Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dining Dos and Don'ts: Etiquette Series with Afternoon Tea begins this month at The Townsend Hotel

Rachel &  Barb Gulley of Barb's Tea Service will present dining etiquette at The Townsend

  • What do you do when the person on your left appropriates your bread plate?
  • If  both the salad fork and the knife are placed next to the plate, what does that mean?
  • Where do you place your cell phone? 

Have you ever wondered if there were answers to the dining perplexities cited above? Barb's Tea Service and The Townsend Hotel are here to assist. Starting this month, a delightful and delicious combination of instruction and afternoon tea will be served up at Birmingham's luxury hotel with presenters, Barb and Rachel Gulley.

The first in a series of monthly etiquette programs starts the last weekend in January at The Townsend Hotel. Barb's Tea Service  will instruct guests on proper dining protocol. The course will teach table manners to young people as well as serve as a refresher for veteran social diners.

Afternoon tea at The Townsend:  beautiful and scrumptious

In truly the most elegant and beautiful "classroom", guests will enjoy the scrumptious sweets and savories from the Townsend. The first program will cover dining do's and don'ts. Future topics will include table talk, finessing the business meal and forms of service.  We'll also slip in a few tea etiquette tips at each event.

Tea etiquette tips will also be shared. How DO you eat a scone?

Bring your friends and family to afternoon tea at The Townsend Hotel. BTS will present the mini-etiquette programs starting January 29th at noon.

And, yes, there are answers to the questions above. Join us and we'll unlock the mysteries!

For more information, see The Townsend Hotel Afternoon Schedule or The Townsend Hotel website.

Barb Gulley, author of this blog, is certified by the Protocol School of Washington in etiquette instruction.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Victoria premieres tonight on PBS: Celebrate with afternoon tea and credit the Queen's friend, Anna, Duchess of Bedford

Rachel in front of Kensington Palace - our visit in 2011

For those of us still looking to fill the void Downton Abbey created last year with its final season, and who have already binge-watched The Crown, it's with great anticipation we have waited for tonight when PBS premieres its new mini-series, Victoria.

It seems absolutely fitting to celebrate this new drama with afternoon tea as it was Queen Victoria's friend and lady-in-waiting, Anna, Duchess of Bedford who is credited with creating this quintessential British repast.

The Orangery tea room on the grounds of Kensington Palace

The summer of June, 2011, Rachel and I toured Kensington Palace. We were in awe of being in Queen Victoria's bedroom, the exact spot where, on June 20, 1837, she was told she would be the new reigning monarch of England.

Another highlight of the tour was having afternoon tea at The Orangery, the beautiful tea room on the grounds of Kensington Palace. (It still remains one of our Top Five Tea Rooms in England.) Considering afternoon tea was a creation of Victorian times, it seemed essential to partake in one so near the childhood home of  the Queen.

But what inspired Anna to package up scones, tea and tiny sandwiches into an elegant mid-day event? It began as a solution to a problem. In 19th century England, the span between lunch and dinner for the "one-percenters" was great. By mid-afternoon, our poor Duchess suffered from what she described as a "sinking feeling". Basically, she was hungry.

To combat this, Anna began asking for cakes and breads to be served with her afternoon tea. She loved it - and so much so, she began to invite friends to join her. And, since this was Victorian times where more was more, it became not only a time to break scones with fellow aristocrats, but an occasion to show off your lovely new tea accouterments and fancy tea dresses.

Afternoon tea at The Orangery. Prepare your own for Victoria viewing!

So, my anglophile friends, buckle your seat belts, brew up some Earl Grey, warm up the scones, slather on the clotted cream and get your remote control pointed to your local PBS station at 9:00 tonight. Victoria may not completely fill the empty Sunday nights we've experienced since last March, but served up with scones, sweets and savories, (thank you, Anna!)  it should be delicious fun!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Revisiting the Chocolate Kitchen at Hampton Court: Marc Meltonville, Historic Royal Palaces Food Historian at the DIA

Rachel. Barb and Chris with Palace Food Historian, Marc Meltonville

Last November, as part of the Bitter/Sweet: Coffee, Tea and Chocolate Exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts, we had the great pleasure of attending a presentation about the chocolate kitchen at Hampton Court Palace from Historic Royal Palaces Food Historian, Marc Meltonville.

Visiting Hampton Court in 2015, ready to see the chocolate rooms

When we visited Hampton Court in the Fall of 2015, we saw the chocolate rooms but had no idea they had only recently been uncovered and restored.  Per Marc Meltonville, the general location of the chocolate rooms were known to be somewhere along the Fountain Court, but not until 2013, when a curator found inventory documents, did they find the specific spot.

Hampton Court

Fountain Court, at chocolate rooms

Hampton Court, located on the Thames. was once the home of Thomas Wolsey, until  Henry VIII took it over in 1514. During the reign of William and Mary, famed architect, Christopher Wren, designed an "addition" which included the Fountain Court. 

The chocolate room  displays all the sweet treat accouterments of the Georgian era

In 2013, excavating began in the area along the Fountain Court where the chocolate rooms were documented and, astonishingly, the original shelves and ovens were uncovered. After careful restoration, the chocolate kitchen was opened on Valentines Day, 2014. Today, visitors will see both the chocolate room (where chocolate serving pieces were housed) and the chocolate kitchen as they were in 18th century when they were run by the personal chocolate maker to King George I, Thomas Tosier.

The Chocolate Room

According to palace records, Thomas Tosier had his own bedroom at the palace. It's telling of the status of being the Royal chocolate maker  - not just your average court minion. Thomas and his wife Grace, from all accounts, lead quite a comfortable life for servants of the King.

The Chocolate Kitchen were the original oven and shelves were uncovered

In the chocolate kitchen, you can view the original oven and shelves. There are holograms that demonstrate chocolate making.

Holograms of chocolate makers are displayed on the rooms' blank walls.

At the DIA's Bitter/Sweet Exhibit, visitors can see a film of Marc Meltonville (below) at Hampton Court's chocolate kitchen.

Marc Meltonville is featured in a film as part of  DIA exhibit

It's an interesting (and delicious) part of history. An added treat to meet the Royal Food Historian in person.

BTS (at the DIA exhibit) will host chocolate tea pairing this month

Although Marc Meltonville 's presentation was only in November, the Bitter/Sweet exhibit at the DIA continues through March.

In addition, in connection this exhibit, Barb's Tea Service will be presenting The History of Tea with a Chocolate and Tea pairing at the Huntington Woods Library on January 28th.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Barb's Tea Service In/Out List for 2017: Downsizing to Gilded Age

Gilded Age dining room, won't work for downsizing condo

The new year always brings renewed energy to our to-do lists and personal goals. Ready to shed some of the indulgences of the holidays, it's time to crack open the new planners and embrace 2017. Barb's Tea Service is here to help you stay au courant and navigate the new year with our (almost) annual In/Out List.

Inspired by the Detroit Free Press' In/Out List (2017's Crystal Ball, December 30), we've added our spin to this essential guide. This year is one of extremes, from lavish lifestyles to downsizing, but there's something for everyone!


Downsizing - lucky for us, we're on trend!  Ready for
maintenance-free condo living next month.
(But not far, just two miles down the road!)


McMansions - Not to be confused with Newport Mansions which are very in!


Sherwin Williams' Poised Taupe.  While neutrals may be viewed as humdrum, you have to respect any color that is composed and self-assured.


Gray everything - except for Martha Stewart's sharkey gray (that's for our new kitchen)   


Newport Marble House velvety bedroom - inspiration for our condo


 Generic barnwood -  except in barns

*** BTS exclusive IN/OUT


Gilded Age.   The prequel to Downton Abbey: Astors, 
Vanderbilts and the other one-percenters of the 
era and their "cottages".                                                                                                                                                             

The Vanderbilt's Breakers "Cottage" in Newport


Tiny houses: downsizing absurdity. While a 60,000 square
foot cottage is a bit silly, so is a 150 square foot family home.


Chocolate and Tea (and coffee) 
See DIA exhibit AND BTS Chocolateand Tea pairing January 28!

BTS at the DIA Chocolate, Coffee and Tea Exhibit


Proper dining etiquette
January 29!

 Birmingham's Townsend Hotel


Downton Abbey
Downton Days Meadow Brook Hall
We're back in February!

Downton Days at Meadow Brook Hall

Gilded or plain, big or small, gray or taupe, Downton Abbey or Downton Abbey, we at BTS wish you a very happy new year and all the good stuff 2017 brings!  (And we're pretty sure toile is still in!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

BTS featured artist: Michael Aram, American artist with India influences

A year ago this month, I got to meet Michael Aram, famed artist whose creative works range from furniture to (my favorite) tableware.

A bit of serendipi-tea:   my son, Matt, and I were shopping at Macy's last December and while turning over sweaters in the Men's Department, we heard a customer alert that Michael Aram was in the building.

We headed for the third level where the Michael Aram event was taking place. Sparkling cider and hors d'oeuvres were being served and Michael Aram was there to personally sign his merchandise.

I purchased the cracker plate from the Palace collection for my sister-in-law. When chatting with Michael, he said that the Palace series is one of his favorite design groups. Per the Michael Aram website, this  particular collection is one that reflects "the arches, finials, carved panels, and ornamentation prevalent in palaces throughout the east".

Michael Aram also has a teapot which is difficult to find these days. No longer on the Michael Aram website or Amazon, it is still available at The Lamp Stand.  It retails at $350.00.  It's really beautiful. Is there any doubt that it will show up on  Barb's Tea Shop Wishlist?!

For more information on Michael Aram and his fascinating designs, see MichaelAram.com.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tuesday Tea and Tomes: Michigan Tea Rooms on SALE!

Michigan Tea Rooms, a great stocking stuffer and now at a lower price!

Just in time for the holidays, Michigan Tea Rooms is now available at a special price. The perfect stocking stuffer, we've lowered the price Michigan Tea Rooms, a tiny tome that details twelve of our favorite tea rooms in the Mitten State.

Now for a limited time, Michigan Tea Rooms is now available for $12.00. That's 20% off the list price. You can purchase directly from Amazon.com. Just click the link below:

 Published a year ago this month, we were back in 2016 visiting some of our featured tea rooms. We enjoyed seeing our books on sale or display at some of these amazing tea venues.

 We stop frequently at Socra Tea in downtown Detroit. We celebrated birthdays and Mother's Day there this year. It's right in the heart of the city and a convenient place to stop when visiting the DIA. We absolutely love their Earl Grey!

Socra Tea in Detroit:  Michigan Tea Rooms on display

Great place to drop in after the DIA, celebrating our mutual birthday in April

Casual and comfortable decor - excellent place to gather with the family

The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham has an elegant and luxurious tea lobby. We love presenting as much as being guests at many of their special events. Afternoon tea menu is delicious and top notch customer service. We love it here!

Rachel and Barb present a Downton Abbey afternoon tea

Elegant tablescapes and scrumptious tea fare

Harney tea tasting event with Michael Harney in September at the Townsend

Another favorite tea room, also featured in Michigan Tea Room, is Sweet D's in Linden. Owned and operated by Dee Birch, her personal touch is on everything from charming decor to sweet treats, all made on-site. We were there in May presenting a Downton Abbey-inspired tea.

BTS presenting Downton Abbey tea at Sweet D's.

Dee Birch, far left, with guests at the afternoon tea.

Lovely tea settings with antique serving pieces and china. 
Afternoon tea fare that's hearty and delicious!

We made it over the Mackinac Bridge this fall to go to the upper peninsula's only tea room, Four Seasons.  It's an absolutely wonderful tea room - inviting ambiance, excellent tea fare and a fun gift shop. It also sells Michigan Tea Rooms!

With owner/manager Andrea Shuldt.

Scones, savories and sweets will delight guests!

Guests can find Michigan Tea Rooms for sale in the gift shop.

The good news, is you don't have to drive far - or anywhere - to get your copy of Michigan Tea Rooms. And, now with a new discounted price, you'll have something for all the tea enthusiasts on your holiday list!

If you are interested in purchasing directly from BTS, send us an email at barb@barbsteashop.com and we'll send directly to you!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

It's beginning to look at lot like. . . a Gilded Christmas

Marble House dining room 

This year's Christmas theme at the Gulley household is, no surprise, GILDED!

Our inspiration came in great part from our recent trip to Newport, Rhode Island,  where we visited five mansions from the Gilded Age. We were there the last part of October and the cottages were just starting to display their Christmas decorations.

In the Marble House, home of Alva Vanderbilt, Christmas trees and other trimmings showed up in the dining room and foyer.

Christmas tree in the Marble House foyer

Channeling our inner Gilded, we sorted through some of our fancier Christmas decorations "in house" and then found some added delights at a pre-Thanksgiving trip to Pier 1.

Gilded decor for the Gulley fireplace mantle

I purchased some lovely garland filled with fruit, pinecones, and greenery all tinged with gold. It makes a spectacular statement on the mantle.

Gilded decor glows with a semi-blazing fire

The glow from the fireplace adds a little extra sparkle. Just like Marble House!

Then, to the Christmas tree. Rachel and I continued our annual tradition of decorating the tree - and the dog -  with a pot of tea brewing and holiday tunes in the background.

Trimming the tree with Gilded sensibilities

Christmas sweaters must be worn when decorating

Garland from Frankenmuth with some fancy gold ribbon make a statement

Turning again to the Marble House, we imagined what their their staircase would look like all decked out at Christmas. With glittery garland we purchased from Bronner's ( Frankenmuth) last year, we added a bit of gold ribbon for extra glitz worthy of a Newport cottage. If our staircase was made of marble, it could easily be mistaken for the Vanderbilt's front entry.

I will add, this took two hours to complete.  (Results - finished product to time spent ratio, a little off).

Marble House dining room 

Moving to the dining room, I once again sought the Marble House for guidance.

Adding some bling to the chandelier

Still working on the dining room chandelier. Added some bling from Pier 1, but still need shiny ribbon and some greenery.

Silver tea set on the dinning room buffet awaits more glitz

Took out the silver coffee/tea for the buffet. Will be adding more glitter and gold this week.

In a slight detour from this year's theme, we put up a few holiday items representing mid-nineteenth century England -  most notably, a tea room from Department 56's Dickens Village. Did we mention Frankenmuth? Yes, this year's purchase was the "Joseph Edward Tea Shoppe".

Sistahs annual trip to Bronner's 

In yet another tradition, my cousins, Dianne and Kathy, and I (aka "the sistahs") make our yearly trek to Frankenmuth, spend the night, and fortify ourselves with a hearty breakfast to shop at Bronners for four  hours (yes, four).

Last year, I purchased the banister garland and the Dicken's Village tea cart lady. With this year's tea shoppe, perhaps next year's theme is in the making!

It would take me several days to decorate this banister

In the meantime, for the remainder of this month, Chestnut Hill Court will be (almost) one-in-the-same as Bellevue Avenue. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, however it is decorated!