Friendship Tea: Rules For a Proper Brew


Come in and let the sound of harps playing transport you to a more genteel era!  It’s teatime again, and I hope you enjoy the taste of everything I’ve turned out.

As the quote above states, you never know when a friendship will form.  You might click with someone you work with, meet a like-thinker on the internet, or enjoy the humor of an acquaintance so much you bond in an instant.

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A former coworker cemented our relationship over tea.  My friend hailed from Kent, England, and shared some startling news with me.  “Do you warm your pot?” she asked with a serious tone.  Uh, no, I had never heard of warming my pot.  “How about the cup?  You must warm your cup!  Some even insist on warming their saucer,” she informed me, lowering her voice to a whisper.  My associate dipped her chin and gazed at me over tortoise shell eyeglass frames.  I felt as if let in on a huge conspiracy kept hidden from the common American for decades, if not centuries.

We agreed, pouring scalding water in a saucer went too far.  Who wants liquid dripping from the bottom of their cup as they sip their tea?  She explained that to make a proper cup, the pot must be heated first with near boiling water from your kettle (Don’t allow it to whistle!).  Pop the lid on, then pour more hot water into each cup, swirl and empty.   Discard the warming H20 from the pot and commence brewing your tea.  All the while, being careful to keep the water on the stove from boiling.  This all seemed like quite the juggling act!


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Experts believe the ideal water temperature for most types of tea (white, green, Oolong, & black) is below boiling.  The exact degree varies depending on what kind of leaf you brew, but I play it safe by removing the kettle as soon as I hear the familiar rumble that says steam bubbles are forming.  Herbal infusions require boiling water, but even here I’m conservative and turn off the heat before a roaring boil begins.

To make matters more complicated, there is also a two pot method of brewing tea (I’m not going to even touch the heated cups measuring technique!).  One teapot is for steeping, then the liquid is strained into a second pot (already warmed) for serving.  This prevents the leaves from releasing too much tannin.  I prefer to utilize an infuser and remove the leaves once I’m happy with the brew’s strength.  The same is true when I use tea bags.

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So, do I warm my pot and cups?  Sometimes, depending on the clock and how busy I am.  Today, I did.  Give it a try (you don’t need to fill the pot to the brim, add just enough water to heat the vessel) and see if it makes a difference in your cuppa!


Can I pour you another cup of raspberry tea?  It’s delicious, isn’t it?  Try an éclair.  I believe they’re just as good as homemade.

I’ve kept things simple today with mini steak rolls filled with a chive and parsley mixture, cocktail cucumbers stuffed with ham salad, and colorful fruit kabobs.  Butter cookies and tiny éclairs from my grocer’s freezer department serve as sweets.  I’ve paper nosegays for each guest to take home, wrapped in vintage lace hankies which can be used as napkins, or serviettes for those not from the States.  My colleague from Kent would laugh at my word choice.

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I found small steaks, already cooked and sliced, in my big box store.  I mixed softened cream cheese with chopped fresh chives and parsley, spread on the meat, then wrapped into a roll.  The herbs add a wonderful bright taste.

For the stuffed cocktail cucumbers, I scooped out the vegetables with a small spoon (after slicing one end to make a flat surface).  Save the top of each cucumber for the “lid”, then load with the ham salad and add the cap.  These small vegetable treats provide a novel, clean pop of flavor.  The contrast between the fluffy ham salad and crisp veggie makes for a delightful bite.

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A pretty ruffled pink ribbon ties each napkin (serviette) bundle — a girly touch.  Fresh flowers in miniature silver vases add to the genteel feel of this tea, as does the lace tablecloth.

Thank you for sharing this time with me.  I hope you’ll pop by again next week!

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A Cup for the Winter Blues


I agree that the sound of china clinking together brings cheerful thoughts.  There’s just something about the anticipation of a cuppa that makes me glad.  It definitely lifts one’s mood, which might be necessary this time of year.  Do you get the blues when the sun doesn’t show its face for a few days?


     Well, do come in, leave the rest of the world behind, and dispel any melancholy by sharing conversation and teatime.   I’ve chosen the light classical guitars of the Romeros for background music and a strong Earl Grey to bolster our spirits.


By the way, did you know that a 2014 study at the University of Calabria in Italy showed that the bergamot extract in Earl Grey is good for your heart?  They discovered it lowers overall cholesterol while increasing HDL, or good cholesterol.

Let’s have at least two cups!


People have enjoyed tea for centuries, but I believe the term teatime was first coined in 1727.  The drink’s history began over 4,000 years prior in China.  Rumor has it, a servant was boiling water for his emperor when some loose leaves blew in and Voila!  By 618 AD, it had become China’s beverage of choice.  Buddhist monks carried the elixir to Japan, and by the late 16th century, it made its way to Europe, via the Portuguese and Dutch.  Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of Charles II, established the brew as a favorite in Great Britain… she was rumored to be a tea addict!  By the 20th century, consumption in England had grown to 6 lbs per person, per annum.  Considering the leaves’ light weight, that’s a lot of tea.


I don’t care to know how many pounds I consume annually.  I’m just pleased to learn that it might be good for my health.  I can’t say the same for the sweets I’ve prepared today, although I’m hopeful about the sandwiches (watercress is a green leafy vegetable, after all, rich in minerals and antioxidants)!


The ubiquitous crust-free sandwich makes its appearance today.  I felt I had to include them, and I’ll admit, I slaved over these small bites.  A nearby market carries watercress, so I combined the chopped leafy vegetable with cream cheese to produce these perennial favorites.  I’ve also layered maple ham, watercress, and cream cheese with a dash of Tabasco for an alternative.  I went so far as to make a layered version with pesto, pineapple cream cheese, ham, and cranberry jelly (the verdict from my son: There’s a lot of flavor here!).  Don’t be afraid to experiment, just have a sharp knife for removing those crusts.  I find cheese twists always make a fine companion to a cup of tea.

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Elevate a store bought cake with the addition of fresh berries and mint.  I’m proud of theses mini cupcakes, jazzed up with sparkling purple sugar and a lavender infused violet hard candy from France.  Aren’t they pretty?  Check out these lacy place settings.

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A real treat in winter, a variety of berries grace the table.   In addition to the blackberries, blueberries with custard fill tiny crystal goblets, while chocolate dipped strawberries provide a bit of glamour.

After filling the cups, keep a fresh pot on a nearby tray for refills.  If your friends have settled in and gotten comfy (& hopefully they have), you can replenish their drinks from the tray.



Add to your ambiance by utilizing throw pillows that match your theme or color scheme.  I’ve noticed many at reasonable prices available online, in catalogues, or at discount shops.  Your visitors will feel extra special because of this little touch.  If guests choose sugar to sweeten their tea, they’ll be greeted by my troll spoon!

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Thank you for coming. I hope you feel pampered and appreciated with this blue and white spread aimed to chase away the doldrums! I look forward to our next visit.








Tea Stories for a Soggy Winter Day


Please come in and enjoy yourself!

     One lump, or two?  If you’re a fan of Looney Tunes, you know that’s a loaded question!  There are many options for sweeteners (to be explored at a later date) and some prefer their tea straight, nothing added. The subject reminds me of an ill-fated trip to Chinatown, many years ago.

     But first, do have a seat and make yourself at home.  El Nino hit with a vengeance a few days ago and sharing a cup with a friend is the perfect opportunity to escape for an hour.  Shall we? Since Mr. Watterson advises exploiting the weather for a good book, tell me, what have you been reading in 2016?


     I’ve prepared tea for two, including asparagus soup to ward off the chill, salmon cream sandwiches, and a sumptuous array of sweets to dally over.  Let me pour you a cup of strong, apple spice tea while Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, one of my favorites and appropriate for the weather, plays in the background.


We’d made the trek to Chinatown for an adventure.  On a budget, our shopping was of the window variety, and we happily roamed the streets feasting our eyes on the unusual goods inside brightly lit stores.  I can’t recall my age, but it was the early 1970’s, so I must have been in single digits, and probably clad in hot pink bell bottoms.  Normally quite the street urchin, sporting a deep tan with scraggly blonde hair and in need of a hot soak, I’d been tidied up for the outing.


The climax of our excursion would be tea in an authentic Chinese shop.  We spied just the place around the corner from the main drag.  The store’s narrow façade sported intricate gold carvings on red columns and a pagoda-like porch roofed with green tiles.  My mother grasped my hand and tugged me into the tight, dim parlor.  This was no superstore with aisles of lanterns, ceramic foo dogs, and clay pots.  A sense of apprehension hit me as my gaze was drawn to an illuminated area in the back where two petite, but foreboding, figures stood behind a counter.  I shifted my eyes to the shelves that lined the walls, containing various examples of Chinese porcelain.  Several tables filled the floor space while two old women in traditional dress kept watch from the rear of the store.   We were the only customers.

Mother headed for the shelves and picked up a diminutive blue and white vase.  The object was almost immediately snatched from her hands by one of the women.  We’d stumbled into a shop that sold authentic antiques.  Protective of her merchandise, the store owner knew the value of her treasures.  Ming, perhaps?  Somehow, she’d made it from behind the counter to our location in a split second, without a sound.  The wizened lady frowned, shook her head, and pointed to a table.  The volume of wrinkles on that small face made it nearly impossible to see her eyes.  Mum smiled, graciously I might add, and followed directions.  Once seated, my mother nodded pleasantly, and asked for tea.

A prolonged, hushed conversation between the two shopkeepers followed, before both disappeared into a back room, robes rustling.  Soon, a porcelain pot and two miniscule cups, no handles, were delivered to our table.  I couldn’t wait to sample the mysterious tea provided by these exotic ladies!  Mother allowed the brew to steep a few minutes while the women watched us from behind their counter.  Even at my young age, I got the idea they were ready for us to leave.

When the tea was finally poured, what a disappointment.  It was green!  Forgive me if you’re a green tea devotee.  I’ve never been a fan of the stuff, although I occasionally drink it now, when I feel puny or run-down.  Mum’s face fell.  She also was no green tea enthusiast.  She made eye contact and waved at the two ladies.  One approached, and my mother asked for sugar.  The matron stared as if she knew no English.  Again, Mother said, “Sugar,” and pointed at our cups.  This time, Mum meant business.  The shopkeeper glided back to her partner and another long conversation ensued, in Chinese, of course.  Then, they both retired to the back room.  We didn’t hear from them again for a good ten minutes.  The tea in our cups grew cold.

Eventually, our attendant reappeared, toting a stoneware box.  She grunted and placed the item in front of my mother, then spun with a flourish and joined her friend.  Under their watch, Mother pried the lid from the container, lowered her eyes to its contents, then threw her head back and laughed out loud!

She tilted the box so I could see what was so funny.  There, inside the confines of the sugar bowl, was a hard as rock crust of granules that even a jack hammer would have trouble loosening.  Obviously, it hadn’t been used in years.  We took a few swallows of the tepid, unsweetened green drink, paid (Mum still smiling and pleasant), and left.  My mother considered it all a humorous, amusing adventure, which is a good way to look at minor disappointments, don’t you agree?




This tea will save me time tonight as I intend to serve the family the remaining soup and full-sized sandwiches for dinner!

For the soup, sauté butter & a thin-sliced shallot in the bottom of your soup pan.  Add two bunches of asparagus (bottoms removed — the smaller the diameter the stalks, the better) cut into one inch pieces, and continue to sauté, adding salt and pepper.  Stir in a large can of chicken broth (3-4 cups) & a handful of fresh basil.  Simmer for fifteen minutes or so.  Allow to cool.  Blend with hand mixer (or transfer to blender, then back to soup pan).  Slowly whisk in cream (start with 1/2 cup and increase to your own preference) & season to taste.  Reheat on low before serving.


For a yummy surprise, I added a small scoop of herbed chèvre (found at my local big box store) to the bottom of each bowl, as well as an heirloom cherry tomato half and chives.  The tiny squaw roll sandwiches were made with a salmon spread from my market’s deli aisle and fresh spinach leaves.  I simply cut the squaw rolls in half, lengthwise, to make each tea sandwich.


To make the carrot tie for the sandwich, peel a large carrot.  Use the peeler to remove a long, paper thin slice from the vegetable.  Cut this, lengthwise, into string-thin strips.  Tie one strip around each sandwich and clip ends with kitchen scissors.   Now your sandwiches look like tiny presents for your guests!

Include a squirt of lemon juice in the store bought salmon spread to enhance the flavor and give it a fresh taste.

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I added marzipan fruits to leftover Christmas cookies for the dessert course.  Marzipan is made from almond paste and is one of my favorite treats.  A three tiered serving plate, laden with sweets, encourages lingering with several cups of tea and conversation.

I utilized a set of cute teapot napkin rings, purchased years ago, as a special accent.  Keep an eye peeled when out and about for inexpensive details to add to your table.

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Plaid napkins and placemats add the cozy feel on a frigid day.  To raise the glam, consider wrapping your napkins with a lace doily attached by a ribbon.  If you like, these could be gifts for your friends to take home as a remembrance of your special time together!

     Do you have to go?  Already?  Oh my, it is getting late.  The time flew, didn’t it?  Thank you for coming.  We really must do this again, soon!




Welcome to Teatime Tuesday


Please come in and enjoy yourself!

     I cannot remember a time when I didn’t take tea.  Before I began attending school, I would join my mother, mid-morning, with a cup.  Either her best friend from across the street or my aunt would pop in and enjoy a time of fellowship and rejuvenation.  If I kept quiet, I could learn all sorts of interesting things.  If I spoke up to render an opinion on adult matters, I was shooed from the kitchen.

     Later, after I began elementary school, we’d share afternoon tea.  You see, we didn’t follow any particular rules regarding teatime, which Webster’s defines as the customary time for tea, late afternoon or early evening.  Hot or iced, accompanied by a treat or not, the soothing beverage encouraged conversation and relaxation and also provided a pick-me-up.  Friends, I hope you will drop in for a comforting cup, camaraderie, teatime tips, and refreshment for the body, mind, and soul, right here at Teatime Tuesday!


A Hearty New Year’s Tea

     I like to think that the holidays extend from Thanksgiving until Super Bowl Sunday.  If I could persuade my husband to leave the tree up until then, I would!  Actually, I recall one year when circumstances did prevent us from taking our decorations down until early February and it didn’t bother me one bit.  Most years, we have our festive items put away by mid-January. 

     There is something beautiful about the idea of a fresh new year, don’t you think?  I just couldn’t help inviting friends for one last holiday hurrah:  A hearty New Year’s tea perfect for a chilly January day. 

Won’t you join me?

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     I’ve put an Andrea Bocelli CD on low (I confess, it’s a holiday album) and brewed the last of a spicy, rich tasting Christmas blend.  A tiny cup of creamy tomato soup is joined by ham rolls tied with chives.  I prefer that the food I serve at teatime offers a surprise, so the ham is filled with homemade pineapple cream cheese while the soup holds a hidden bite of goat cheese.  Fruit kabobs and baked brie wrapped in a delicious crust and topped with cranberries and apricots finish off the savory course.  

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     Have a seat and enjoy your first cup.  Would you like lemon in your tea?  Tell me all about your Christmas…

     For the sweet course, please enjoy the Danish butter cookies and do try my oatmeal bars with date filling.  You won’t go away hungry that’s for sure!  Let me pour you another cup of tea while we discuss your plans for 2016.

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This is a deceptively easy tea with which to bless your friends or family.  I used leftover ham from Christmas dinner and canned tomato soup (add some cream and a small amount of fresh orange juice to give the soup a bright, unique taste).  I made the kabobs and ham rolls in advance, refrigerating these until just before the guests arrive (be sure to drain your pineapple before mixing with cream cheese).  The baked brie was store bought, as were the butter cookies.  I’d already made the date bars as Christmas treats!


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     It’s nice to splurge on an item or two for your tea service.  A set of antique spoons makes everything look that much more special.  Or, try wired ribbon to tie a lovely bow around your napkins.

Thank you for visiting Teatime Tuesday and please drop by anytime.


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