Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How much fun should a guest speaker have at an afternoon tea? (Keep calm and drink tea!)

Before the tea with Andrea and the lovely tea trays

How much fun should a guest speaker have when presenting at an afternoon tea affair?
That’s somewhat of a rhetorical question, but I found myself having a tremendously good time two weeks ago in Lansing, presenting at a tea luncheon to a group of ladies who were part of a large convention of a major fraternal organization. Held in the lovely Crowne Plaza in our state’s capital, the banquet room was already primed for a fancy occasion with rich carpeting, chandeliers and starched linens. What amazed me more, however, was the commitment to the afternoon tea theme beautifully executed by Andrea Troutman, organizer and lady-in-charge of the event.
Crowne Plaza Hotel in Lansing sets the stage for high-end afternoon tea
 When I opened the door to the last banquet room on the left, to join Andrea, I was met with a tea room on par with many upscale afternoon tea venues I have visited. Each table had a two-tiered tea stand adorned with a unique teapot. Each place setting had a beautiful tea cup filled with assorted tea bags and goodies all tied together with a bow. Aside from the desserts the hotel had on the menu, guests also were served lovely homemade cookies and biscotti provided by Andrea and her family.
Table set with tea tray that had many claims
The good times started immediately when two of the ladies assisting in the set-up, and later to be attendees at  the luncheon, told me the centerpieces were going to be raffled off and they had already designated the one they wanted. They were in a lively debate as to who should receive it, but, even as a “guest” speaker, I was told with good-natured warning, not to even think about taking that one home.  Ah, yes, the (white) gloves were off and I knew this was going to be one fun group.
Tablescapes with beautiful tea cups and tasty goodies

Lunch and conversation were delightful and soon I was invited up to the podium to discuss the history and etiquette of tea, the latter of which included the dreaded “tea faux pas” that tea drinkers will want to avoid at all costs! Although I did not police the room during the tea, several guests offered up confessions. The penalty is remedied by a good dose of laughter, which this group easily dispensed.
Program featuring Barb's TEA Shop

After a raffle of the Elmwood Inn’s series of “Tea in the City” books, concluding remarks and short meet-and-greet before leaving, Andrea did present me with a tea tray to take home. I had my choice of three pretty, but very different, trays and I picked the little black teapot that was inscribed with an adorable paraphrasing of a famous English saying. This teapot displays the words, “Keep Calm and drink Tea”. It was such a fun teapot. It reminded me of the group I was with and thought it would be a great keepsake of the event.
Assortment of pretty tea cups filled with goodies and wrapped in a bow

The most incredible part, though, was learning that Andrea had made all these tea trays herself. A year’s worth of scouring vintage shops and estate sales had paid off big-time in these one-of-a-kind serving pieces. It was like seeing a Pinterest page come alive.  I left the tea luncheon not only with a smile on my face, but a year’s worth of inspiration to motivate me on all my various tea projects.
Tea trays provide inspiration and motivation
A great time with the ladies group in Lansing with words to the wise: have fun and "keep calm and drink tea".

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Afternoon tea at Sweet D's: Dee-lightful time in Linden, Michigan

Sweet D's Tea Room is located in historic Linden
Last week, fellow tea enthusiast and blogger, Phyllis Barkey, and I visited Sweet D's Tea Room in historic Linden, Michigan. From south Oakland County, it's about a 50 minute drive in total, up 1-75 to exit 101 and then pretty much a straight shot going west. As we were chatting about tea things en route, I can't recount every turn, but I can vouch that it is an easy drive up.

Phyllis Barkey and Barb Gulley, fellow tea bloggers

Sweet D's is the creation of Dee Birch who not only runs a tea room, but a hair salon, also located in Linden. Birch has a fascinating resume of careers and specialties. As a hair professional, her skill in period fashions led her to Mackinaw Island's "Somewhere in Time Weekend", where she once took part as actress Jane Seymour's personal stylist. She continues to be a guest presenter every September at the Grand Hotel.

Dee Birch, owner of Sweet D's

But, her love of tradition, which she credits to her grandmother, took her many places, including her current tea room, housed in a Victorian home built in 1899. For more about Sweet D's, see The Detroit Tea Examiner's article Afternoon Tea at Sweet D's is sweet indeed.

Endless pots of tea served in white pots 
Sweet D's offers lunch fare as well as two options for afternoon tea, a three-course and a five-course offering. We feted on the five course, and I will tell you, it is worth saving your appetite for! The standard three-course offers tea sandwiches, scones and pastries. With the "super-sized" option, you get your choice of soup or salad AND a dessert.  Of course, both come with your choice of tea, served in white pots and conveniently placed at your table on individual warmers so tea doesn't go cold, no matter how long you stay and chat - and we did both!
Tray filled with pastries

Chunky chowder has a creamy tomato base

The five course meal started with "chunky chowder", followed by a selection of tea sandwiches, fresh fruit and a tray of miniature pastries.

Variety of  tea sandwiches served with min quiches and fresh fruit

Next, we had freshly baked scones served with cream, jam and lemon curd, all contained in tiny crystal glasses with demi-tasse spoons.

Scones served with cream, jam and lemon curd

Dessert came in a trifle filled with pudding, cream and other tasty ingredients. Dee referred to it as a "whim wham", a term used in Victorian times to describe a dessert that was made up of what was on hand and served on a whim.

Afternoon tea ends with a trifle

We had a dee-lightful time over afternoon tea!

Sweet D's can seat up to 25 guests and, in addition to lunch and tea, can also host special events.For more information, visit Sweet D's on facebook.