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

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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!

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!

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