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!


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! 🙂

Fairy crossing

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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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!

Kumquats and tea, just in time for spring

My Dad has a dwarf kumquat tree that yields hundreds of fruits at a time!  Originating in China, kumquats are known as “gold oranges” in Chinese and symbolize good luck.  The size of grapes, kumquats are eaten whole (skin, pulp, and seeds) and are the smallest citrus fruit in the citrus family (NOTE: They are not part of the genus Citrus but classed in their own genus, Fortunella, named for the botanist Robert Fortune who introduced the kumquat to Europe in 1846.  And there I thought the name, Fortunella, was a nod to the Chinese meaning of kumquats–still, an appropriate name and happy coincidence! Interestingly enough, Fortune is actually better known for a different achievement.  A real live tea smuggler, he is best known for introducing tea plants from China to India via the British East India Company in 1848.  His actions may have helped India achieve its status as the world’s second largest producer of tea after China.  How’s that for a kumquat-tea connection?!)I’m not a big fan eating kumquats out of hand so I’m always trying to find new ways to consume them.  I like using them like lemons (try squeezing them over your salad or fish!) or oranges.  Though kumquats are too small to juice like oranges, you can make a kumquat puree with your Vitamix (just add whole kumquats) that you can add to your smoothies.  You can even freeze the puree for a rainy day.  My current obsession, however, is using kumquats for tea! 🙂

Kumquats are rich in Vitamin C and fiber so you can get both in the morning with your cup of tea!

Crush a kumquat, add a Earl Grey tea bag and hot water!

Kumquat Earl Grey tea
(Idea from Nola)

Crush a kumquat in a teacup, add boiling water and your favorite Earl Grey tea (one tea bag or loose leaves).

The kumquat actually intensifies the bergamot flavor in Earl Grey tea!  I didn’t expect that but learned that the essential oil of kumquat peel is rich in bergamot.  I did not care too much for the tartness that the kumquat juice imparted to the tea so I might squeeze the juice out next time and use only the peel.  If you like bergamot, try adding a kumquat to your morning tea.

In traditional Chinese medicine, kumquats are used to treat a cough (by eliminating phlegm) or sore throat.  Try any of the (hot tea) recipes below the next time you have a cold.  If nothing else, the Vitamin C will do you good. 😉

Kumquat honey “tea”
(Great for a cough or sore throat!)

Kumquats, halved

Squeeze the kumquats halves, releasing their juice, into a teacup.  Throw in the kumquat halves, honey to taste, and add boiling water.  Stir and enjoy!

Kumquat fruit tea (pour hot water)

Kumquat fruit tea
(popular in Taiwanese tea houses, recipe adapted from various sources)

4 kumquats, halved
1-2 slices of lemon or lime (optional)
1 Tbsp. honey or 1 inch sized rock sugar
1 Tbsp. loose tea leaves or 1 tea bag
(Chinese black or green tea, smoky varieties also work well)

Squeeze the kumquats halves, releasing their juice, into a teapot.  Add the kumquat halves, lemon/lime slices (if using), and sugar.  Add the tea leaves to the tea strainer and pour boiling water to cover the tea leaves (see photo above).  Steep for 5 minutes.  Enjoy hot or cold.  (I don’t add the lemon/lime since the kumquats are tart on their own.  If you like the flavor of lemon/lime without adding tartness, I suggest adding the rind only)

I really like this recipe for a kumquat “tea” concentrate.  This would be great to have on hand during the summer, to whip up a refreshing pitcher of fruit drink or iced tea.  It would also be great atop plain oatmeal or yogurt!

Kumquat “tea” concentrate

Kumquat “tea” concentrate
(Recipe from Angel Wong’s kitchen)
Makes approx. 1 jar

2 dozen kumquats
3 – 5 key limes or 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup water

Slice the kumquats and key limes, remove and discard seeds.  Add sliced kumquats, limes, honey, and sugar into a saucepan and cook until mixture is thick and bubbly.  Add the water and cook for 5 minutes more until caramelized.  After the mixture has cooled, transfer to a clean sterilized jar.  To serve, add 2 big dollops of concentrate to a tea cup and mix with boiling water.  Stir and enjoy, or add a black tea bag if desired.  Store leftover concentrate in the refrigerator. 

I hope this post inspired you to incorporate kumquats into your afternoon tea ritual.  During my research for this post, I was very amused to learn that kumquats made an appearance in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix so I will leave you with this striking visual–you may never see kumquats in the same light again :):

“According to the magazine, if you turned the runes on their heads they revealed a spell to make your enemy’s ears into kumquats.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

NOTE: For all you Harry Potter fans, the unnamed ears to kumquats transforming spell first appeared in the 1 September, 1995 edition of The Quibbler.  When Harry Potter and Ron Weasley first encountered Luna Lovegood, she had been reading The Quibbler upside down, supposedly in an attempt to read the runes to reveal this spell.

A Touch of Provence

Ahhh, l’arrivée du printemps!  Happy spring!  I should be digging in the garden right now but instead, I am digging in my photo archives and found a tea party I hadn’t blogged about yet … AND it’s the perfect tea to welcome spring!
provence1 provence2To be honest, I’ve really enjoyed all the rain we’ve had this season so I’m not ready to let go of winter yet.  Every time it rains, I hear a little voice inside my head, reciting that famous poem by Paul Verlaine:

Il pleure dans mon coeur
Comme il pleut sur la ville.
Quelle est cette langueur
Qui pénêtre mon coeur ? …

If you took French literature class in high school, I’m sure you know the rest.  I know it’s not a happy poem but it’s a poignant and beautiful one.  Rain touches and moves me just like the powerful metaphor in the poem, in a good way.  Perhaps the rain makes me happy and sad at the same time because it is Nature’s way of giving me time (forcing me?) to decompress, slow down, and renew which can be a little sad.  Inevitably, the rain brings forth wonderful things both for myself (sense of renewed purpose, recharge, much needed rest) and my environment (greenery, new growth, flowers, fruits, vegetables, clean air, and RAINBOWS!).  For one who finds it so difficult to let go of winter, the prospect of afternoon tea is just the thing to get me into spring mode!

Lady J. hosted the Victorian Tea Society’s spring tea in 2014 with a touch of Provence.  Everything about the table setting screamed spring and lavender!  I especially liked the flower shaped plates which were all different.

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I loved my place setting! Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers!

I loved my place setting! Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers!

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I loved my place setting! Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers!

Lavender teacup chandelier


Appetizer: Brie with crackers

Appetizer: Brie with crackers


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Grilled chicken salad Provencal by Lady J.

Grilled chicken salad Provencal
(Adapted from Epicurious.com)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon canned unsalted chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, crumbled
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, well trimmed
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1 beetroot, cooked and sliced
1 crookneck squash, quartered lengthwise
1 small red or green bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
1 bunch arugula
Curly endive
Additional balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar

Prepare barbecue/grill (high heat). Combine first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Brush olive oil mixture lightly over chicken, zucchini, eggplant, crookneck squash and bell pepper. Grill chicken and vegetables until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes. Transfer to large plate. Slice chicken breast diagonally. Arrange chicken and vegetables on plates, garnishing each serving with arugula and endive. Serve, passing balsamic vinegar separately.

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The sandwiches and savories

Calla Lily sandwiches

Calla Lily sandwiches by Lady MH

baby eggplant stuffed with sundried tomato cream cheese and Herbes de Provence by Lady Henni

Baby eggplant “sandwich” with sundried tomato cream cheese and herbes de Provence with dill flower garnish by Lady Henni

Salmon salad sandwiches by Lady B.

Salmon salad and egg salad sandwiches by Lady B.

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Julia Child’s Provencal tomato quiche by Lady T.

Fresh berries by Lady J.

Fresh berries by Lady J.

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Lavender scones by Lady J.

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Lavender scone with butter, peach and lavender preserves, lemon curd, and Devonshire cream

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Almond croissants by Lady J.

Almond croissants
(Recipe from Sandra Lee)

1/2 cup almond paste
3 tablespoons spiced rum
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 can (8-ounce) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 cup French vanilla whipped topping, thawed (Cool Whip) (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, grate almond paste. Stir in rum, brown sugar, and cinnamon until well mixed; set aside.
2. Unroll a crescent roll to lie flat. Spread 1 tablespoon of almond mixture in the middle and roll to make croissant. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make eight croissants total. Using a pastry brush, brush beaten egg on each croissant.  Sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool completely. To serve, top with whipped topping.

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French macarons from Opera Patisserie (Thanks Lady K.!)

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Mini French desserts and cakes from Opera Patisserie (Thanks Lady K.!)

And lastly, a tour of Lady J.’s spring garden …

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These koi are over 15 years old!

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Having just returned from France, Lady J. brought back goodies from Provence for all the VTS ladies!

Having just returned from France, Lady J. brought back goodies from Provence for all the VTS ladies!

Merci beaucoup Lady J. for taking us on a vicarious adventure through Provence with your lovely afternoon tea!  The sights, smells, and tastes were so delicious that now I’m ready for spring!

“The fragrance of adventure and poetry endlessly pervades each cup of tea.”

Henri Mariage

My first tea party

A year after my first afternoon tea experience, I wanted to try hosting my own tea party.  I decided to invite my friend S. over to have tea at my home, in the garden.

garden 2006 008 (Small)I consider myself a decent cook/baker so this little tea party was more of an exercise in creating a pretty table setting, rather than about food.  Since I don’t own real china, I got creative with my everyday tableware by supplementing it with a tablecloth, napkin rings, doilies, and a centerpiece with flowers from the garden.

centerpieceI was very excited about the prospect of planning a tea party and was deep in the stages of planning when I received a handwritten note from S. (how Victorian of her!) in response to my tea party invitation.  To my surprise and disappointment, she had declined my invitation!

Yellow sticky monkeys (Diplacus aurantiacus), Island snapdragon (Galvezia speciosa), and Blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum)

Yellow sticky monkeys (Diplacus aurantiacus), Island snapdragon (Galvezia speciosa), and Blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum)

I was determined to host my first tea party and against my own sense and sensibilities, I confronted S. about declining my invitation.  It turned out she felt that she did not have the “proper clothing” for tea and could not justify her presence at such a “fancy” event with untold number of elegant ladies.  Interestingly enough, this is not an uncommon misconception about afternoon tea, that one must dress to the nines in order to participate.  It is fun and appropriate to dress up nicely for afternoon tea but fancy dress is neither expected nor mandatory.  Similar to choosing the appropriate outfit for a wedding, you can’t go wrong if you dress for the appropriate occasion/theme, venue, or time of day.

Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' (California seaside daisy)

Erigeron glaucus ‘Wayne Roderick’ (California seaside daisy)

I assured S. that the tea “party” was only for two (I know my friends well! 😉 ), and that “fancy tea attire and hats” were optional.  She showed up on the appointed day/hour in a summery dress and even a sunhat. 🙂 It was indeed a charming tea party for two.

may2007 069 (Small)“In joy or sadness flowers are our constant friends.”
― Okakura Kakuzō, The Book Of Tea