Giving Your First Tea

L to R: Tanna Esselstrom, Pat Borysiewicz, Penny Radovcic, Karen Woodard, Kim Esselstrom, Tryna Esselstrom

Pat Borysiewicz
Ocoee, FL

Through my book club I had met two young ladies who are being home schooled. Tryna is fourteen and her sister, Tanna, is thirteen. They had expressed an interested in learning more about tea. I told them I would be delighted to have a "home economics" lesson and invited them, along with a few other book club ladies, to my home for a breakfast tea. Since the tea was being held on a school day (and since I am a former teacher) I wrote a lesson plan, "Giving Your First Tea." The lesson was held on my back porch where we discussed the following:

-Origin of Afternoon Tea
-Afternoon Tea or High Tea?
-Tea Time Can Be Any Time
-What you really need vs. What's nice to have
-Mix and Match your China
-Using Place cards and Name Tags
-Plan a Prayer, Poem or Reading
-Choosing a Theme
-Sending the Invitations
-Selecting the Music
-Planning Your Menu
-Tea Party Favors
-Taking Photos for a Keepsake Tea Album
-Books About Teas

I suggested to the girls that it is always nice when things are hand made, particularly the invitations, place cards and favors. These young ladies are quite creative. They were wearing lovely floral print dresses that they had found in a local thrift shop. They looked quite smashing in their large brimmed hats and pretty gloves. We decided that the most important thing about having a tea is to make sure your guests are having a good time and not to worry too much about doing everything exactly right. Also, keep your menu simple so that you are not too exhausted to enjoy the tea yourself.

My menu included: stuffed French toast, crab melts on English muffins, fresh fruit, scones, cream and jam, peanut butter bumblebees (see Sandy's When Friends Gather for Tea book page seventeen) and "teapot" shaped sugar cookies. Two hot teas were offered, blackberry summer tea and Peter Rabbit tea by Wedgwood. The iced tea selections for later in the morning were Smooth Sailing by Eastern Shore Tea Co. and Tropical Summer Tea by Williams Sonoma.

After the "Lesson," we proceeded to the garden where everything was ready for our tea. The tea table was set with a white cloth, mix and match china and several patterns of silver. Since it was a garden tea I broke a "rule" and used sage green gingham paper (oh no!) napkins because I wanted to use my newly acquired antique wooden clothespins as napkin holders. I tucked the place cards in the clothespins, as well. The centerpiece was a small china teapot filled with wildflowers from my garden.

I thought I needed to follow my own advice by making part of the favors. I made a paper purse for each guest. The ladies received a small tea book. Tanna and Tryna had several things in their purses: a tea strainer, a small teaspoon and recipe card for the foods that were on the menu that morning. One of my guests, Miss Penny, surprised the girls by telling them that she had provided their floral tea cups and they were for them to take home to start of their collection of tea "necessities."

Our tea table was set up in the shade under an oak tree with a buffet table nearby. The girls noticed a dove sitting on her nest in my wisteria-covered arbor. (Now how did I miss that?) Reproduction vintage fans were on hand for the comfort of my guests. Inside each teacup I had placed a "thought for the day" and we each took a turn reading our message. Since Miss Karen is a Master Gardener she pointed out the history of two of my antique rose bushes, which was news to me, as well.

After we had enjoyed the food and the classical music for several hours, we switched to lively music and iced tea and visited well into the afternoon.

Within two days I received charming hand made thank you notes from Tryna and Tanna thanking all of us for the "home economics" lesson on "Giving Your First Tea."

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