Saturday, March 18, 2017

Meadow Brook Downton Days: Photo Album (Part II)

As part of Meadow Brook Hall's "Downton Days", Barb's Tea Service presented "A History of Tea and Cora's Story" during afternoon tea on February 23. "Cora's Story" is what we refer to as the Downton Abbey Prequel, an era where  Gilded Age Americans and British aristocracy came together for mutually beneficial unions. In the spirit of such a sumptuous lifestyle, we donned our  best Victorian dresses and, against the elegant backdrop of Meadow Brook Hall filled with handsome guests, our professional photographer, Karri Brantley, captured the event beautifully. Here are just a few of the photos from that special afternoon.

Barb's Tea Service (Barb and Rachel Gulley) present in the Christopher Wren dining room at Meadow Brook Hall

Presenting "History of Tea/Cora's Story" in Christopher Wren Dining Room

 Lynn Anderson, Doreen Raynak, Rachel, Barb, Shirley Moon Koebbe, Donna Kenske, Connie Sonnenberg, Gail Raynak

Having a cup of tea in the Sun Porch

In the Living Room of Meadow Brook Hall

Meadow Brook Hall Sun Porch

Sharing a cup of tea in the Sun Porch 

A wonderful afternoon shared with delightful guests at the beautiful Meadow Brook Hall - amazingly captured by Karri Brantley, of Karri Brantley Photography.

All rights reserved.  No part of this blog, including photographs, may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without permission of  Barbara Gulley/Barb's Tea Service.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dining Tutorial at The Townsend Hotel: Etiquette Program featuring Barb's Tea Service and many lovely guests!

Barb's Tea Service presenting etiquette at the Townsend

Last Saturday, Barb's Tea Service presented a  "Dining Tutorial", second in a monthly etiquette series at Birmingham's Townsend Hotel. As part of the afternoon tea, we presented a short program on proper protocol for a multi-course formal dinner.

During the program, guests enjoy scones and savories.

Guests were treated to spectacular afternoon tea fare:  tasty scones, savory sandwiches and extraordinary mini-pastries all served up with bottomless pots of deliciously brewed tea.

This table had one special  birthday girl. Everyone asked a lot of great questions!

There was a great turnout of absolutely wonderful guests. Two young ladies were celebrating birthdays.

Wonderful group of ladies enjoying afternoon tea together at The Townsend

In the "Dining Tutorial" we discussed the three different toasts that can take place in a formal dinner. In that spirit, we ended with a toast of our own:   "To all the special ladies and gentlemen who attended this month's tea and etiquette program. Cheers to all!"

Special celebration with these lovely ladies and another delightful birthday girl!

We hope you will join us for our next etiquette program at The Townsend Hotel on April 8th! We'll cover "Eating Various Foods" including, oysters, lobster, corn on the cob, shrimp and kumquats. (Don't always play it safe with grilled chicken breasts and simple cake!). For more information, see The Townsend Hotel Afternoon Tea page on The Townsend's website. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Abiding in the Vine: Owosso tea room with vintage charm and good taste

Barb T, Corky Adams, and Barb G. at Abiding in the Vine

There is so much to admire at Abiding in the Vine: charming decor, restored tin ceilings, gift shop displays, delicious and beautifully presented tea fare and, the woman behind it all, Corky Adams.

Abiding in the Vine is a Michigan tea room located in Owosso, a small town about half way between Flint and Lansing. Although its about an hour drive for those of us who live in the Detroit-metro area, I can tell you, it is worth the miles.

Afternoon tea fare is scrumptious and beautifully plated

My good tea friend, Barb Tabb, alerted me last month about Abiding in the Vine. After checking out their website, I knew I had to visit. So, we quickly made arrangements to meet up at this Owosso tea room the first of week in March.

Barbs enjoying afternoon tea in Owosso

Their afternoon tea was wonderful. The scones, savories and desserts were not only scrumptious, but beautifully plated.   I especially loved that one tea sandwich and one creme-filled cookie were heart-shaped.

Heart shaped savories and sweets

Our course started with a fresh salad, followed by scones, a variety of mini sandwiches and a generous dessert plate that included macaroons, lemon bars and cookies.

Our tea started with a fresh salad.

And, of course, each afternoon tea comes with a full pot of your choice of tea. The tea list is extensive, although tempted by many of the blends offered.  I went with my go-to favorite, Earl Grey.

An extensive tea list 

Corky said the inspiration for a tea room came from her grandmother, who would have weekly suppers for the family and always serve it using pretty place settings and serving pieces. Corky worked at tea room/herb farm and hosted several large tea parties at home before opening up a brick-and-mortar of her own.

She found the perfect setting on Owosso's main street -  a vintage building with a ton of character. The tin ceilings and exposed brick walls are a lovely back drop to the glass chandeliers and eclectic array of antique chairs, all painted a uniform, bright white. Corky also has a collection of tablecloths for all occasions. The tea room hosts special events throughout the year, so guests can customize the decor to suit the party.

Vintage charm with tin ceilings, glass chandeliers & collection of antique chairs

Adding to the unique setting, there's a border of retro doors in different sizes and hues that separate the dining room from the kitchen.

Border of retro doors between kitchen and dining room
Abiding by the Vine was also voted number one tea room in Michigan by TeaMap.

Number one tea room banner proudly displayed inside

In addition to afternoon tea, Abiding by the Vine also serves lunch and breakfast Monday through Saturday. There's also a gift shop full of fun items for any tea enthusiast.

Lots of great tea items in the gift shop

Both Barb's give this tea room a collective "two thumbs up!".  Thanks to Barb T. for notifying us about this delightful venue. 

Abiding by the Vine is located on Main Street in Owosso, MI
Abiding by the Vine is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Afternoon tea is $15.00, but if you order between 2:00 and 4:00, it is only $11.00!!  For more information, visit their website at

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Downton Days at Meadow Brook with Barb's Tea Service (Part I)

Barb & Rachel (BTS), part of Downton Days at Meadow Brook

Last week, Barb's Tea Service was part of Meadow Brook Hall's Downton Days Afternoon Tea. After our presentation, guests were scheduled to tour the mansion. However, we provided a tour of our own that covered the history of tea, its introduction to England, the invention of afternoon tea and "Cora's Story", the prequel to Downton Abbey.  A lot of ground was covered in thirty minutes!

BTS "tour" included history of tea & more!

Starting where it all began, we traced the history of tea from China to Japan (brought to the latter by Buddhist monks) until it finally made its way to England in the 1600's.

BTS' display table and some of the guests at Meadow Brook

As England embraced tea, it elevated it to the fancy affair we refer to as "afternoon tea" in 1840. (For Victoria fans, it's a delight to note, it was that Queen's lady-in-waiting, Anna Duchess of Bedford who is credited for that spectacular creation.)

Gothic Room at Marble House where Lord Marlborough proposed to Conseulo

Afternoon tea was not the only event to shake up England in the 1800's! There was also the invasion of the "American Heiresses" or "Dollar Princesses", as they were referred to -  daughters of the American noveau riche who married British aristocrats in  "cash for class" transactions. Downton Abbey's Cora married Lord Grantham in such an arrangement.

Alva V. who pulled the strings on the marriage

A true life Cora, Conseulo Vanderbilt married Lord Marlborough in 1895, at the insistence of her mother, Alva, and became a Duchess at the age of 19. Lord Marlborough proposed to Conseulo in the Gothic Room at the Marble House, one of the many Gilded Age "cottages" we toured last October.

Attired in our own Gilded Age gowns, we were thrilled to be part of Downton Days afternoon tea at Meadow Brook Hall. It's a beautiful venue and we had the event captured by our cousin, Karri B., who is a professional photographer. We'll be sharing those photos very soon!

We also met a great group of ladies at the tea, dressed in gorgeous period dresses, who graciously consented to be part of our photo shoot. We'll share those pictures soon as well!

Stay tuned for Downton Days at Meadow Brook with Barb's Tea Service, Part II!! 

Great fun at Meadow Brook. More pictures to come!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day! Give Dark Chocolates to your Sweet-tea: It's good for them!

Students of chocolate at Hershey's Chocolate Lab in PA

Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate love . . . and chocolate!  We at Barb's Tea Service take both quite seriously and are thrilled to share that the latter can now come with less guilt, according to a recent article in the  Huffington Post. Here nine reasons are listed as to why you should eat dark chocolate every day.

In the classroom waiting to work on our project.

Among the reasons cited for making dark chocolate part of your daily diet:  it  reduces stress and makes your brain sharper.

Making our own chocolate bar  to make our brains sharper!

We at Barb's Tea Service are devoted to the study of chocolate. We have studied at the Chocolate Lab in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Went to the head of the class in this course.

We've also taken classes at Bon Bon Bon, the amazing chocolate company in Hamtramck.

Delicious bon bons at Bon Bon Bon

Bon bon bon are good, good, good for you!

With Alex, owner of Bon Bon Bon

In addition, we have participated in several taste testings with Mindo Chocolate, to create  delicious chocolate/tea pairings for our special events.

Chocolate and tea pairings.  Not a bad assignment.

Devoted students? Yes! Hard work? Well, truth be told, not exactly! 

Dark chocolate with sea salt makes me happy!

Other benefits of eating dark chocolate, per Huffington Post, include lowering both blood pressure and cholesterol. And, because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that produces serotonin in the brain, it makes us happy.  (I did not need a research study to tell me that one).

Happy Valentine's Day and, remember, giving your loved one dark chocolate is not only a good idea, it's good for them.  And, even better, it is sure to make them happy!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Dining Etiquette Series begins at Birmingham's Townsend Hotel

Bar'b's Tea Service presents Dining Dos and Don'ts

There are many dining dos and don't's, but there is only one "do" in regards to the Etiquette Series at the Townsend Hotel - do come and join us for an afternoon of fun, education and delicious tea time fare!

Last Sunday, Barb's Tea Service kicked off the first program of  its  Etiquette Series at The Townsend Hotel. Every month (or so) a special etiquette topic will be featured. This past month, we started with, "Dining Dos and Don'ts".

Beautiful tablescapes: flowers, crisp linens and beautiful china

The etiquette programs provide important information for young people and a refresher for those of us who are veteran social diners. We're a lot more informal in everyday life in the "new" milenial than society was in the 1920's when Emily Post wrote her guide to etiquette. However, as we at BTS like to say, good manners never go out of style! And, there are some issues Emily Post would never have been able instruct on, such as what to do with your cell phone at the dining table. (We've got you covered there, too!)

Guests enjoy tea and scones during the program 

During the program, guests are served excellently brewed tea and delicious scones.  Guests are also treated to a full afternoon tea menu after the formal presentation, complete with tea sandwiches and pastries.

Delicious savories and tea are served

Beautiful and scrumptious pastries, too!

We had a wonderful group of guests for "Dining Dos and Don'ts".  It was a great gathering of friends and moms-and-daughters. Two of the young ladies in attendance each won a "Michigan Tea Rooms" book as they were both celebrating birthdays!

A delightful group of friends partake in afternoon tea and talk

Mom and daughter, celebrating a birthday.

Three generations come together for tea and etiquette.

Barb's Tea Service presents Etiquette programs at The Townsend (almost) every month

The next program in the Etiquette Series at The Townsend is "The Dining Tutorial" on March 4th!

Don't wait! and Do come and join us for an afternoon of tea and etiquette fun in the world's most beautiful classroom.  Those are dining do's and don'ts that will never fall out of fashion.

The world's most beautiful classroom - Townsend tea lobby!

For more information on the Etiquette Series at The Townsend, see The Townsend Hotel Afternoon Tea page or, (events page!).