Passion for Purple Tea

Lady B. threw a surprise “thank you” tea in honor of Lady J. who served as our Victorian Tea Society (VTS) coordinator for the past six years.  Additionally, Lady J. introduced the ritual of afternoon tea to several of us (including yours truly) so we had much to be thankful for!

The biggest challenge in planning the surprise tea was scheduling.  Finding a day/time that suited Lady J. but also the rest of the VTS members was difficult (4 months in the planning).  In the end, six members were able to make it, so it was well worth the effort!  Secondly, organizing a ruse for a visit to Lady B.’s house without giving away the surprise was yet another challenge.  Lady J. thought she was visiting Lady B. for an afternoon of quilting.  Lady J.’s reaction was priceless.  She was genuinely (and maybe even shockingly) surprised, especially when we all yelled, “Surprise!” and she couldn’t figure out what the surprise was.  After all, it wasn’t her birthday, there was no special anniversary, and … why were we all dressed in purple?

As Lady J. stepped down into the sitting room, everyone yelled, “Surprise!”

Since Lady J.’s favorite color is purple, we decided to honor her by hosting an all-purple tea by wearing purple and serving purple foods!  Ironically, between seven of us, none of us owned any purple table settings!  Lady J.’s monopoly on the color purple is indeed indisputable! 😉  But Lady B. got creative and did a beautiful job utilizing existing resources!  Good job, Lady B.!

Using clear glass and white tableware works for any occasion! Dress up the table using flowers from the garden, accessories such as candles and ribbons, and choice tablecloths.



Purple sugar!

Three types of purple themed tea were served: “Recognition” Huckleberry tea, “Tribute to you” Vanilla Rooibos tea, and “Thankful for you” Blueberry black tea.

A really, really cute knitted tea cozy by Lady S.

Lady S. knitted these cute and lovely tea cozies which looked fabulous on the tea table and also kept the tea nice and hot!  I secretly (well, not so secretly–I declared it aloud) wanted to wear them as hats!

Another really, really cute knitted tea cozy by Lady S. This one has violets with yellow flower buttons!

Gratitude toast with pomegranate juice

The menu offered many ways to say thank you to Lady J.  Purple dishes with sentiments of gratitude!

Click on menu to enlarge

Great beginning …

“Heartfelt thank you” spinach & purple cabbage salad with “Forever grateful” Bleu cheese or Ranch dressing by Lady B.

Enticing savory and tea sandwiches …

“Twice as nice” purple sweet potato hummus & roasted veggie on naan and Cheddar and pickled red onion on brioche toast by Lady S.

Pickled red onions
(From the kitchen of Lady S.)

1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thin, then rinsed in cold water
1 cup mild vinegar (red wine, white wine, or rice vinegar work well—if you use white vinegar, dilute with water in a 50/50 ratio)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Place sliced onion in a mason jar or heat proof bowl.  Bring vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan just enough to dissolve sugar and salt.  Pour hot vinegar mixture over onions and let sit for at least 30 minutes.  Refrigerate.  May be eaten right away or kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

“She’s got the beet!” Beet and purple potato stack with dilled goat cheese by Lady Henni

“Sincere thanks” egg salad & purple cabbage sandwich by Lady B.

Spring chicken salad sandwiches on purple bread by Lady MH

Palate cleanser …

“Friendship” Blackberry and watermelon fruit on a skewer by Lady B.  Notice the lacy “fan” on the ends of the skewers–we are big “fans” of Lady J.! 🙂

“Much obliged” Huckleberry cream scone with “Danke Schon” Devonshire cream, “Gracias” lemon curd, and “Merci” Huckleberry jam by Lady B.

Perfect ending…

“You’re the best” purple (lavender) moon cakes with peanut, coconut, and sesame filling by Lady ML.  These are known as “snowskin” mooncakes which resemble mochi in taste and texture.  Gorgeous AND delicious!

Gift for Lady J. — Memory book by Lady K. (Beautiful job, Lady K.!)

And now for some purple fashions!

Lady S. knitted matching purple spring hats for all of us!  Thank you, I love my hat! 🙂

Lady J.’s necklace from Cuba. It’s a recycled fork!  Cool!

Matching recycled fork bracelet!

Thank you to Lady B. and all the wonderful ladies of VTS for a colorful afternoon tea that Lady J. will not soon forget!  The table setting and foods were fantastic!  Lady J., thank you for your leadership, guidance, friendship and for sharing the joys of afternoon tea with us.  We look forward to enjoying many more afternoon teas with you!

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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
Honey

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.

Rosewater pistachio shortbread

I would never mess with a really good chocolate chip cookie–it doesn’t need improvement. I don’t quite feel the same way about shortbread. To me, classic shortbread is a good cookie base with simple ingredients, making it the ideal cookie for infusing with different flavors, right?  I know a few diehards who would prefer if I just stuck to making classic shortbread but I recently gifted myself with not one but TWO new shortbread molds which will finally allow me to bake more than one batch of shortbread at a time! Oh my, think of the possibilities! 🙂

Last month, I had grand plans during Chinese New Year to experiment with Chinese influenced flavors for shortbread but Time escaped me and I missed the window of opportunity (next year, I promise!).  Instead of dwelling on bygones, I decided to look forward to the next new year’s holiday for more timely inspiration, the Persian new year, Nowruz.  Spurred on by a recipe in the February 2017 issue of Bon appetit, the timing was perfect for developing a Persian flavor influenced shortbread in time for Nowruz: Rosewater pistachio.

Rosewater pistachio shortbread
(basic recipe adapted from Lucy Ross Natkiel’s Nut Shortbread recipe in The gourmet shortbread book)

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 cup flour, minus 2 Tbsp. (unsifted)
2 Tbsp. rice flour*
1 Tbsp. rosewater
1/4 c. shelled roasted unsalted pistachios

Using a food processor, add all ingredients and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is fully incorporated into the flour. Spray the ceramic shortbread pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray. Pour the shortbread “crumbs” into the shortbread pan, and working out from the center, firmly press the dough into the pan. Prick the entire surface with a fork. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned. Be sure that the middle is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t look slightly opaque or the shortbread might stick in the pan.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you flip the pan over onto a cutting board. If the shortbread does not come right out, put a cutting board on top of the pan (the cutting board should be bigger than the pan) and while holding the pan against the cutting board, turn it upside down and firmly tap one edge of the pan against the board. This should loosen the shortbread and it should drop out. Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm, otherwise the edges will not be clean.

*You can skip the rice flour and just use 1 c. flour, if you wish. The rice flour makes a flakier cookie.

Happy new year!  Happy Nowruz!

“Yesterday is gone and its tale told. Today new seeds are growing.”

– Rumi

Disclaimer: Tastes Like Tea is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Spanish Flair Tea

Lady J. was on a Mediterranean cruise that took her to a shop in Spain where she found a teaspoon with a flamenco dancer on its handle. She was so enchanted by it that she wanted to buy a few more but there was only one lonely spoon available.  As Lady J. was leaving the shop, the excited owner called her back, “Señora! Señora!”  He rummaged through a drawer and managed to produce exactly 7 more spoons for a total of 8 spoons!  Lady J. couldn’t believe her luck and snatched up the entire lot.  This is how a special teaspoon inspired a theme for an afternoon tea!

The teaspoon that inspired an afternoon tea!

The flamenca teaspoon that inspired an afternoon tea!

“Bienvenido!  You are cordially invited to a Spanish Tea!  Come dressed with Spanish flair!  Add a rose, fan, Mantillla shawl and/or peineta and feel like you’re in Spain!”

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Lady J.’s creative invitation!

dsc07228-smallimg_3210-smallAfter sharing her story of how a teaspoon inspired her creative spirit, Lady J. wanted us to share a creative project we’d worked on in the past or were currently working on.  We were all very impressed to hear each other share about our creative endeavors in areas such as sewing, scrapbooking, making memories, baking, luncheons, home organization, and music!

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Photo by Lady K.

Photo by Lady K.

Really cute condiment dishes from Spain

Really cute condiment dishes from Spain

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Centerpiece of Spanish majolica plates, fans, and succulents in ceramic pots

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Salt and pepper shaker

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Notice this flamenca teaspoon! All the spoons were different!

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Sugar bowl

dsc07230-largeLady J. came up with a wonderful vegetarian Spanish tapas style menu and picked some delicious herbal teas for a siesta.  Lady J. served an iced hibiscus sangria (non-alcoholic) and 2 hot teas from Teavana: CocoCaramel Sea Salt (dulce de leche, anyone?) and Berry kiwi colada.

Hibiscus sangria iced tea

Hibiscus sangria iced tea (infused with blood oranges, lemons, strawberries, blackberries and pineapple) (photo by Lady J.)

Sopa de ajo

Sopa de ajo (Castilian garlic soup) by Lady Henni

Sopa de ajo
(Adapted from many recipes by Lady Henni)
Serves 4

4 c. veggie stock (or other stock/broth)
1 c. bread cubes (1/2″ cubes, rustic loaf of crusty bread)
10 cloves of garlic, minced
3 eggs, slightly beaten (yolks broken up and slightly mixed with whites)*
1 1/2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
Pinch of saffron threads
1/4 tsp. black pepper (optional)
Chopped red and yellow bell peppers for garnish (Viva España!)

Heat up some olive oil and add bread cubes.  When bread is slightly browned, add minced garlic and stir until garlic is fragrant.  Add veggie broth, saffron, paprika, and black pepper (if using).  Bring the soup to a boil and pour eggs into the soup slowly in a stream.  Stir the soup while the eggs cook.  Serve immediately.  Garnish with chopped red and yellow peppers and parsley.

* If desired, you can poach the eggs whole instead of breaking them up.

Spanish olive salad

Ensalada de Oliva (Spanish Olive Salad) (Recipe from Pillsbury) by Lady T.

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Veggie paella (made with couscous, onions, peas, carrots, and red bell peppers) by Lady J.

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Champinones al ajillo (Spanish Garlic Mushrooms) served with crusty bread (Recipe from Lovefoodies) by Lady MH

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Pan con Tomate (Spanish-Style Grilled Bread with Tomato) (Recipe from Serious Eats) by Lady K.

Pan con Tomate
(Recipe as taught by my friend S.)

Cut a crusty loaf of bread into small pieces and toast the bread.  Rub a clove of garlic on the surface of the bread.  Cut a ripe tomato in half and rub the open half onto the surface of the bread making sure to get tomato goodness and juices on the bread.  Discard the tomato skin.  Drizzle bread with olive oil.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Enjoy!

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Spanish Tortilla (Potato Omelet) (Recipe from Food 52) by Lady ML

Frutas Frescas (Fresh Fruits) by Lady J.

Frutas Frescas (Fresh Fruits) by Lady J.

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Churros Bollos (Churro Scones) by Lady S.  These scones were to die for!

Churro oat scones
(From the kitchen of Lady S.)

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. oat flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. (1 stick) very cold butter cut into small cubes or grated on a box grater
2/3 c. cream

Topping: 3 Tbsp. sugar mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon

Sift together dry ingredients.  Using a pastry blender, fork, or food processor, add butter.  Work until texture is like lumpy oatmeal being careful not to overmix butter.  Add cream and work just enough for dough to come together into a ball.  Flatten and roll into a 1 inch thick circle (about 9″ in diameter) and cut into 8 wedges.  Sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar topping.  Use a flat spatula to place scones 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet (these scones spread a bit so don’t put them too close together!). Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 mins.

Serve with clotted cream or Devonshire cream, fudge sauce, dulce de leche, chocolate cream, caramel sauce, lemon curd, etc.

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Tarta de Santiago (Almond Cake) (Recipe from The Bossy Kitchen) and Chocolate covered carquinyolis (Catalan biscotti) by Lady B. (photo by Lady J.)

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Tea favors from Lady J.: Custom shortbread cookies by Penny’s Place. Notice the cookies are shaped like fans!

After this wonderful feast, Lady T. declared she was so full she could not eat another bite and would have to skip dinner.  I laughed at her misfortune but, to my chagrin, later discovered that I too could not eat another bite so no dinner for me either!  Thank you Lady J. for hosting an unforgettable afternoon!  My only regret was that I couldn’t take a siesta in your garden after the tea. 🙂

La comida a reposar; y la cena a pasear.
(After dinner rest a while, after supper walk a mile)

–Spanish saying

Post-holiday high tea

Our friends J. and S. were visiting from out-of-state for the holidays and one thing on their must-do list was to have “English style afternoon tea.”  We knew just where to take them: Marlene’s Tea & Cakes!  If you have friends and visitors from out-of-town, consider taking them out for high tea at Marlene’s Tea & Cakes, a hidden San Diego gem that only locals seem to know about!

outsideMarlene’s in a beautiful part of San Diego, off the beaten track, smack dab in the middle of a residential community called Santa Luz.  Situated in the central coast/valley ecoregion of San Diego County, two-thirds of the community landscape is comprised of native grasses, drought tolerant, and native trees and shrubs.  That alone is worth the visit, to see the native side of San Diego.  (NOTE: Ignore the other one-third of the landscape: the lawns and golf courses!)  Nothing evokes “home” for me like the sights and smells of California coastal sage scrub and soft chaparral!  And to all you cyclists out there, it’s also a great community to ride through with rolling hills, interesting scenery, and little traffic!

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J. and I admired the gold painted eucalyptus leaves in this floral display that made it stand out!

J. and I admired details such as the gold painted eucalyptus leaves in this floral display!

dsc07130-smallMy favorite thing about Marlene’s is the menu–it changes monthly.  For that reason alone, I have visited Marlene’s more than any other tea house (see previous posts here).

decembermenuDid I mention that Marlene’s soups are excellent?

Winter vegetable soup with puff twist

Roasted winter vegetable soup with puff twist

I love a tea house that regards its tea service as seriously as the food.  The tea varieties here are top notch and Marlene brews every pot of tea personally to make sure it’s brewed properly (thank you, thank you!) 🙂  You can’t go wrong with any of the teas.  Even the water is special here–depending on the time of the year, it could be flavored with strawberries, cucumbers, lemon, or a combination!

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Sandwiches and savories: Ham & cheese, Green goddess cucumber; Turkey, brie & cranberry sauce, Mini Beef Wellington, and Blue cheese and mascarpone red onion confit tart

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Cranberry & white chocolate scones with an orange glaze and fresh fruit

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Desserts: Peppermint cheesecake trifle, Christmas petit four, White chocolate lemon truffle, and Millionaire’s shortbread tart

dsc07023rev-smallAnd last but not least, Marlene makes excellent scones.  You don’t need clotted cream and definitely not lemon curd.

scones-small-2dsc07156-smallThank you J., J., and S. for sharing afternoon tea with us!  We look forward to having tea with you again soon!

“In Britain, a cup of tea is the answer to every problem.
Fallen off your bicycle? Nice cup of tea.
Your house has been destroyed by a meteorite? Nice cup of tea and a biscuit.
Your entire family has been eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex that has traveled through a space/time portal? Nice cup of tea and a piece of cake. Possibly a savoury option would be welcome here too, for example a Scotch egg or a sausage roll.”

David Walliams, Mr Stink

Christmas tea at the Hotel Del

I have always wanted to have tea at the Hotel Del Coronado.  In my mind, having afternoon tea in the Crown Room at the Hotel Del must be one of the crowning jewels coveted by all who appreciate afternoon tea gems. 🙂  So when my friends N. and S. wistfully expressed their desire to have tea at the Hotel Del, I didn’t hesitate!

1220162044-largeAfternoon tea was served daily at the Hotel Del from the time it opened its doors in 1888 until the 1950s.  Today, it is only served during the week before Christmas.  If you would like to experience afternoon tea at the Del, make your reservations early (November) because seatings sell out every year.  Full payment is required for reservations with a 48 hour cancellation notice.

I could hardly wait for Tea Day!  As you can see, the description of Victorian tea at the Hotel Del is indeed very enticing!

“Take a step back in time with classic Victorian tea for the holidays. Enjoy a variety of teas, finger sandwiches and sweets while beautiful music sets the atmosphere. Ladies and gentlemen, mothers and daughters and good friends will love this charming tradition.”

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Entrance to the Del

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Front doors of the Del

The Hotel was decked out in Christmas cheer …dsc07050-large… and Hanukkah too!dsc07049-large-2According to Wikipedia, when the Hotel Del opened its doors in 1888, it was the largest resort hotel in the world.  Due to a lumber and labor shortage in San Diego at the time, the hotel would not have been realized if it had not been for lumber shipped all the way from Eureka, California and the labor of Chinese immigrants from San Francisco and Oakland.  The Crown Room was architect James W. Reid’s masterpiece.  Its massive wooden ceiling was installed completely with pegs and glue–Not a single nail was used.  Unless you are attending a special event (e.g., wedding) or Sunday brunch (which costs a hefty $93), you may never get to experience the glory of the Crown Room.  Ask me how excited I was, by the idea of having afternoon tea (a Victorian one at that!) in the Crown Room? 🙂

Crown Room (1888) (Photo from the Hotel Del website)

Crown Room (1888) (Photo from the Hotel Del website)

When we checked in with the hostess at the door for tea, we were escorted promptly to our table.  I was a bit confused upon entering the tea room.  The Crown Room was much smaller and not at all as grand as photos I’d seen.  What happened?  I know I’m getting older but my memory is still as sharp as an elephant’s. 😉

Coronet Room

The Coronet Room: The smaller, less spectacular “Crown Room”

As we sat down, it was difficult for me to contain my disappointment and my friends noticed.  S. inquired with the waitress about the Crown Room and much to our relief, we learned that we were not actually in the Crown Room but in the Coronet Room which is a smaller, less spectacular room next to the Crown Room.  While we were relieved to know that the Crown Room still existed and had not been re-purposed or made obsolete, we were nevertheless disappointed that we did not get to sit in the Crown Room as anticipated.  This, unfortunately, was the first of many disappointments …

dsc07065-largeAnother less spectacular sight … dozens of caddies filled with desserts, sitting out in the open room.  Pretty, but not so appetizing?  Unlike a buffet table where the food has a higher turnover, this food was displayed as part of the decoration and must have been sitting for awhile since we were the 3rd seating of the day.  The only other decoration in the room was a single Christmas tree at the entrance.dsc07068-largeThe Hotel Del is a white tablecloth establishment, but there was no fine china or proper tea cups!  Only coffee cups!

dsc07052-largeUpon seating, the wait staff (of which there were many!) offered us glasses of champagne (with a splash of raspberry chambord) and Martinelli’s (with a splash of pomegranate juice).  According to the waiter, the splash of chambord/pomegranate juice in the champagne/Martinelli’s reflected the colors of a sunset.  How very San Diego. 😉dsc07056-large

I liked the crown themed wall sconces

I liked the crown themed wall sconces

Apparently, the Hotel Del has not changed their tea menu in at least 11 years (or so that was the understanding I got from the wait staff).

NOTE: Tea costs $59/pp, not $56/pp. This does not include tax, gratuity, or parking.

NOTE: Tea costs $59/pp, not $56/pp as indicated on the menu. This does not include tax, gratuity, or parking.

The tea selection was small but the water temperature was just right for brewing loose leaf tea which made me happy.  The tea warmers kept the tea at the right sipping temperature.  I tried the black currant and Darjeeling teas (misspelled on the menu) and both were good.  I appreciated that we each got our own teapot so we could choose the tea we wanted.  My only complaint about the tea service is that the servers did not pour the first cup for us and we had to brew our own tea.  Though it is nice to be able to brew tea to my own taste, I prefer to do that at home and not to deal with tea leaves unless the tea room provides tea strainers.

dsc07071-largeThe next disappointment … the sandwiches, savories, and scones were served on plates and not caddies.  I think that took away part of the charm of afternoon tea.  There were also some tiny errors in execution that ruined an otherwise decent plate of sandwiches and savories.  Firstly, the toppings/garnish on some of the savories had fallen on the edge of the plate and the spoon with the egg salad was covered in cream on one side.  In other words, the plate looked messy (Note: I cropped the messes out of the photo).  Secondly, the herb cured salmon was excellent, probably among the best I’ve ever had.  Easily the best item on the plate, it was slightly ruined by the dried roe on top (I think it had been left out in the open for too long and had formed a hard crust on the outside).  The crab salad was a bit fishy but that seems to be par for the course because most crab savories I’ve had in tea houses have been on the fishy side.  I don’t mind briny but fishy is not appetizing.  With the exception of the cucumber sandwich, all the other sandwiches were made with toasted bread which was cold by the time it was served.  This gave the bread a crunchy chewy kind of texture that was a little hard to eat.  I also didn’t care for the golden raisin scone (raisins aside).

dsc07064-largeUnlike the sandwiches and savories, the desserts were served on caddies.  The desserts were generous and okay.  I was a little disappointed that the wait staff were not more knowledgeable about what was being served.  Sometimes, there aren’t enough wait staff in tea rooms.  At the Del, there were too many wait staff and unfortunately, all seemed equally uninformed.  They were also surprisingly casual and informal.  Again, my expectations might have been too unrealistic but for the location and the price tag of the tea ($79), I expected some basic tea serving etiquette and a little bit more formality.  On the subject of formality, I was dressed for tea (not even to the nines!) but felt overdressed.  There is something wrong about that!  It’s sad day when you’re having afternoon tea, at the Hotel Del no less, and you feel overdressed. 😦

dsc07075-largeLastly, “the beautiful music that sets the atmosphere” was a guy playing Christmas carols and popular holiday tunes on the electric guitar.  Hardly the “Victorian” or afternoon tea atmosphere or vibe I was expecting!  I had envisioned a harpist or a pianist.  Is that too cliche?

dsc07077-largeAt the conclusion of our tea, we asked for a sneak peek of the Crown Room.  I was very happy to see it was as grand as I had imagined.

Crown Room (2016)

Crown Room (2016)–the wooden ceiling constructed of pegs and glue only, no nails

Despite the disappointments, the tea prevailed where it mattered most.  As noted in the tea keepsake menu, “Afternoon tea … is the Victorian tradition of taking time to restore the body and replenish the spirit.”  Over the years, I’ve learned that the success of the afternoon tea experience is measured by the friendship and sharing that occurs over tea.  The icing on the cake is when the food, tea, service, and location come together to create that perfect experience but when it doesn’t, you can still have your cake and eat it too when you are in the company of good friends. 🙂  Thank you N. and S. for a lovely afternoon that I will always remember because of your company and friendship!

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Taking a walk behind the Hotel Del after tea

Just another boring sunny day in San Diego

Just another beautiful (boring) sunny day in San Diego.  Yes, this is winter.  Please send us your rain and snow!

The latest creations by the local Sand Castle Man:

dsc07095-largedsc07094-large dsc07096-largeWishing everyone a happy holiday!

“Teatime is, by its very nature, a combination of small luxuries
arranged in social symmetry. And although tea for one
is certainly a fine thing, the addition of a circle of dear
friends to share it with ensures the whole is larger
than its parts.”

–Author unknown

November high tea

The Tea Committee celebrated their hard work on the anniversary tea in September by having high tea at (where else?) Marlene’s Tea & Cakes.  Still my favorite tearoom to date, I’m always happy to have afternoon tea here!  The food and tea were fantastic as always!

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Beautiful table settings 

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Roasted almond and fruit herbal tea with roasted caramelized almonds, apple, cinnamon, and beetroot pieces (yes, it really is a lovely reddish rose color). This tea tastes like an almond bear claw!

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Butternut squash soup with puff twist (The soup is always excellent. I appreciate that it’s served hot)

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Mini beef Wellington; Turkey, cranberry, and brie sandwich; Cucumber and herb sandwich; Toasted ham tomato and cheese sandwich; Blue cheese mascarpone and caramelized red onion confit quiche

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Fresh fruit and Cranberry lemon scones (Marlene’s scones are the best!)

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Pumpkin cheesecake trifle, Upside down pear gingerbread, Chocolate opera cake, and Raspberry & cream spritz cookie

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My favorite is this little gem, the red onion confit quiche. The caramelized red onions are what make this so special!

The pumpkin cheesecake trifle was excellent. Tasted like fall!

The pumpkin cheesecake trifle was excellent. Tasted like fall!

Marlene made the afternoon even more special with her bonus surprise dessert, homemade banana bread (it was more like a cake!) following all the wonderful food we already had!  This is just one of the many ways that Marlene tries to make every tea experience a special one.  The proof is in the details and the pride she takes in everything she does.  Thank you Marlene, for caring so much!

Thank you again to the Tea Committee and Marlene for all your hard work on the 35th Anniversary Celebration Tea!

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”

― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground