Saturday, December 26, 2015

Michigan Tea Rooms: Our new book is now available!

We hope y'all had a wonderful Christmas - having a festive time with friends and family and getting everything on your wish list. If you didn't get our newly released "Michigan Tea Rooms" in your stocking, there's no need to worry - it is now available on Amazon! Check out the link:  Barb's Tea Service presents Michigan Tea Rooms.

Michigan Tea Rooms features twelve tea rooms ("Steeper by the Dozen") in the Mitten State, all that we have personally visited. The venues range from casual to luxurious and span the distance from the Keweenaw Peninsula to the heart of Detroit.

It includes upscale hotels, including the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, a Michigan tea farm (yes! tea is growing in this northern mid-west state) and a newly-minted tea room in the "D".  There's something for everyone and every taste.

We'll also be selling these books at upcoming events in 2016, so stay tuned. If you are looking for a signed or personalize copy, just send us a note.

We at Barb's Tea Service wish you a wonderful new year and all the comfort and joy that comes with a great cup of tea, whether in Michigan, US or across the pond!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Jan/Feb issue of Tea Time Magazine: Highclere Castle and interview with Lady Carnarvon written by Barbara Gulley of BTS

A Visit to the Real Downton Abbey features our interview with Lady Carnarvon
In honor of the kick-off to the final season of Downton Abbey in January, the latest issue of Tea Time Magazine features an article about  Highclere Castle and an interview with its countess in residence, Lady Carnarvon. We're excited to share that the article was written by the one who pens this blog and based on the Barb's-Tea-Service-duo's recent visit to Highclere in September.

Rachel walks the grounds of Highclere
Like many other Downton Abbey-ites, Rachel and I were thrilled to tour Highclere Castle a few months ago and walk the rooms shared by both the real and fictional families of this centuries-old abode, the Carnarvons and Crawleys, respectively.

Discover where Lady Carnarvon likes to have tea in this issue!
We were also delighted to interview Lady Carnarvon and get perspective on what it's like to have your home shared with the Downton Abbey cast and crew for a few months of the year.  In addition, we learned her favorite rooms at Highclere as well as where she likes to have tea on the estate.

Tea time on the grounds of Highclere
Like Lady Carnarvon, and channeling images of the Crawley ladies at an afternoon picnic, Rachel and I enjoyed a cup of tea on the grounds of Highclere after strolling through the very familiar rooms of the manse.

Barb's Tea Service, Michigan-based tea education business!
Just like a having friends over for tea, sharing this visit has made the experience even better! We are so very pleased to be part of this issue of Tea Time Magazine.

Highclere selfie with the Barb's-Tea-Service-Duo

We'll continue to share more in 2016. Check out our website at Go to the BTS upcoming events page. We have many Downton Abbey-inspired afternoon teas coming up!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Small Business Saturday spent at Antique Depot: My favorite shopping day of the season!

Rachel outside the Antique Depot in Lewiston
In between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there's Small Business Saturday -  my favorite shopping day of the season. It serves as a great reminder to patronize the independent retailers in your town and the reward is the unexpected treasures you'll come across. Unlike the "doorbuster' merchandise that the Big Box stores advertise ahead of time, you won't always know what you'll see at the small, local shops - and that's half the fun. In honor of this designated shopping day, our afternoon was spent at the  Antique Depot,  our choice retailer in northern Michigan.

New Paragon tea cup among my treasures for the day
As we've noted in several of our blogs over the years, starting in 2010 (A short scenic trip. . . to the Antique Depot), we love coming to Lewiston, in northern Michigan,  to meet up with Deborah K, owner of the Antique Depot and view not only her latest merchandise, but her most current displays. Almost every visit is a new experience due to Deborah's keen eye for design. Tea cups, depression glass and crystal are artfully displayed among the antique furniture that anchors each room throughout the store. Other merchandise featured at the Antique Depot include vintage clothing, rustic knickknacks, and estate jewelry. There's a full inventory, but it's incredibly organized and sparkling clean.

Our treasure today was a beautiful pink rose Paragon tea cup that adds to my collection of that lovely English bone china. I also secured another gem, but that one I'll keep secret until after December 25th.

Hot cuppa in my "new" tea cup - a great way to unwind!
In the meantime, I'm keeping in the less hurried, more relaxing spirit of Small Business Saturday with a hot cup of tea in my new china cup. Small wonder why  SBS is my most favorite shopping day of the season!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Afternoon tea at St. Regis New York: Modern luxury with gilded age past

Rachel ready for afternoon tea at the St. Regis Hotel New York
A trip to New York in July was filled with ties to the Gilded Age, staying at the Waldorf Astoria, visiting the Vanderbilt mansion and afternoon tea at the St. Regis Hotel.

The Astor legacy still part of Manhattan
Inspired by these historic places, I am now reading up on the one per centers of the 19th century. "When the Astors Owned New York" by Justin Kaplan is an interesting, easy read about this family dynasty that were instrumental in creating the luxury hotel industry. John Jacob Astor IV built the St. Regis in 1904, seven years after the opening of the Astoria Hotel (later to be combined with his cousin's Waldorf Hotel).

Gilded moldings, muraled walls and crystal chandeliers keep the ties to the past
Afternoon tea at St. Regis has been on my wish list since 2007, when I took a one-on-one tea tour of Manhattan with Elizabeth Knight, former tea sommelier of this beautiful hotel. During the tour, we made a quick stop to view the tea lobby, but we didn't have time to partake in a full-blown afternoon tea.

Contemporary and vintage mix well with tasty treats and excellent service
It's been remodeled to a more contemporary decor since my last visit and looking just a little different than its photos in Bruce Richardson's, "The Great Tea Rooms of America",  it still has the familiar and elegant flourishes, with ties to its rich origins, such as the muraled walls, gilded moldings, and imposing crystal chandeliers.
Now the tables are covered in grey tablecloths with sleek, suede cushioned chairs in a matching hue. The table china is contemporary in design as well, white, glossy and unadorned except for the flowery-edged plates of the three-tier serving tray.

Savories include  tea sandwiches along with a mini quiche

But, of course, what makes the afternoon tea exceptional is the food and service and, in our experience, found both scored high. Savories came in a variety of offerings, including traditional tea sandwiches along with a mini quiche. 

Yummy scones were served with cream, lemon curd and jam.
Scones were delicious and served with cream, lemon curd and jam. Desserts were beautiful and tasty with an assortment of cookies, macarons, and chocolate treats.

Tealeaves was the tea that was used. We chose the St. Regis' house tea as well as the organic jasmine pearl. Both were brewed to perfection.

Tealeaves tea is served
Our waiters were most accommodating, bringing us the tea container for personal inspection when we asked about the tea, and sending us home with a St. Regis "doggie bag" of sweets and savory leftovers to be enjoyed later at our hotel.

Showcase exhibits photos from movies filmed at St.Regis
After tea, Rachel and I did a quick tour of the St. Regis, ending up (no surprise) in the gift shop. A showcase along one hallway exhibits photos from famous movies filmed at the hotel, including "The Godfather" and "The Devil Wears Prada".  We say, afternoon tea should receive top billing!

Enjoying afternoon tea at the St. Regis Hotel

Apres tea, going home with a sac de chien,
An afternoon tea at the St. Regis is a delightful blend of the past and present served up with delicious sweets and savories. Contemporary comfort with vintage flair, you'll feel among the top tier with tea at St, Regis.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tea and Etiquette at Clarkston Independence District Library

Tables set with beautiful china cups and tea accoutrements
Just returning home from London on Labor Day weekend, the Friday of that same week,  I had the great pleasure of presenting "Tea and Etiquette" for a lovely seniors group at the Clarkston Independence District Library.  We had fifty guests in attendance and they were an absolutely fun and delightful  group.

Home baked scones and sweets were delicious.

Invited by Lawrence Marble, head of Adult Services, and aided by fellow librarians Jo Ann Andrews and Beth Grai, the afternoon tea was a beautiful event. And, Beth Grai not only served the tea, but baked the scones and desserts, which were delicious.

Festive place cards added an elegant touch to the table.
A real treat for me came after the program when I was extended an invitation to join the afternoon tea. Festive place cards at each place setting added an elegant touch to the tea tables. I found mine in a hurry!

I was seated with a lovely group of ladies.
I was seated at a table with Darlene Clarno, Kathie Ward and Joyce Mammen, a wonderful and interesting group of ladies.

Kudos to  Clarkston Independence District Library for transforming this venue into an elegant tea room and hosting such a great event!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Catching up: London, Highclere, New York and Cincinnati - (and some fun tea events in between!)


Since August, we've traveled to New York, England (London, Oxford and Highclere!), Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Tampa, and, yes, to top it all off, Cincinnati, Ohio.  We visited five tea rooms, four presidential museums, three castles,  two bed and breakfasts (coincidentally, both named after famous generals) and interviewed one Countess.

Highclere Castle selfie, of course.
In the same time span, we also held four delightful tea events from Tea 101 to Eleanor Roosevelt and put the final touches on our new book (stay tuned!). We were thrilled to be presenters at Clarkston/Independence Township Library, the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, a lovely home in Bloomfield Hills and Socra Tea in Detroit, the latter we journeyed to just  this past weekend to participate in - and celebrate - Michigan Tea Week.

Eleanor Roosevelt Afternoon Tea at the Townsend in Birmimgham
We're catching our breath and taking some time before 2016 to get up-to-date and, also, gear up for the holiday season (can it really be only 7 more Mondays until Christmas as the on-line news headlines cry out??!).

Getting ready for Tea 101 at Socra Tea in Detroit
Our plan here at our blog, is to get caught up and share some of these aforementioned visits and events with you!

Afternoon tea at Claridge's in London
From Claridge's in London to the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, it's been an amazing four months. If we could gain an extra hour every Sunday, like we did last weekend, we could even squeeze in more!

The Taft Museum in Cincinnati

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Join us for an Eleanor Roosevelt Afternoon Tea at the Townsend Hotel September 26!!

Eleanor Roosevelt Tea as mentioned in OC 115

"A woman is like a teabag, you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water". ER

This Saturday, September 26th, join us at the Townsend Hotel, together with the Baldwin Library, as we present an "Eleanor Roosevelt Afternoon Tea".   The program will include a presentation from Barb's Tea Service on the life and times of this fascinating first lady and a full afternoon tea menu from the Townsend.

Outside the Hyde Park home of Eleanor and FDR
Inspired by the release of Ken Burns' documentary, "The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History", which aired on PBS in 2014 and a recent trip to Hyde Park, New York, home of  Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, BTS is excited to share stories of Eleanor and the Roosevelt family.

Eleanor at age 4, shy and timid
Rachel and I both have undergraduate degrees in Political Science - and Rachel also has a B.A. in History - so, aside from our great interest in  tea, politics and history are certainly our passion. In our research, we found so much to admire in Eleanor Roosevelt, but also a few things that really surprised us.  Early on, she didn't support the Women's Suffrage movement, and yet went on to become a leader in the League of Women Voters.

We also found it a bit shocking that Eleanor agreed, while living in the White House,  to carry a gun with her when she wanted to go out for tea with her friends.

The Chintz Room at Hyde Park
The Chintz room at Hyde Park was the bedroom FDR and Eleanor shared when they first moved to Hyde Park. It later became a guestroom and housed such famous guests at the Queen.

Afternoon tea menu and Harney tea from the Townsend
History and politics pair well with an amazing afternoon tea menu from the Townsend served with bottomless pots of Harney teas.

We hope to see you on Saturday. The event begins at noon. For more information, see the Townsend Afternoon Tea page.  Also read more about the event in the OC 115 article, Eleanor Roosevelt Themed Tea Party, published last week.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Queen Elizabeth becomes longest reigning monarch in England: We celebrated with a visit to her home and a cup of tea!

Buckingham Palace selfie. This is the home of QE II, now longest reining monarch of England

Today marks the day Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning monarch, surpassing the record of her great, great grandmother, Queen Victoria.  Of course, the Gulleys were at Queen Elizabeth's home, Buckingham Palace last week to pay our regards a few days early.

Hampton Court, home of Tudors, Stuarts, William & Mary,and a few Georges - none who ruled as long as QE II

A little over a week ago, we left Detroit for a week across the pond for adventures in an Anglophile's Disneyland. We visited two palaces (aforesaid Buckingham and Hampton Court), Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame), several museums and two more tea rooms to check off my wishlist: Claridge's and The Wolseley.  Of course, the trip was heightened by the news of the upcoming record- breaking event for the Queen.

Although Queen Elizabeth was not in residence while we were at the palace, we did get to tour the staterooms of Buckingham and experience the grandeur and opulence like any other special guest.

Exploring Royal Teatime in Buckingham Palace reaps great rewards

We also spent a good deal of our time in the Buckingham Palace gift store.  My favorite spot was the tea accessories area where I picked up a royal teapot Christmas tree ornament and a tin of Buckingham Palace tea.

Commemorative mug with Hampton Court and Buckingham Palace teas

Even better, Rachel purchased a commemorative mug which notes inside the rim, "H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, our longest reigning  monarch" and lists all other kings and queens of England on the front.

Cheers to this record day. Gulleys were there to celebrate a week early!

In celebration of the big event, I think we will combine our bounty tonight by brewing a pot of Buckingham Palace tea and serving it in the mug along with a fine English bone china tea cup.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Adoring the Waldorf Astoria: History and luxury in New York (we must come back for tea!)

The Waldorf Astoria's beautiful lobby which houses the 9 foot bronze clock
The Waldorf Astoria:  the name is synonymous with luxury and embedded in American history. There are times when we all deserve to treat ourselves to something special and when you are in New York City, we highly recommend a stay at this beautiful hotel.

Located on Park Avenue, the Waldor Astoria is an oasis from the busy Manhattan activity
Located on Park Avenue, anchored by 49th and 50th streets, the hotel is easy walking distance to Saks, Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Broadway and yet a very comfortable distance from the bright lights, crowds and noise. It is an oasis of comfort, elegance and tradition and a place we referred to as "home" during our stay in Manhattan the last week of July.

Charming entry to our room, located just off the main hallway

Room is traditional elegance with fireplace, gold framed mirror and overstuffed chairs.
A delightful change from the cookie-cutter brand of hotels, even the entry of our room was unique. Located in an alcove off the main hallway, it seemed more of personal residence than a short-stay inn. The interior had a touch of old-word elegance with a marble fireplace, gilded above-the-mantle mirror and striped,overstuffed chairs.

Fireplace ambiance, no need to utilize in July
Since the outside temperatures hovered in the 90's during our stay, we didn't investigate the warming powers of the fireplace, but it certainly added to the ambiance.

Pretty vanity says "Welcome Lady Gulley and Lady Rachel!"
We found every inch of our room comfortable and charming. The bathroom was an ample size with a vanity sink furnished with the hotel’s signature toiletries set on cut glass trays. Hello, inner-princess, we're having a wonderful time!

Final inspection on theater night in front of lovely mirrored closet door.
Even the mirrored closet doors added a touch of vintage panache. Used daily for inspection, they provided a double-dose of reassurance before heading out to our night at the theater.

Lion King must be remembered fondly with a plastic cup.
Back "home" with our Broadway souvenir. Time to unwind in our room and investigate where it all began. . . 

Site of original Waldorf Astoria, now home to the Empire State Building
The Waldorf Astoria’s origins date back to the end of the 19th century when Astor cousins built neighboring luxury hotels (The Waldorf and The Astoria) within four years of each other. 

Constructed on the families’ former residences on 5th Avenue and 33rd Street, it was the ultimate in accommodations for its era. Eventually, the site was sold to make way for the Empire State Building and the Waldorf Astoria moved to its current location in 1931. Since then, it’s hosted presidents, royalty and Hollywood’s elite for seven decades.

TV drama always better in a luxurious room
Back to the Gulley Girls, circa 2015.  We got so comfortable during our stay, we took a break in our room to rest up and catch up on a little DOOL.  Watching Dr. Daniel express his feelings to Nicole were never enjoyed in a more cushy setting.

Toasting our last night at the Peacock Alley. Must return for afternoon tea!
We toasted our last night in New York at the hotel lobby’s delightful Peacock Alley Restaurant. We were well tended to and not rushed. It was wonderful just to take a few minutes to soak in the regal environs of our temporary home.

Our only disappointment was finding out afternoon tea is not served during the months of July and August. That must mean, we surely have to come back.