel theme in the bathroom

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The study

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Kitchen alcove

Daguerreotypes

Daguerreotype collection

Table setting

Lady B. has an eye for little details and an appreciation for the finer things in life.

Rock sugar sticks

Rose sugar cubes (and look at the cute clawed tongs!)

Teapot and teacup shaped butter pats

Teapot and teacup shaped butter pats by Lady B.

Lady B., a collector of Victorian era antiques, also gave us a history lesson on Victorian culinary traditions such as Victorian drinking straws and “slop bowls,” both of which she owns.

Fans of hot tea will appreciate the concept of the slop bowl.  The slop bowl was a part of the traditional tea set and used to hold the discarded hot water that pre-warmed the teapot.  It was also a receptacle for guests to empty their cold tea before refilling with hot tea.

The Victorian drinking straw, made of sterling silver, was very pretty and practical.  The bottom of the straw filters your drink or tea.  In doing some research on it, I came across a modern straw called a bombilla that’s used to drink Yerba Mate tea, a South American infused drink.  It was a special experience to drink out of antique straws, taking a sip out of the past …

Sterling silver Victorian drinking straw (the chilled strawberry drink in the background was so delicious and refreshing!)

Assorted tea sandwiches and savories plated and waiting to be presented

The Victorian Tea Society’s mission statement is: To provide a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere–a friendship and sharing in a tea time environment.

Tea table (look at the backs of the chairs!)

Much to my delight, strawberries were the food theme!  It was another happy coincidence since Lady B. had no idea I love strawberries.

Chilled strawberry soup by Lady B.

Chocolate orange salad by Lady T.

Salad with Oranges and Chocolate
(from Better Homes and Gardens)

1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 medium oranges
6 cups torn mixed spring greens and/or romaine
1/3 cup candied almonds or walnuts
1/2 – 1 ounce semisweet chocolate curls

1. For dressing: In a screw-top jar, combine orange juice, vinegar, olive oil, mustard, and pepper. Cover and shake well.

2. Peel oranges. Cut oranges into 1/4-inch-thick slices. In a large salad bowl, toss together orange slices, salad greens, and almonds. Drizzle with the dressing; toss to coat.

3. Divide among four salad plates. Top individual servings with chocolate curls.

Check out Lady B’s creative open-faced egg salad sandwich in this photo.  She cut out teapot shaped bread, piled with egg salad and alfalfa sprouts simulating steam from the teapot spout!  Cuuute!!

Sandwiches and savory

Sandwiches and savory (clockwise from top): Lady MH’s Chicken salad croissant, open-faced tuna salad, Lady J.’s salmon mousse, Lady ML’s cucumber cream cheese, Lady B.’s egg salad teapot, and Lady Henni’s tomato jewel tartlets (center)

Tomato jewel tartlets
(Adapted from Pepperidge Farm)

4 oz. (approx. 3/4 c.) neuchâtel cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
24 cherry tomatoes

Heat the oven to 400°F.  Stir the cream cheese, parsley, chives, Parmesan cheese, garlic, black pepper and lemon zest in a medium bowl.

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 10-inch square.  Cut into 4 (2 1/2-inch) strips.  Cut each strip into 6 (3x3x3-inch) triangles.  Discard any remaining pastry.  Press the pastry triangles into the bottoms and up the sides of 24 (1 1/2-inch) mini muffin-pan cups.  Bake for 7 minutes.

Cut slits in the tops of the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds.  Spoon about 1 1/2 tsp. cheese mixture into each tomato.  Place the tomatoes in the center of the warm pastries and press down lightly.  Bake for 5 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.

For Sweet Berry Jewels: Stir 1 cup whipped cream cheese, 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest in a medium bowl.  Prepare the pastry sheet as directed above but bake the unfilled pastries for 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Let the pastries cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons cream cheese mixture into each pastry.  Top each with 1 fresh raspberry or blackberry.

Strawberry coconut scones by Lady B.

Strawberry coconut scone by Lady B.

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Child’s tea

Before dessert, Lady B. gave us a tour of her lovely home.  I was especially enamoured with the girl’s bedroom.  Though I’m not the frilly girly type by any means, this bedroom stole my heart.  When I was a little girl, I once fell in love with a bedroom that had a pink bed and canopy.  The owner of the house (a friend of my parents’) said that if I wanted to live with her, that would be my room.  Really?!  W-o-w … I asked her where my parents’ and sister’s rooms would be, secretly hoping I would not have to share the room.  She explained that she didn’t have room for everyone, only me!  I was not expecting this answer and I looked to my parents to gauge their reaction.  They smiled and insisted that it was my decision to make.  I was confused and torn inside!  I really really wanted that bedroom but on the other hand, I would really really miss my parents and my sister!  So what’s a 3-year-old to do?  In the end, I chose my family.  🙂  I remember trying to be brave but then crying afterwards because it was such a difficult decision to give up the bedroom (bye bye, pink bed with the canopy!) but I also felt guilty for entertaining the thought of leaving my family.  Wouldn’t they miss me?  Or were they content to give me up because they had my sister?  I think that was the first time in my young life that I was faced with a decision that was mine and mine alone to make.  It was a hard lesson for a 3-year-old!  😉

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Girl’s bedroom

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Pretty in pink

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Ooh ooh, gorgeous hat!

For dessert, we migrated outside to Lady B.’s English garden where we enjoyed fresh homemade ice cream and the afternoon sun.

Backyard gazebo sign

Backyard gazebo sign

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Lady B’s English garden

Outdoor table setting

Dessert: Homemade vanilla ice cream with fresh raspberries (photo by Lady J.)

Typewritten!

Lady B., a woman after my own heart: A TYPEWRITTEN note!

Thank you Lady B., for an unforgettable afternoon tea!  It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance and I look forward to spending many more enchanting afternoons with you and the newly formed Victorian Tea Society.

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

― Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

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