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".

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