Today marks my 8th Blogiversary. Eight years since I began My Island Bistro Kitchen food blog. My, how time does fly!
In previous years, I marked this day with some kind of special sweet treat. You can check those out by clicking on the links at the end of this posting. It has occurred to me that I have never celebrated the occasion with a simple Cream Tea. And, regular followers of my blog will know I love anything related to a tea event! So, a Cream Tea it is to celebrate my 8th Blogiversary! Continue reading A Cream Tea to Celebrate 8th Blogiversary→
As I write this post, it’s autumn – the days are shorter and cooler and leaves are off the trees, all signs that winter on PEI is not far off. This time of the year always makes me think of warm and cozy teas leisurely enjoyed in front of the fireplace.
My late day event today is what I’m calling a “savoury tea” – which, because of my menu choices, most closely resembles (but is not quite) a “high tea”. I’m drawing the menu from previous postings to my food blog so those interested in the food items can access my recipes by clicking on the hotlinks throughout this posting.
Some people refer to the traditional afternoon tea of dainty (and always crustless) sandwiches, scones, and an array of sweets as “high tea” (which it isn’t). I’m not sure why this happens – perhaps it is because the food is often served on a tall (hence “high”) three-tier server (pictured below), or curate stand, along with fancy cups and saucers on the table or it may be because the mere mention of afternoon tea evokes the notion that it is a “high” society event. In any event there is a distinction between a “high tea” and an “afternoon tea” (the latter sometimes referred to as a “low tea”).
Originally, afternoon teas consisted of light refreshments served on low tables like coffee tables, for example. The idea of an afternoon tea was to have some refreshments, mid-afternoon, to counter the sluggishness often experienced in the afternoon and to stave off the hunger until dinner was served later in the evening. Partakers would often be seated in comfy armchairs as opposed to formal dining chairs and would use the low tables upon which to set their cup and saucer and refreshments. In fact, some high-end hotels in London serve afternoon tea in the surroundings of their lobbies and, indeed, comfortable armchairs and sofas are still used along with low coffee tables. Today, however, the traditional afternoon tea is most often served at regular height tables. What characterizes a traditional afternoon tea are crustless finger sandwiches, scones, sweets and, of course, tea.
High tea, on the other hand, is more like a light supper featuring hot menu items which are most frequently served at a regular height table. Foods denoting a high tea might include egg dishes like quiches, and/or dishes that include meat and fish. Bread or biscuits would most commonly be served but less likely sandwiches if hot savoury dishes are part of the menu. And, of course, there would indeed be tea! High teas, then, tend to be comprised of more substantial fare and are typically served later in the afternoon or early evening as in the case of mine today. For those who watch the British soap opera, Coronation Street, you’ll often hear the characters invite others “round for tea” – it’s “high tea” or supper they are referring to in this context. (Yes, I’m a “Corrie” fan!)
Because of the choice of menu items I am serving, my savoury tea is, therefore, most similar (but not quite identical) to a “high tea” versus an “afternoon tea”.
I was fortunate enough to find an antique Gibbard tea trolley, in relatively decent condition, a few years ago and it is, indeed, handy. I love to use it for displays in my dining room and, because it has a double drop leaf, it often serves as my tea table when it is just tea for two. It’s the perfect size to hold all the tea elements and is easily wheeled to whatever location in the house I choose for the tea. (I am still on the hunt for a Roxton maple tea trolley in excellent condition to match my dining room set so, if anyone on PEI has one they are interested in parting with, or knows someone who does, please get in touch!)
The tablecloth square on my tea table is one I bought in Burano on my last trip to Italy. Yes, when I’m looking for mementos of trips, my interests usually veer toward tabletop items and foods local to the area!
Napkin folds for tea tables tend to lean toward basic, classic designs, much like the simple triangular fold I’ve chosen here. Most often, the folds tend to be flat designs as opposed to stand-up folds and the napkins are usually plain in color.
I like to include fresh flowers on my tea tables. They don’t have to be anything more elaborate than a simple bouquet of mini carnations. The arrangement, however, does need to be proportionately sized. Floral arrangements for tea tables are typically quite small, especially if it is a tea table set for two. Using a single color and variety of flower keeps the look simple and uncluttered.
Dishes and Glassware
Sometimes, it’s nice to use a formal tea set or pieces from formal china for tea settings. Matching pieces do lend an air of formality and cohesiveness to the setting. However, it’s totally acceptable to have a mix of dishes on the tea table so long as they coordinate in style and color.
Always use small tea-sized plates, or supper plates, for tea events. Small portions of food characteristic of tea fare just look better on small plates as the food does not appear so minuscule and “lost” as it would on a large dinner plate, for example. These pink design plates were a thrift shop find.
From my collection, I have simply chosen two different teacups and saucers that I particularly like. They both have pink designs to compliment the plates.
Both cups have wonderful designs inside and outside.
The teapot, a Sadler, also has a pink theme. The pink shades coordinate with the salmon pink shade highlighted in the tablecloth.
I found these little pedestal glasses with cranberry trim at a second-hand shop and knew they would be perfectly sized for tea tables. They lend an air of elegance and color to the table.
I adore my three-tier servers! They give an air of elegance and sophistication to any tea table. Plus, they are super useful and an efficient way to serve the food. All the food items can be brought to the table at once on one unit, taking up less space as tea tables tend to be small and compact. Sandwiches/savoury items go on the bottom tier, scones/biscuits on the middle tier, followed by the tempting sweet treats on the top tier.
So, here is what is on my five-course savoury tea menu.
~ Starter ~
Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares
~ Savoury ~
Baked Stuffed Fingerlings
Mini Lobster Cakes
~ Biscuits ~
Biscuits served with lemon curd and preserves
~ Sweet Offerings ~
Dark and Light Fruitcake
Frypan Cookie Balls
Gluten Free Earl Grey Cranberry-Orange Shortbread
Gluten Free Melting Moments
~ Dessert ~
Luscious Lemon Curd Tartlets
~ Tea ~
Fortnum and Mason’s “Afternoon Tea” blend
The traditional order in which to consume tea foods are sandwiches/savouries first, followed by the scones/biscuits, and ending with the sweets. So, let’s take a closer look at the menu items.
In keeping with the small portion size conducive to tea serving size, I’m serving the soup in small soup cups and threading the grilled cheese squares on to a skewer.
For the savoury course, I have selected three hot items – mini harvest quiches, baked stuffed fingerlings, and mini lobster cakes. By clicking on the foregoing hotlinks, you can access my recipes. I will often plan ahead for tea events when I am doing my batch cooking for the freezer. In this case, I made some mini quiches and lobster cakes earlier and had them frozen. This allows me to add some variety to my tea events that I probably might not otherwise have if I had to mix up special small batches especially for a tea event.
The fingerlings are stuffed with sausage, cheese, tomato sauce, and seasonings and are tasty little bites.
Living on PEI, lobster fishing is one of our main fisheries so, naturally, I am going to include it in some fashion on my menu. The small lobster cakes are served with a small dob of sour cream.
Keep the size portions small – they can be the same size as appetizers/hors d’oeuvres or very slightly larger. For example, I use the small individual tart shells for the mini quiches because I like the look of a complete, uncut quiche for each serving. If using pieces cut from a larger quiche, I recommend making the quiche in a small quiche/pie plate 6” – 8” in diameter, no larger.
Because this is a savoury tea, I am swapping out the traditional scones associated with afternoon tea and am replacing them with biscuits. I currently have two biscuit recipes on my food blog – classic tea biscuits and whole wheat biscuits. Either works well with this type of tea.
Biscuits are less sweet and rich than scones and I think they go better with my savoury tea. That doesn’t mean, however, that lemon curd and preserves can’t be enjoyed with biscuits! It’s a great way to transition the palate from the savoury course to the sweets!
I have made a batch of my lemon curd to enjoy with the biscuits. Sometimes, I will use small dishes for the preserves but, if I have the small jars, I will often use them because I like the look of the tiny jars clustered together on a server plate!
This is an optional course because, really, the sweets themselves are generally sufficient. However, a nice touch is to add one special signature dessert. With my fresh batch of lemon curd, a luscious lemon curd tartlet was an obvious choice. I added some bright red raspberries for contrast along with a sprig of greenery.
My tea selection is one of my personal all-time favorites – Fortnum & Mason’s “Afternoon Tea” blend which I brought home from my latest trip to London. When in London, I always try to make time for a stop at Fortnum & Mason’s flagship store on Piccadilly to browse through their food halls and to pick up some of their tea. This tea from Ceylon is crisp and refreshing yet full bodied so it goes equally well with a savoury tea as it does with a traditional afternoon tea.
I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to go out for afternoon tea but, unfortunately, where I live, there are no restaurants or hotels that offer this option. I think that’s why, when I’m in London, I allot time for 1-2 afternoon teas which are always a highlight of my visits. I often agonize over which ones to choose because there are so many wonderful options. I have written postings on three I particularly enjoyed and you can access those by clicking on the following links: Afternoon Tea in London and “Scents of Summer” Afternoon Tea in London.
Tea time can be elaborate or simplified and, with some planning, can be made in to an event for entertaining family and friends at home. You’ll find inspiration for tea events of all sorts here on my blog. Simply go to the “Afternoon Teas” menu or type “Afternoon Tea” in the search box on the home page.
The sweet little Lily of the Valley, with its dainty bell-shaped flowers, has long been a favorite flower of mine. Close to 40 years ago, a very dear friend of mine had a cottage on the shores of Rosebank (now Stratford), PEI. Every spring, I’d make the trek to the cottage to pick a couple of bouquets of these fragrant flowers and there would be a posy on the dining room table and another on my desk at work. I was thrilled when the offer came for me to dig up a clump of the Lily of the Valley roots from the prolific crop by the cottage front step. I transplanted them at our family home. A cottage and two house builds later and transplants of the lilies have occurred at each property, all derived from the same clump of lilies that came from the Rosebank cottage. When I see the lilies bloom each spring, particularly by the cottage front step, I am reminded of sweet memories of another cottage long ago and its owner who is no longer with us.
The birth flower of May, Lily of the Valley has various meanings and significance. Said to signify traits of humility, trustworthiness, chastity, sweetness, and purity, it is also believed to bring luck in love and mean the return of happiness. This, undoubtedly may be the reason why it is often used in wedding decorations and bridal bouquets. There have been some very famous brides who have incorporated Lily of the Valley into the composition of their bouquets. Kate Middleton, in her 2011 wedding to Prince William, included Lily of the Valley in her bouquet as did her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana, when she wed Prince Charles in 1981.
I often feature different favorite flowers on my tea tables but I have never featured Lily of the Valley, primarily because it is a short season flower and it is always in bloom during a very busy time of the year for me. This, despite the fact that I have cups and saucers and plates that have Lily of the Valley designs. So, this year, I decided I would make time for an afternoon tea that features Lily of the Valley and my themed cups and saucers.
It’s not necessary to have matching cups and saucers on a tea table. In fact, I think it’s much more interesting to have a variety of China cups and saucers.
Not all afternoon teas have to have three distinct courses – scones, sandwiches, and sweets. Today, my tea table has only two courses – sandwiches and a single dessert. In keeping with the freshness of early summer on PEI, I have opted to go with open-faced sandwiches, providing three varieties — Island lobster, egg salad, and ham.
There are two different trays of sandwiches on the table – the ones with a white bread base (shown in the photo below) are gluten-free.
And, of course, for tea sandwiches, the crusts must always be removed.
The little purple pansy adds a burst of color to the ham sandwich and dresses it up for the table.
Lobster is very common on PEI and lends itself well for presentation on an open-faced tea sandwich. Can’t you just taste that succulent lobster!
Egg salad makes a wonderful topping for open-faced tea sandwiches. A burst of purple color from the pansy and the green alfalfa sprouts make these sandwiches stand out on the tray. I picked up the fresh alfalfa sprouts at the Summerside Farmer’s Market. They were grown locally in Pleasant Valley at “Our Old Island Market Farm”. I frequent both the Charlottetown and Summerside Farmers Markets and I love to make new discoveries of products being produced by our Island farmers.
Curious as to what’s in the little white teapots? One of my favorite teas is Assam Banaspaty which I buy at David’s Tea in Charlottetown. That’s the blend in the individual teapots on today’s tea table.
Assam Banaspaty is a lovely rich, smooth tea from India. It has some honey notes with malty undertones. It boasts a lovely amber color. I like a spot of milk in my tea and Assam Banaspaty has enough tannins that it can take a splash of milk without the tea’s flavor being smothered. I’d class this as a robust tea yet it is suitable for all courses of an afternoon tea. I am, therefore, serving just one blend of tea at my afternoon tea today.
I like tea cups that carry the design to the inside of the cups. It makes them just a bit more interesting.
Rhubarb is in season in PEI around the same time as the Lily of the Valley bloom and, of course, one of my all-time favorite desserts is Rhubarb Custard Torte which graces my table for the dessert course today. Sometimes, it is nice to have a variety of dainty tea squares and cookies and, other times, a signature dessert like this torte make a splashy and ever-so-tasty statement.
I hope you have enjoyed a little look into the offerings on my tea table today. Can’t you just smell the intoxicating scent of this bouquet of Lily of the Valley!
Afternoon teas are a splendid and relaxing way to spend an afternoon and catch up with friends. Teas are perfect for special events such as birthdays, Easter, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. For me, though,there doesn’t have to be an occasion or an event to have afternoon tea – I love the experience at any time of the year. That said, Valentine’s Day is a great time to host an afternoon tea for friends. It’s a gorgeous girly treat! So, come along and have a peek at my afternoon tea before my guests arrive.
My color theme for this year’s Valentine’s Tea is pink and yellow, both cheery colors in the mid-winter. These beautiful tulips were grown here in PEI in the Vanco greenhouses in Mount Albion, not far from Charlottetown.
I am centering the afternoon tea around the coffee table in front of the fireplace. Cozy sofa and chairs invite a relaxing afternoon of conversation while sampling some of my home-baked treats.
I have chosen to use my Royal Albert “Lavender Rose” china for the tea and I love, love, love three-tier servers!
For an afternoon tea, it is not necessary to have several kinds of sandwiches, though that is quite lovely. Two to three varieties are just fine. Traditional tea sandwiches for my event today include tomato and shaved turkey, and ham and Havarti cheese. I like to use different breads for the sandwiches because it adds variety to the tea plate. Sometimes I cut the sandwiches into different shapes but, today, I have simply used the traditional fingertip sandwich.
Fresh scones straight from the oven are always divine, especially with a light dusting of sugar.
I picked up the jams on a recent trip to England – I am always on the lookout for items suitable for one of my afternoon teas!
Clotted cream and lemon curd, two staples on the tea table! I could eat a jar of lemon curd just on its own!
Tender and flaky scones make a great base for the lemon curd and red berry jam.
The fresher the scones, the better!
The tartness of the lemon curd plays off well against sweet jam.
And, on the sweet plate: Simple custard with a dob of lemon curd served in small stemmed liqueur glasses, lemon spritz shortbread cookies, and pink macarons.
I love the delicate shades of pale yellow and pink together!
The macarons are flavorful, light and airy in texture.
A selection of specialty teas from the teabox allows each guest to choose her favorite!
I find tea always seem to taste so much better out of a china cup and saucer!
I was recently in London and, of course, a visit to London for me without having afternoon tea would not be complete! On each visit, I aim to have tea at a different venue.
My travels this visit took me to the Intercontinental London Park Lane Hotel which occupies a prominent and historic location near London’s Hyde Park, in the heart of Mayfair. Afternoon tea at the Park Lane is served in the Wellington Lounge which occupies the former site of 145 Piccadilly that was Her Majesty the Queen’s former childhood home. This location remained her home until 1937 when the family moved to Buckingham Palace. The home itself was destroyed during war. Between 1968-1975, the Intercontinental London Park Lane Hotel was constructed on the site.
The Wellington Lounge of the Park Lane, in its taupe and white hues, is elegant and sophisticated, yet casual. Comfy chairs invite a time of leisure lingering over tea. Three menu options are available for afternoon tea: The Market Garden Tea, the Royal Tea, and a seasonal tea which changes regularly throughout the year. We experienced the new “Scents of Summer” Afternoon Tea that boasts a menu inspired by the beauty of British summer time. The menu had only been introduced four days prior to our arrival and will be available throughout the summer season until September 27, 2015.
Our afternoon tea was as much a treat for all the senses as it was for the palette. Unhurried, my Mom and I spent a most enjoyable three hours savoring the creativity of Executive Chef Ashley Wells and Edward Bodenham of British Family Perfumers, Floris London. We found the servers to be knowledgeable, attentive, and accommodating without being intrusive. Rather than simply delivering the customary three-tier server with all the food on it at once, the Scents of Summer was served in individual courses. For each course, Luigi, Senior Associate, Tea and Coffee Expert, explained the food, the best order in which to consume items, and suggested appropriate tea pairings to complement the food.
We first began with a palette cleanser of rose pearl wheatgrass, bushe berries, gooseberry, and citrus mist. This grass-based starter, served on a small tuft of grass, was a tribute to the earth.
This was followed by a selection of four different, colourful, and tasty pinwheel/scroll sandwiches presented on the plate in a design that resembled the shape of a butterfly.
Luigi recommended the order in which to most effectively consume the pinwheels starting with a light rose-pickled cucumber and Mascarpone on Peruvian bread followed by the more hearty salmon and Bergamot served on lemon bread.
We then progressed on to a slightly spicy pink peppercorn and thyme chicken pinwheel on tomato bread and, finally, the honey roast pumpkin with crumbled feta on spinach bread.
The tea we enjoyed with this course was Second Flush Darjeeling which some claim to be the ‘champagne of tea’.
The server plates were deftly removed and were replaced with the elements of the course that featured scones. Dainty buttermilk scones, fresh and still warm from the oven, were brought to the table and placed on the server along with small dishes of Devon clotted cream, wild strawberry jam, lemon curd with pink peppercorn, and Bergamot-infused Earl Grey butter.
This was accompanied by a spritz of a citrus-based spray as a “sensory” introduction to the scones course.
The scones – two plain and two sultana — were the most tender scones I have ever tasted!
Luigi recommended to first spread the jam on the scone half, then top it with the clotted cream. Literally, these scones melted in the mouth!
The recommendation of tea to pair with the scones was a full body Earl Grey Assam Tea. I must admit I have never been an Earl Grey tea fan and I usually put milk in my tea. However, Luigi recommended no milk and I found this tea was indeed a fine complement to the scones course.
Then came the pièce de résistance – the selection of sweet indulgences. Truly, these were nothing short of a work of art in the presentation that was only surpassed by the sublime melange of flavors, scents, and tastes.
Again, Luigi expertly explained each item on the tray, offering suggestions for the order in which to partake. He also recommended that the palette be cleansed and refreshed via the fresh summer berries or chocolate “pebbles” in between consuming each sweet so that the true flavors of each could be fully appreciated.
Everything you see on the tray in the photo above was edible, including the very realistic looking pebbles and the fresh pansies. A quick spritz of a floral spray with top notes leaning into Jasmine scents set the stage reminiscent of an English country garden in summer.
We first sampled the petite Jasmine Tea Cake which was delicately flavored and ever-so-tasty.
We next savoured the luscious Violet Cream and Grapefruit Tart.
Then, we moved on to the Bergamot and blackcurrant flower macarons which were ever so light, delicately chewy, and yet airy. For those who are connoisseurs of French macarons, they know that it is a skill to achieve the perfect macaron and these certainly fell within that category.
This was followed by the Peach Melba mousse encased in chocolate to create a realistic looking peach that could have just been picked from a tree.
The grand finale, the “Flower Pot”, was designed to be shared between two people. This consisted of rose water and pink peppercorn jelly with wild strawberry mousse served in a chocolate Terracotta pot and decorated with chocolate roses.
The tea recommended for this course was the #1 Park Lane Signature Tea which proved itself a wonderful accompaniment to the desserts.
A glass of Moët & Chandon berry floral Rosé was served with the dessert course.
Overall, I was highly impressed with the calibre of food and level of service and hospitality at the Intercontinental London Park Lane’s Wellington Lounge. I found the Scents of Summer Afternoon Tea included traditional tea items like the scones but also stepped it up a notch with the creativity of the choice of bread, and ingredients in, the sandwich pinwheels/scrolls and the selection of sweets that comprised the dessert course. We quite enjoyed having the food served in courses as opposed to simply having a standard three-tier server delivered to the table with sandwiches, scones, and sweets all on it. It lent an element of surprise and anticipation to the experience which was relaxing and unhurried. I was also impressed with the expert advice on tea pairing with each course which I felt added to the quality experience.
If you are in London this summer and go to only one afternoon tea, I recommend the Scents of Summer at the Intercontinental London Park Lane Hotel.
If you are in London this summer and go to only one afternoon tea, I recommend the Scents of Summer at the Intercontinental London Park Lane Hotel. Great thought and care has been taken with the creation of this afternoon tea menu. We spent a most relaxing and enjoyable afternoon over tea at the Park Lane and it was one of the highlights of our 2015 visit to London. Now, if I could just justify another trip to London, I would go in December to experience their holiday tea which Chef Wells is already designing. Based on his Scents of Summer creation, I can only imagine how extraordinary the Christmas afternoon tea will be.
The Scents of Summer afternoon tea experience costs ₤45 + gratuity (generally about 15%) which, at the time of writing totals approximately $100. (CDN) per person.
The Intercontinental London Park Lane Hotel is located at One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, London, England, W1J 7QY (Tel: +44(0)20 7409 3131. Reservations are required for afternoon tea which is served from 1:00pm – 5:00pm daily. For more information, visit the hotel’s website.
My thanks to the Park Lane for the opportunity to experience their Scents of Summer Afternoon Tea and for the fine hospitality. My afternoon tea at the Intercontinental London Park Lane Hotel was complimentary for the purpose of conducting a review of the new Scents of Summer offering. However, this in no way influenced my opinions of the afternoon tea experience. All opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.
To read my reviews of afternoon tea at the Georgian Room at Harrods and at The Orangery at Kensington Palace, click here.
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Sometimes, amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s nice to simply curl up by the fire with a good book and a fine cup of tea. But why stop at a cup of tea when you can while away the afternoon with tasty fare served up in style. So, when you have no one else to please but yourself, you can still pamper yourself and enjoy a fine afternoon tea.
Curious about what’s on the tea table today? Let’s have a look-see what’s on the two-tier server. Anyone who knows me really well knows I love my tiered servers!
Let’s start with the sandwiches. Today’s offering is a simple egg salad sandwich, nice and easy to prepare, but ever so tasty!
Today I am serving a traditional scone with clotted cream, blackcurrant and blueberry jam, and my own lemon curd.
On the sweet plate, a selection of treats that include a macaron, melting moment cookie, Hello Dolly square, fruitcake, and some fresh raspberries. Are you drooling yet?
The macaron is filled with just a wee bit of buttercream icing.
This personal-sized teapot was a thrift shop find several years ago. It holds just two cups of tea, perfect for one person.
Today’s tea is Stash’s Decaf English Breakfast, one of my all-time favorites.
While they are not a matched set, these tea plates work with the cup and saucer. Sometimes, mismatched china actually adds charm and character to a tea setting.
I love the blending of the pink shades! It’s very girly!
Thanks for dropping in for a spot of tea. Enjoy your week!
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Brrrrr, it’s been a cold day on Prince Edward Island. Our first cold snap of the season. Temperatures were around -13C but, with the wind chill, it certainly felt a lot colder than that. A good day to curl up by the fireside with some tasty food and a good cup of tea.
Was overseas to New Brunswick yesterday and, of course, that meant a stop at Tony’s Bistro and Pâtisserie in Moncton. I introduced you to this great French Pâtisserie back in November (click here for the link to the story).
We had lunch at Tony’s yesterday and, naturally, I had to bring home some goodies that we could have for afternoon tea today. Ready to have a peek?
Let’s start with these tasty little quiches. Nice flaky pastry, these were delicious!
Then, there was the White Chocolate Rocher cake. This was seriously rich and decadent! Layers of decadence!
Did you check out the little white meringue trees? Light as air.
My choice of tea today was the Lady Slipper Blend from Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley. You can read the story I previously published on this tea company by clicking here.
The China cups and saucers are Royal Vale but I could find no pattern name on them.
This will be my last afternoon tea of 2014 so thank you to those who have visited my tea table over the past year. I will also be joining Sandi’s last Tea Time party of the year over at Rose Chintz Cottage.
One of my absolute favorite ways to celebrate the holidays is with a festive afternoon tea. It’s a relaxed way to entertain whether it’s one guest or several. The best part of entertaining with afternoon tea is that much of the preparation can be done in advance before guests arrive.
Today, my afternoon tea setting is for two in front of the warm and cozy fireplace and beside the Christmas tree. It’s a reason to stop, pause, and relax during the busy Christmas preparations.
I have been fortunate in finding some pieces of Christmas China over the years that just beg for an afternoon tea experience. The teapot and teacups are made by Sadler.
The tea is being served on a tea trolley. I like the versatility of trolleys as they can be used solely as a serving unit beside a larger table or even, depending on their size, as a miniature self-serve buffet. Or, either one or both of the trolley extensions can be lifted, turning the unit into a tea table as I have done today. This tea trolley is the larger of the two I own.
A few years ago, I found the delightful Christmas table square in the photo above. With its poinsettias and candles, it became the canvas and theme for today’s tea.
I like the miniature poinsettias like the one in the photo above. I use them on tea tables, in placesettings, and on bed trays because they are just the perfect size and add a touch of Christmas wherever they are used.
I have been searching for some time now for a small set of sugar tongs. I found the antique tongs in a local second-hand shop recently. The tea plates in the photo below are Royal Adderly “Poinsettia” pattern.
I love tiered servers and, while there are many pretty floral ones available, my preference is for the plain white because the food really stands out against the white background. I can mix and match my teapots and cups and saucers much easier with a white server than with a floral.
I have followed the traditional order of placement on a three-tier server: sandwiches on the bottom plate, scones on the middle, and sweets on the top tier.
The green spinach tortillas with the dots of dried cranberries add color to the sandwich plate and the fresh raspberries add a splash of red against the white bread.
The cranberry scones in the photo above are from a recipe in the “Best of Bridge Holiday Classics” cookbook that was released in 2014.
An easy way to get a taste of cherry cheesecake when you only want a couple of servings is to make them individually in tiny glasses.
Of course, a traditional tea tray would include fruitcake. This is my own recipe which I developed and shared earlier and you can find it by clicking here.
Here is the menu for the tea.
~ Eggnog with a sprinkle of Nutmeg ~
~ Selection of Tea Sandwiches ~
Sliced Turkey with Cranberry Mayonnaise
Cucumber with Herbed Cream Cheese
Pinwheel Spinach Wraps with Cream Cheese, Fig Goat Cheese, Sliced Turkey, Green Onions and Dried Cranberries
~ Scones ~
– Cranberry Scones served with Butter and Homemade Strawberry Jam ~
~ Sweets ~
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Dark Fruitcake
Miniature Cherry Cheesecake
Brown Sugar Fudge
~ Tea Selection ~
Kenyan Tinderet (David’s Tea)
I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into my Christmas afternoon tea.
My best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful Christmas season.
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Lots of new things to share in today’s afternoon tea posting!
I have been looking for a long time for a tea cart, or tea trolley. I was specifically looking for a Roxton maple cart but none was showing up. However, I was able to find one in a darker wood that is in need of a little TLC at some point but is still usable in the meantime. So, our afternoon tea today was served via the new-to-me tea cart.
The second new acquistion is the little circular tablecloth. I bought it at the local Anne of Green Gables store on the corner of Queen and Richmond Street in downtown Charlottetown, PEI. They have a great selection of these types of small tablecloths, squares, and runners, and at reasonable prices. I particularly like the sunflower design for late summer and autumn use. It also looks great on the centre of my light maple dining room table.
The third new treasure (I told you there were lots!) is the new-to-me Ellgreave teapot. While I tend to lean toward pretty pinks, yellows, and mauves in teapot colors, the shape and the gold trim of this one particularly took my eye. The colors are also suitable for autumn teas.
I chose a couple of teacups and saucers from my small autumn collection. Both blend well with the teapot colors.
I like the rich tones in the rose in the above teacup (Cololough, Eng.) along with its gold trim to match that on the teapot. I like the fall motif on the cup (Royal Vale, Eng.) below.
The fourth new discovery comes from Tony’s Bistro and Pâtisserie in Moncton, New Brunswick. I was recently overseas “to the mainland”, as many of us Islanders say, and on the recommendation of a colleague, went to Tony’s Bistro for lunch. It was difficult to pass by the two display cases filled with delectable sweet treats. While I normally prepare all the food for my afternoon teas, I thought it would be fun to have someone else’s sweets for a change. And, I was not disappointed! Eager to have a look at my choices? (Note: All food items on today’s tea table, with the exception of the chocolate truffles, came from Tony’s.)
First the Raspberry Macarons. These are so light and airy with just the right touch of chewiness. Divine perfection.
These crisp little raspberry-filled shortbreads had just the right amount of crunch.
And, last but not least, this delectable cake that no chocolate lover could resist!
So, if you are lucky enough to have a great French pâtisserie in your area, tea time can be very easy as you don’t have to bake! All you have to do is make a stop at your favorite pâtisserie and then add the location, dishes, fine company, and a good pot of tea. It’s also a good opportunity to try specialty items that you might not normally bake yourself.
Today’s tea selection is a classic, full-bodied black tea from King Cole, another New Brunswick company. My afternoon tea has a distinct New Brunswick influence today!
Now that the tea elements have been duly admired and photographed, it’s time to sit down for tea!
I hope you have enjoyed taking a peek at my afternoon tea. If you find yourself in Moncton, I recommend checking out Tony’s Bistro and Pâtisserie at 137 McLaughlin Drive.
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If you are a regular patron of the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market and happen to be a tea drinker, chances are you are familiar with Katherine Burnett and the Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley brand of teas and tea bar at the market.
I recently sat down with Katherine for brunch at the farmers’market to learn more about her tea business.
Katherine grew up on PEI but lived off Island for many years before returning in 2006. In 2001, while living in Charlotte, NC, Katherine began hosting tea parties as a ministry for the elderly. She named her afternoon tea party business “Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley” as a tribute to the memory of a friend, Irene Baker, who enjoyed the finer things in life, like afternoon tea. Interest in the tea parties grew to the point where Katherine was soon hosting afternoon teas for corporations, churches, and even the opera.
As her tea party business grew so, too, did her interest and knowledge in all things tea-related. She pursued online courses in tea blending and attended specialty tea conferences and is now at level 3 (of 4) of the process to be designated a tea sommelier. Katherine is also a member of the Tea Association of Canada.
In the fall of 2007, with just 16 varieties of tea and 2 tea-making machines, Katherine set up a tea bar at the popular Charlottetown Farmers’ Market. The teas come from the major tea-producing countries of India, China, Japan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Taiwan. The imported teas follow strict guidelines, are low in pesticides, and most come from members of the Ethical Tea Partnerships.
Katherine blends some of the teas herself and now sells some 60 varieties of loose tea.
She tells me her most popular blend, which incidentally is her personal favourite, is a black tea she calls the Lady’s Slipper Blend, aptly named after PEI’s official provincial flower. Her pumpkin spice blend enjoys popularity as well with her patrons who favour it for lattes. At the Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley bar at the market, look for specialty tea blends like Abegweit Lullaby to aid sleep and Pink Lady Grey which is an eye-appealing blend featuring Earl Grey tea and pink rose petals. Who knew where a small, modest personal collection of 13 china cups and saucers would lead Katherine!
Since there are several options to brewing tea (e.g., tea bags, loose leaf with infuser or loose tea directly in the tea pot), I asked Katherine for her preference. She says she prefers to brew loose leaf tea in an infuser in the tea pot. Katherine also recommends that the water for the tea first be filtered and then brought to a boil. If brewing green tea, let the water sit until it drops to the proper temperature (85°) before adding and brewing the tea leaves.
I asked Katherine if she sees any trends emerging in tea drinking. She says she is noticing a renewed popularity in tea drinking with specialty tea shops opening and with the wide variety of tea-brewing equipment and stylish infuser mugs readily available. As well, she notices an increased interest in green teas with information and research on its health benefits becoming more widely known. Additionally, there seems to be a new market for teas – those of high school and college age. In fact, this year Katherine prepared special tea packages to be included in the UPEI student welcome kits. With the university being located just across the street from the farmers’ market, it’s likely some of the students will visit the Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley bar on Saturday mornings. Katherine also sees more tea being used in ways other than as a beverage. For example, Chai and Matcha are now often used in baked goods such as muffins and energy bars. In fact, Katherine sells yummy homemade tea energy bars at her booth. Tea lattes are also becoming very popular — ⅔ cup of a strong tea topped up with ⅓ cup of foamed milk. Iced teas remain popular in the hot summer months when many find the drink hydrating and refreshing. Fruit blends of green teas, such as Katherine’s Island Strawberry blend, have become very popular iced teas.
Tea, like coffee, is an enduring popular drink. It’s a beverage that is moving with the times. With its various varieties and blends along with new ways of drinking tea and using it in baking, it’s proof of tradition blending successfully with modern trends.
In addition to being available at the farmers’ market, Lady Baker’s teas are available across PEI at specialty shops and are also found served in many of the Island’s finest restaurants and at select bed and breakfasts. The teas may also be ordered online via the Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley website at http://www.ladybakersteatrolley.com/
Now, it’s time for tea!
I decided to try the Lady’s Slipper tea blend for a late summer afternoon tea. This is a lovely, mellow tea blend with hints of vanilla. I have some pieces of Lady’s Slipper china so it seemed only fitting to feature them with this blend of tea.
The quintessential tea time sandwiches of egg salad and cucumber were served on my Lady Slipper plate.
I used two different styles of Lady’s Slipper china cups and saucers.
The great thing about afternoon tea is that several different pieces of china can be blended and used with success. Not everything has to match perfectly on the table. It just needs to blend.
These dainty little pink glasses blend well with the china and are the perfect size for an afternoon tea table.
The little pottery Lady’s Slipper vase in the photo below was a gift from an elementary school teacher. We had gone on an end of year school outing to a local theme park which had a small gift shop in a flying saucer (readers on PEI will likely guess which theme park I’m referring to). The teacher told us each to pick out something we wanted and it was her gift to us. Even as a small child, I liked pretty things and opted for a vase instead of a toy! I won’t tell you how many years ago that was but let’s just say it wasn’t yesterday! The lovely flowers in the vase are from Island Meadow Farms in York, PEI.
Fresh blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert!
I always say the sign of a true homemade pie is when some of the filling bubbles out 🙂 (Well, that’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it!)
The blueberries for the pie came from Murray’s U-pick in North Tryon. They grow wonderful high bush blueberries.
I hope you have enjoyed meeting the lady behind Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley and dropping by for a spot of her Lady’s Slipper tea blend.
While Mother’s Day is over, I thought I would share some photos from my Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea. We celebrated pretty much the whole weekend. On Saturday, I made and decorated this ruffle cake. Doesn’t it remind you of the old-fashioned ribbon candy that used to be so popular around Christmas time.
I don’t tend to use this method of decorating often because it takes a powerful amount of icing…surely enough to set anyone on a sugar high for days! However, it is a real feminine cake style so it is perfect for Mother’s Day. The photos are showing the color of the icing quite a bit deeper than it was in reality.
My tea this afternoon is really simple. Just the cake and a good cup of “brew”. I don’t worry too much about having everything perfectly matched. Part of the eclectic charm of afternoon tea is having a mixture of china cups and saucers, plates, and teapot. This teapot is a new acquisition to my collection. So long as the colors blend together, they work.
This is a Sadler teapot. I like its “perky” shape and simplistic floral design.
A cut slice of cake reveals just how much icing is on that cake!
A nice sweet treat in the middle of a Saturday afternoon!
Good thing there is a huge pot of tea to go with all that icing!
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Even though Easter is late this year, we still have a lot of snow on PEI. Last week’s moderate temperatures (and no new snow, thankfully) saw the snow settling and starting to melt away. However, we still have plenty in stock!
After such a long, arduous winter, I am so ready for spring and some color other than white snow. My Easter Afternoon Tea this year has yellow as its theme color. I have this Gibsons (England) vintage teapot that I have been wanting to use for a long time and its colors seem to suggest a yellow theme. I like its oval, elongated shape. I also have my Easter tablecloth square with yellow chicks and purple eggs and flowers so yellow it is with some hints of purple.
I have a little growing collection of teacups and saucers. I am featuring a couple of newer acquisitions in this afternoon tea, both of them spring-themed.
The first is my daffodil cup and saucer manufactured by the Rosina China Co. Ltd. in England. I love the shape and floral design on this cup including the design carried through to the inside of the cup.
The second cup and saucer features little purple violets (one of my all-time favorite flowers) with yellow accent flowers. It’s a Royal Albert china cup and saucer and also carries the floral design to the inside of the cup.
My tea selection today from my wee table-sized tea box is Bentley’s Lemon, Honey & Chamomile Herbal Tea.
Yes, even the tea has a yellow cast to it, in keeping with today’s yellow color scheme!
One of my grandmothers gave me this [now vintage] Withernsea England Eastgate Pottery vase when I wasn’t very old. It’s now part of my Easter collection and today it holds bright yellow and white daffodils for our afternoon tea table.
I have folded plain white napkins into bunny ear shapes for each place setting and added a chocolate to each plate because chocolate is so popular at Easter!
I have prepared three kinds of sandwiches for this afternoon’s tea. The first is a triple-decker sandwich with egg filling on potato and green onion bread. The second is honey glazed ham sandwiched between slices of Chia bread. And, the third is a cucumber sandwich on flax bread.
I like to use different breads on my sandwich trays, not only for their unique flavors and how well they enhance the fillings I have chosen, but also for their appearance.
The old question is …. are crusts removed or left on? I think this is really a matter of preference and also how dark the crusts are. I prefer to remove them because I think the sandwiches plate more attractively if the crusts are removed. I save the crusts and make them into crumbs to use for other purposes such as the stuffing for a roasted turkey as I am not one to waste food.
Even though I have a featured dessert for my Easter afternoon tea, I have included a selection of some sweets on the tiered server.
A closer peek? Raspberry Jam Squares, spring- and Easter-shaped shortbread, and chocolate peanut butter balls.
These are the jam squares I featured in my story recently about JJ Stewart Foods and Soda Company. You can get the recipe here.
So, about that featured dessert ……..
I like decorating cakes so I made a vanilla cake, sandwiched it together with lemon filling (keeping the yellow theme going!), iced it in the basket weave design, and decorated it with sugar Easter lilies that I made with royal icing (yes, they are tedious to make and extremely fragile).
Whenever possible, I like to present my decorated cakes on pedestal plates as it gives them more prominence and elegance.
I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into my Easter afternoon tea.
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Today is National Tartan Day. Tartan Day is celebrated each year on April 6th which coincides with the signing of the Scottish Declaration of Independence — the Declaration of Arbroath — in 1320.It is a day of observance to recognize and celebrate the Scottish heritage and the contributions of the Scots and their descendents to Canada’s history, development, and culture.In Canada, the day first originated in Nova Scotia in the late 1980s and then later spread across the country culminating with it being proclaimed, on October 21, 2010, by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, as an observance day all across Canada.I understand it is also celebrated in several other countries around the world.Tartans are, of course, synonymous with Scottish descendents.Tartan Day has a particular significance on Prince Edward Island because, according to the PEI Government website, people of Scottish descent make up the largest ethnic group in the Province.
Canada, as a whole, has the Maple Leaf Tartan as its official tartan which became an official national symbol by ministerial declaration on March 9, 2011. Most provinces also each have their own unique official tartan.The PEI tartan was designed and registered in 1959 by Elizabeth Jean MacLean Reed from Covehead, PEI.Through an official tartan design contest, Mrs. Reed’s tartan was selected and adopted as PEI’s official tartan on June 16, 1960.
The colors of the tartan each represent some aspect of the Island:The overall reddish-brown color signifies the redness of the Island soil; the green portrays the grass and trees; the white represents the whitecaps of the waves that lap our shores, and the yellow is said to stand for the sun. If you have ever had the opportunity to fly in over PEI on a beautiful, clear, sunny day in spring, the landscape of the Island does look like a tartan checkerboard with green fields and trees and the red land. The traditional PEI tartan is a very good depiction of the colors of the Island.
In addition, the Island also has an official dress tartan.
This tartan was designed by Ben Taylor, Scott MacAulay, Barbara Brown, and John (Jock) Hopkirk.Unveiled on June 25, 1992, the dress tartan is a different design from the official provincial tartan although it maintains the overall reddish-green color scheme. The PEI dress tartan substitutes white blocks for one of the darker colors in the traditional tartan.
I recently spoke with Barbara (Brown) Yorke, one of the designers of the PEI dress tartan, to find out when the dress tartan would be worn. Ms. Yorke tells me that the dress tartan is often worn by highland dancers who favor the lighter color (than traditional tartans which tend to be darker) because the kilts, with matching socks, made of the lighter tartan makes the dark shoes of the dancers stand out.
The following photo shows the comparison of the traditional and dress Prince Edward Island tartans with the dress tartan (on the left-hand side of the photo) being much lighter in color.
My celebration of Tartan Day involves an afternoon tea using, of course, my Prince Edward Island tartan teacups and saucers. My tea selection today is Bentley’s Lemon, Honey & Chamomile Herbal Tea.
On my menu for Tartan Day are egg salad sandwiches with dill, along with fruit cake, coconut roll dates, and Scottish oatcakes, of course, to represent my Scottish heritage.
I am using my small ivory and gold-colored teapot this afternoon since it fits in with the rich tones of the Island tartan.
Let’s take a closer look at the elements on the tea table and the significance they bring to a Tartan Day afternoon tea.
One of my favorite tea sandwiches is the traditional egg filling sandwich which is particularly good flavored with dillweed. The yellow egg salad filling represents the yellow in the tartan. The dill and green grapes depict the green in the tartan.
Scottish Oatcakes seem appropriate for my tea table today along with some fruitcake which, incidentally, has the colors of the Prince Edward Island tartan (you’d almost think I planned that but I didn’t!). I added a couple of coconut roll dates to round out the sweet tier.
I used my small two-tier server today. It’s ideal when I am only serving two courses at afternoon tea and it doesn’t take up much room on a small tea table as I am using today.
And, when it all came together, here’s what my tea table looks like today.
My choice of flowers for the tea table are these bright and colorful tulips, grown on PEI in the Vanco Farm greenhouses in Mount Albion. It has been such a long miserable winter, with blizzard after blizzard for the past four months on the Island, that I need colorful flowers to brighten my life! The colors of these seemed to work with my color scheme for today’s afternoon tea.
I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into how My Island Bistro Kitchen celebrated Tartan Day today. Do you celebrate Tartan Day? What are your traditions for the day?
Happy Tartan Day!
 Source:The Government of Prince Edward Island website. http://www.gov.pe.ca/infopei/index.php3?number=1526
Tis the day for the wearing of the green! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
My teatime today offers some aspects of a time-honored classic menu but also offers some more modern fare to tempt the palette.
Warm currant and orange zest scones served with a selection of jams
Spinach Pinwheel Wraps filled with roasted turkey breast, cheddar cheese, and fresh spinach
Pistachio & Chocolate Pudding
Lemon Spritz Cookies
Tea Selection: Twinings Irish Breakfast
Instead of the traditional sandwiches, I opted to serve these pinwheel wraps which are super easy to make. I used a garlic herb cream cheese spread mixed with a good quality olive oil to make it almost the consistency of mayonnaise. I spread that over each spinach wrap, then added two thin slices of roasted turkey. I added some chopped orange pepper and fresh spinach and then sprinkled grated cheddar cheese over the top. I rolled the wraps and placed them in the refrigerator for about an hour before slicing and serving them.
After the sandwiches came the scones, fresh and warm from the oven.
I brought the wee bottles of jam home with me from Stratford-Upon-Avon last October. I knew they would fit in perfectly with my teatime menus and would bring back nice memories of a wonderful cream tea we enjoyed in Stratford-Upon-Avon!
In keeping with my green theme, I made these small pistachio puddings.
The base is ground up chocolate cake (ground Oreo cookies would also work). My featured Island product today is chocolate sauce made on PEI by J.J. Stewart Food and Soda Company. I drizzled a couple of teaspoons of the tasty sauce over the chocolate crumbs then added some pistachio pudding, topped with Cool Whip and sprinkled with chocolate crumbs. A tasty little dessert!
My tea choice for today was Twinings Irish Breakfast blend.
Since we were having our tea around noontime, I figured I could get away with a breakfast blend tea and this black tea is one of my all-time favorites….anytime of the day.
And, of course, I used my Shamrock-patterned dishes
and my Irish linens that I bought some years ago at the Blarney Castle.
Instead of flowers on my tea table, I chose a small Oxalis plant, more commonly known as the Shamrock plant, with its tiny star-shaped white flowers. (I looked but didn’t find any four-leaf clovers on this plant!)
And, of course, I wore the sweater I also bought at the Blarney Castle.
And, when it all came together, this is what my tea table looked like.
I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into how we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. What are your St. Paddy’s Day traditions?
Pistachio and Chocolate Puddings
The little glasses I used only hold a scarce 1/4 cup so, if you are using larger dishes, you will need to vary the amounts accordingly but it is easy as there is really no right or wrong measurements in these puddings!
Add about 1 – 1 1/2 tbsp of ground up chocolate crumbs to each dish. Lightly tamp the crumbs on the base of each dish. Drizzle about 2 tsp chocolate sauce over the chocolate crumb base.
Prepare instant pistachio pudding mix according to package directions. Spoon about 2 tbsp pudding onto chocolate base of each cup. Top with Cool Whip (or your favorite whipped topping). Sprinkle with chocolate crumbs.
An Irish Blessing
May your troubles be less
and your blessings be more
And nothing but happiness
come through your door.
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Is there anything more genteel than afternoon tea! And, is there anything more perfect for a tea event than petit fours. They are so dainty covered in poured fondant; it’s like each one is a tiny parcel waiting to be unwrapped to see what lies inside. For these, I used a simple white cake sandwiched together with rich strawberry jam.
Today’s tea is more on the sweet side. A selection of some of my favorite squares, melting moments, divinity fudge, and macarons.
The addition of a lovely fruit scone never goes wrong, particularly when spread with delectable homemade strawberry jam.
What would Valentine’s be without chocolate-dipped strawberries. In keeping with the pink theme and the delicate pink dishes, I have dipped the s