Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tea and Chocolate pair well at Huntington Woods Library

Mindo chocolates and tea from Socra Tea were featured at this weekend's pairing

Chocolate, tea and a little bitter/sweet history was on the menu at the Huntington Woods Library last Saturday.

In connection with the current DIA Exhibit, Bitter|Sweet: Coffee, Tea and Chocolate, Barb's Tea Service hosted: "Tea History with a Tea and Chocolate Pairing" to a "sold out" crowd at the Huntington Woods Library. Teas from Socra Tea were matched with tasting squares from Mindo Chocolate.

Rachel & Pam of BTS prepare the tea and serve guests chocolate

Four different tasty teas, ranging from Earl Grey to White Chai, were paired with absolutely delicious Mindo chocolate. Three of the sampling squares were dark chocolate featuring fruits or spices along with one milk chocolate with a hint of peppermint.

Four different types of chocolate were served

In one afternoon, we spanned several centuries and a few continents, covering the introduction of coffee, tea and chocolate to Europe around the 17th century. Although the focus was mostly on tea, we talked about the Royals early adoption of coffee and chocolate and, of course, those amazing chocolate rooms at Hampton Court Palace.

Barb T. and Barb G. at the Chocolate and Tea Pairing

Barb's Tea Service team (aka Rachel and Pam), brewed the tea onsite and served the chocolate. Guests each received a tea and chocolate pairing card and a BTS pen to take notes!

This was an amazing group of guests  and it was a pleasure to linger after the program and talk to everyone. We were introduced to some wonderful new friends and met up with a few of BTS's bff's, including Barb T.

Guiliana L. talks about Newby teas and presents samples to all guests

The program ended with a special treat from Newby Teas. Guiliana Loaiza, outreach coordinator for Newby Teas, presented one guest with a special zodiac tea for her birthday. All other guests received a sample tea packet to take home.

A special thanks to Anne Hage, Huntington Woods Librarian, for inviting us to present as well as all the guests who participated!

If you are interested in having BTS prepare a chocolate and tea pairing for your group, contact us anytime at barb@barbsteashop.com or 248-840-4356.  We'd be delighted to create and prepare a special tasting event just for you!

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!)