“I have three teacups,” a friend told me after church today, “and each one has a story.” Yes, I’m sure they do, I thought and I asked her to share them with me. Seems that’s often the way it is with tea things, they have stories infused into them much like the delicate teas they hold, and those stories grow dearer with each passing year.
Tea has been called the cup of humanity and with good reason. It brings people together, it warms you inside and out, lifts spirits, cures what ails you and plenty more besides. Tea is good company when you find yourself alone yet it is the perfect beverage to serve to a crowd. You just cannot go wrong when you decide to put the kettle on.
So why such veneration for tea? Well, I think it goes back to my friend’s comment. It’s the stories connected to the cups. When pulling out the delicate white and gold fleur-de-lis teacup Daddy gave to Mum as an anniversary gift over 40 years ago, I think of them both. He is gone now but handling that cup brings him to mind and into my heart.
I smile as I choose a white porcelain cup hand-painted with vibrant blue morning glories that my husband brought back from an over seas deployment when we were first married. Those separations were lonesome times for me and that cup holds those bittersweet yet beautiful memories.
My hand is extremely gentle as I reach for the seemingly eggshell thin lusterware cup in muted shades of steely blue, white and grey which beautiful Barefoot Girl gave me as a birthday gift last year. I use that one a lot, despite its fragility, because I love it and I love her and it feels so good in the palm of my hand.
Yes, I too can say, I have three teacups and each one has a story. As your eye rests on a tea item in your china cabinet, what story does it have to share? Put the kettle on and tell me all about it!
July is National Iced Tea Month and, until I met my southern husband, I never understood why folks chilled a perfectly good cup of hot tea. After nearly 30 years of marriage, I've learned a thing or two about this beverage and I share it now with you.
In the South, many a native would naturally assume iced tea was born right here in the heart of Dixie, but they’d be wrong. Although a few old cookbooks from the late 1880s and 90s have been found to include instructions for this chilled amber elixir, it wasn’t until the dawn of the 20th century that iced tea truly arrived on the scene in this country.
In 1904 at the World’s Fair held in St Louis, MO, the beverage was truly born. A young Englishman, Richard Blechynden, employed by the East India Company, had a plan to bring robust Indian black tea to America. Up until this time much of the tea coming into the US was green and from China. Mr. Blechynden brought a few well- trained Indian servants dressed in traditional clothing, complete with turbans, with him to serve this hot tea with true Indian flair. Sadly, opening day at the fair reached more than 90ºF and no one could bear to try the hot black tea, no matter how delicious it might have been.
Now Mr. Blechynden was a business man and quickly altered his plan to push his product on the public despite the heat. The hot tea was poured over ice and suddenly his stand was very popular. The public loved the bold black tea from Indian and they loved it cold. The beverage was taken home by fair-goers and shared with family and friends and soon Iced Tea was enjoyed from coast to coast. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, iced tea remains a very popular beverage in the U.S. with up to 80% of all tea consumed cold.
Here’s my personal favorite iced tea recipe: 4 tsp strong black Assam loose-leaf tea in one quart of spring water. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning, strain out tea leaves and enjoy! For a far more celebratory beverage, add cream or better still, a bit of sweetened condensed milk. Yum!
This method is called cold brew for obvious reasons and is quite popular right now. So popular, in fact, that tea companies are making all kinds of special brewing vessels just for this type of tea. My favorite pitcher and strainer all-in-one is shown in this photo and if you would like one, please contact The Three Sisters!
Tucked in amongst the tea accouterments are a few oddities worth mentioning. In an earlier post the illustrious "slops" pot was highlighted but here are a few more items sure to make you scratch your head.
This cute little cup is delicate, colorful and very feminine, but wait...it has TWO handles! Have you ever seen a teacup like that? Chances are no, not a tea cup. This is actually a soup cup and the two handles are held for sipping consommé or other clear broth soups. So it's not a teacup at all. Looks can be deceiving!
How about this one? Still looks like a teacup, even has one handle just like it should, but what's the bat wing doing in there? Well, this one is a mustache cup. Yes, you read that right. During Victorian times and into the Edwardian era these were offered to men with facial hair in an attempt to keep the mustache dry. As improvements in razors were made and beards fell out of fashion, so too did the mustache cup. One very amusing fact to point out is that these teacups for men were often so flowery and fancy. Not at all what you would except a man to use!
Hummm, coasters perhaps? That would be an excellent guess. These are called cup plates and they were used for a short period of time by hot tea drinkers in England and the Colonies. When tea was too hot to drink directly from the cup, a small amount was poured into the saucer, given a moment to cool, then drunk. But the bottom of the teacup could not be placed back in the saucer while this was happening and it was unthinkably poor manners to set a cup directly on the table so...the cup plate was created. Like the tea table needed one more item on it! Today these plates are quite collectable and often feature some kind of local historic motif on the surface.
This one is easy. A circa 1950-60s luncheon plate with matching punch/teacup, right? Well, yes but...
6178 Adamson Circle * Chattanooga, TN 37416 *(423)521-4832 *www.pollyclaires.com
We were looking for a tearoom to visit as we planned to celebrate Barefoot Girl's final, final exam at UT Chat and had read about Polly Claire's in the Tennessee Home and Farm magazine. We made reservations and headed out. The tearoom is situated inside the completely renovated historic Dent House, circa 1854, and is just lovely to behold from the exterior.
The interior is beautiful, too! We were seated at a comfortable table by a window and after making a selection from nearly 30 loose leaf teas, exhaled, relaxed and steeped in the beauty which surrounded us.
We enjoyed the afternoon tea, which was classic, fresh, so delicious and well-balanced in flavors... you know, not-too-sweet! The portions looked so small but don't be fooled, we left our table extremely sated and feeling so refreshed. It was a delightful experience! Polly Claire's is family-owned with a well-trained wait staff who really know their teas. In addition to afternoon tea, they also serve daily lunches and dinners and are available for private parties. Behind the house is a charming gift store full of their signature Royal Albert china, books and other lovely keepsakes. We drove about three hours to enjoy this tea and would do it again in a heartbeat!
Each April, when the violets begin to bloom, it's time!
Butterfly Girl gathers cups and cups of tiny violet blossoms in her basket and then the fun begins.
Inside, we steep 4 cups of flowers in 1 3/4 cups boiling water for an hour or so, then strain out the beautiful azure water into a large clear glass and add 1/4 cup lemon juice. Don't look away or you'll miss the magic! (Actually the violet "tea" is just a ph indicator but to think of it as magic is so much more fun!)
Next, bring the liquids to a boil in a large pot then add 1 oz of pectin and 2 cups of sugar to liquids, return to a rolling boil, stirring constantly for one minute and remove from heat, pour into 1/2 pint hot canning jars, place on sterilized lids and rims and water bath 5 minutes. Makes about 3 half pints. Just enough to enjoy but not too much...it's rather sweet, but, oh my, how pretty it looks on classic cream scones! Enjoy this spring treat with a cup of English Breakfast tea with milk or perhaps a small spoonful of...violet jelly!
On occasion, when the tulips are in bloom, Crescent Bend House and Gardens in Knoxville, TN hosts afternoon teas inside their historic home. Mid-TN Tea Travelers made reservations and then trekked east on I-40. The tea was held in a gorgeous, white, sunlit room overlooking terraced gardens and the Tennessee River.
Our tables were elegantly laid in the colors of Easter eggs and three-tired trays held our meal. We enjoyed a fun demonstration on scarf tying, received various door prized and ended the event with a tour of the house and gardens. The tea was catered by a local café and the menu was very traditional and good, though a little too sweet overall. Tea was a selection of teabags with snappy hot water refills. We lingered and enjoyed the beauty of the day, historic location and each other's company before climbing into the car and heading home. Because of all Crescent Bend blends together for this special afternoon tea it is worth the drive and at $25 per person it was very reasonably priced as well.
On a fine, sun-filled April morning our Mid-TN Tea Travelers made plans to journey to McMinnville, TN and enjoy afternoon tea at Falcon Rest Mansion and Tearoom.
This self-described Victorian tearoom was inside a separate, small, dark building with no windows across a gravel lot from the historic mansion also located on the property. Our building was 2/3 musty gift shop and 1/3 pink tearoom.
There were no other guests there that day. All our food and additional hot water was prepared and brought from another building and was very slow in coming. Our meal came pre-plated, as show above, under a domed metal cover. The food was fair and sadly the tea was a selection of teabags with warm water refills from time to time. Overall we were disappointed in this tearoom experience yet, as always, we enjoyed our time together.
John Keats once wrote... a thing of beauty is a joy forever...
Now he may have been speaking of love and perhaps I really shouldn't steal that line for...a teapot...but I will!
You see, these teapots really are beautiful things. Lovely shape, gentle colors, contain a delicious beverage. I think you understand!
In addition to its outward beauty, the main features which make it so noteworthy are:
The cream-colored pot even has a little look-alike. Mother pot holds 32 oz and baby holds 14 oz.
Here Aqua Mint is in action at a recent afternoon tea. Looks like a breath of Spring!
Interested? Stop by for tea and try one out for yourself! The Three Sisters think you will agree this teapot is a thing of beauty!
Butterfly Girl and I share a birthday. She turned ten today and I, well, I turned ten... plus a few decades. Ten years ago she was a marvelous birthday gift to me and I've loved sharing my day with her ever since.
This year, there seemed to be a theme to our gifts. Did you notice? Tea quote, tea pot, tea books and tea. All our favorites!
Barefoot Girl is a Master Herbalist and a master at blending teas. This mix is our special Birthday Blend and it tastes even better than it looks!
Another gift was this little cutie. We have a lot to say about this tea pot. Watch for a full review!
Well, it's been another beautiful birthday. Here we are, the Birthday Buddies, today!
For years, this idea has danced around in our minds. We'd read little snippets about tea dances here and there but did not really understand what they were until picking up yet another tea book. We found just enough information to generate a germ of an idea which grew into a truly enjoyable afternoon.
Seems in the late 1930s and 40s a dance craze swept our country and young people everywhere were looking for any opportunity to get together and dance. Times were hard, though. World War II was in full swing and people seemed focused on more serious things. Enter The Tea Dance! Communities began hosting late afternoon get-togethers for the young people in their towns. From 4 pm to 6 pm, the hours after work but before supper, for 35 cents you could enter a church hall, community center, even a school gym, get a sandwich, a piece of cake and a cup of tea, then spend the rest of the time dancing with all the other youngsters present. This was fun, it was energetic and Dancing Girl just had to host one of her own!
So invitations were sent out, the hall reserved and the menu planned - sandwiches, cakes and tea!
Then, just as in the 1930s and 40s, the youngsters danced the late afternoon away! Oh, and they didn't even have to pay the 35 cents!
618 South Main Street, Springfield, TN 37172
Burdett's Tea Shop is on the historic square in downtown Springfield, TN. Our visit to this tea room celebrated our very first Tea Travel! The tearoom was warm and cozy when we arrived and our party of 8 was seated immediately although we had no reservations. The tea shop had a variety of tea-inspired gifts for purchase such as tea pots, note cards and their own brand of loose tea, Blue Roses. Although they offer a full lunch menu, we all ordered afternoon tea with a variety of loose tea options. Their Russian Caravan was definitely the crowd pleaser with Countess Grey coming in a close second.
The three tiered tray was attractive with the typical tea courses. The sweets included a piece of fudge, which was an interesting idea, but intensely sweet. Finger sandwiches included egg salad and chicken salad and two scones were served. One a savory cheese scone and the other the tea shop's signature raisin scone. Both were freshly bake but dry and the raisin scones were burned on the bottom.
The service was very good and the price reasonable at $16.99 per person. Our group had a very enjoyable tea time at Burdett's and took a leisurely stroll around the downtown square before getting back into the car for the two hour journey home.
Here are a couple of my favorite teacups. Very pretty and feminine and they came from Mum so they have special meaning to me.
Sadly, through the years and constant use, these little beauties have gotten rather dingy inside. So what's a tea drinking girl to do?
With just a bit of baking soda and wet finger tips, thoroughly rub the inside of the cup, hitting all affected areas. Rinse well with warm water and voila!
Just as pretty on the inside as on the out! Mum would be very pleased!
Sometimes a beautifully laid tea table can be elusive but if you keep a few fundamentals in mind you will accomplish your goal every time.
Start at the beginning... a nice round table with a freshly laundered white table cloth.
Add place settings - plates, cutlery, cups, and napkins...
Now add some decorative touches - colorful cloths, coasters, place cards, and flowers, of course!
Last (and best!) of all - the food and beautiful guests. Now that's a perfect table!
Kombucha is a fermented tea which can re-establish the microbiome of one’s gut improving digestion, aiding in detoxification and supplying your body with many vital vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Gather your ingredients.
You will need:
-1 gallon glass jar with a loose-fitting lid
-1 cup organic sugar
-8 organic teabags or loose tea equivalent
-1 cup Kombucha from a previous batch
For tea choose an organic combination of black, green and pu’erh tea. Either 8 tea bags or about 3-4 TBS loose tea.
Boil water and steep tea in quart jar for about 10 minutes
Stir in 1 cup of organic sugar and when tea is completely cooled, pour into your kombucha jar.
Next, add 1 cup of kombucha from your previous batch. This helps the SCOBY get the probiotics growing. Then fill glass jar to equal a gallon of liquid.
Now comes the SCOBY. This is the gelatinous culture of bacteria and yeast which is responsible for turning your sweet tea mixture into delicious, fizzy, probiotic-ladened kombucha. The picture shows the old SCOBY, smaller and darker, on top of a fresh new SCOBY, larger and whiter on bottom.
A new SCOBY should grow during each batch you brew. Separate old from new and put the new SCOBY into your tea mixture.
You can save the old one in a pint jar with a cup of kombucha covering it in the refrigerator, share these with a friend and even dehydrate them into Gummie SCOBY treats, if you‘d like!
Place the entire jar, now filled with all the kombucha components, in a dark corner of your kitchen. Fermentation depends on the warmth of your kitchen, the warmer the temperature the faster the fermentation. Allow kombucha to sit for 5-7 days undisturbed, then take a taste to see if the flavor is tangy and fizzy enough for your tastes. If not, allow to sit for an additional day and test again. If it is delicious, pour the fresh kombucha into a clean glass jar, refrigerate and start the process all over again.
One day a tea guest squealed with excitement while looking through our collection of tea cozies. She said she did not know her favorite clothing designer also made tea cozies! Well, chances are he doesn't...
You see, all our tea cozies are made from designer clothing we find at local thrift stores and up-cycle into one of a kind creations. Barefoot Girl is sensational at creating patterns and she figured out a way to make a cozy with just one sewn seam using four layers of fabric and two of filling. She's amazing!
This one is cut from a very cute, very mini skirt. The ruffle at the bottom was so charming, it just had to be kept in tact for the cozy.
One seam later and it's a new creation. Pretty and practical. What could be better?
...it probably is but it could be a coffee pot or even a chocolate pot. Can you spot the difference
Recently a friend asked me to look at a silver service she had found and explain its pieces. There were two pots which seemed one too many for a single service. Hmmm....what do you think?
Now, to make matters even more confusing, look at each of these silver services. How many pots do you see? And what about that second bowl? Looks like another sugar bowl without a lid. Well, in case you are wondering what all these pieces are for, here's the explanation. The three different pots are for tea, coffee and the one on the warmer in the middle is for hot water. This was used by the hostess to dilute stewed or bitter tea or to weaken overly strong coffee. The water in the middle pot was kept warm by the candle burning beneath it. The extra bowl? Well, that's called a slops pot. Yes, you read that correctly. When your hot beverage was no longer hot enough to suit you or was not to your liking, you simply poured the contents of your cup into the bowl and refilled it with something possessing more taste appeal! So there you have it, more information about tea pots than you ever thought you needed to know but now do know!
When Barefoot Girl's birthday arrives, just what kind of tea does she choose to drink?
Can you guess? It's smokey, oaky lapsang souchong steeped strong with cream and just a tiny sprinkle of raw sugar. Lapsang is a singularly unique tasting tea which has been smoked over a pinewood fire. It is often called "camp fire tea" here at The Three Sisters' Tearoom and the name seems to fit perfectly. Try a cup when you are feeling adventurous or when you are looking for a strong tea to accompany your roast beef sandwich or when you're with Barefoot Girl and she's celebrating her birthday!
When Butterfly Girl asks you to a wildflower tea..
She'll probably have to pick some flowers first. Jewel weed here..
...red clover there
Then you'll have to wait patiently for water to boil and flowers to steep.
But be patient, the results will be...ethereal!
So, when Butterfly Girl asks you to a wildflower tea, just say yes!
Sometimes all it takes is a bit of inspiration, just a germ of an idea, and, as quick as the kettle sings, something special is brewing. And that’s just what happened to us. Over five years ago, an article featured in Tea Time magazine highlighted a mother and daughter team hosting monthly teas in a converted section of their garage in a remote area of rural Illinois. The mother served tea and home-baked treats, while the daughter played classical music on the harp. Over time they outgrew their quarters and renovated the entire garage to further their tea vision.
The day we read that article our tea dream began. We had no tea room, we didn’t even have a garage to convert into one! Quick inventory of what we did have turned up a 40 foot Air Stream travel trailer affectionately dubbed, “Silver Bullet.” Could we use that to host teas? Yes, we could and we did, one small party at a time. The Three Sisters’ Tearoom opened for business! Next we also began to travel, taking teas to libraries, nursing homes, senior centers, churches, schools, and more. It was wonderful but we still longed for a real tearoom right on our property when, without warning, out of the ashes of a barn fire came a beautiful new barn with guest quarters which, when not hosting out-of-town guests, became our tearoom!
June 2017 marked our 2nd anniversary serving tea in our own tearoom. Thank you for turning our dream into a reality!
106 N Anderson St, Tullahoma, TN 37388
Dancing Girl and Butterfly Girl were my guests as I journeyed east to The Celtic Cup in Tullahoma, TN. The girls love anything Irish so they were excited. We found a charming bungalow-style house converted into a tea/lunch room by day and an Irish pub by night, in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
Sadly, once inside we were informed that afternoon tea was only served between the hours of 2pm - 5pm and since we were there at about 1 pm we had to be content with just a pot of tea and a scone. They had a large listing of teas, all in bags, and we each chose our favorite- oolong for me and Lapsang for the girls. Tea arrived in individual pots with charming white teacups laced with green shamrocks. Scones were large and fresh but unadorned. So we had to purchase a pot of lemon curd in their gift store to top them off.
It was a nice warm day and we chose a table in the sun on their side porch instead of sitting inside, which was a bit dark with large leather booths that did not say TEA TIME to us! Overall, we had a nice time despite the detached staff and the disappointment of arriving before afternoon tea was served.
Actually, tea is for any day of the week, but the Three Sisters feel strongly that Tuesday IS tea day. Our tearoom is open a couple of Tuesdays each month but when it is not, we still have tea together. The children invite one another to a special tea time in a well appointed spot, indoors or out.
Scones are made and tea trays are set. Even the boys relish this Tuesday ritual because good food is involved.
Time and time again I am tempted to rush through tea time with the children or skip it all together.
Sometimes I come to the lovingly set tray under our huge Hemlock tree in a huff and sit down with a thud. My poor tea companions! But as tea is poured and the coolness of the creek surrounds us, refreshing more than just my over-heated body, I'm thankful for my children and that Tuesdays are for tea.
1401 Market Street
The English Rose Tearoom is located on the ground floor of an old historic building on the corner of an artsy neighborhood just 2 miles from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. The big teapot sign and flying British flag make it easy to find. Plenty of street parking available. Once inside one quickly realizes this is a traditional English tearoom. Queen Elizabeth’s portrait hangs over the fire place, a life-size cut out of a palace guard is positioned at the rear of the dining room and Downton Abby memorabilia accent the decor. A small gift shop comes first; clotted cream and lemon curd are for sale in tiny glass jars along with Weetabix cereal and digestive biscuits. Several tea-inspired gift books, cook books, note cards and tea cozies are also on display for purchase. Lilting instrumental piano music fills the entire shop lending a refreshing note to the tea experience. We did not have a reservation and at 2 pm we were seated promptly in a comfortable corner at a table for two. Approximately nine tables, seating 2-6 guests, were attractively arranged to create intimate corners for couples as well as central tables for larger groups. The menu offered English-style pub lunches; bangers and mash and Yorkshire pudding, in addition to tea with scones and a full afternoon tea. We ordered two afternoon teas. The tea selection was small, only about six loose teas, but offered a sampling of everything. Barefoot Girl chose an Assam and I ordered Darjeeling. The tea arrived very quickly, to our relief, as we had been caught in a deluge and were wet and chilly upon our arrival. Loose tea was steeped in disposal bags and left in the pot. We did not know this and got a weak first cup, perfect second and stewed third. A little extra hot water corrected the problem and we didn’t let it happen again! The three-tiered tea tray arrived quickly and contained the traditional chicken salad, egg salad and cucumber sandwiches, all freshly made on nice bread followed by a large scone on the middle tray served with lemon curd, jam and clotted cream. Although a little dry, the scone was flavorful and enjoyable especially with various spreads liberally applied. The bottom tray had a selection of commercially prepared English biscuits; some fruity, some buttery and some plain but all delicate and crisp and the perfect accompaniments to tea. The service was warm and friendly and we were left to linger over the last of our tea and generous portions of delicious food. We left our tea time refreshed and very full!
Over all our assessment is, The English Rose Tearoom is a perfect place to experience British-style afternoon tea. The menu is very reasonably priced at $16.99 per afternoon tea and the food well balanced in flavors and attractively presented. Be sure to print off coupons from their website before you go!
5348 Hickory Hollow Parkway
Dancing Girl and I found Shineworthy Tea in Antioch, TN located in a strip mall with ample parking and a large illuminated sign making it very easy to find. Once inside, the shop is large and open with minimal seating - 2 couches facing each other and 3 square tables positioned along floor to ceiling windows. The center of the room is spacious and open. The inside wall of the store housed shelves of silver tea tins, a small glass pastry case and a bar with seating for 6 patrons. A small smattering of tea paraphernalia such as books, pots and cups, are on display for sale. The steely gray, black and white color scheme is modern and monochromatic.
We ordered afternoon tea for one with and extra pot of tea. Choosing the tea was delightful! With over 40 teas to choose from, it took a few minutes to read the descriptions and smell some from a display on the counter. The tea was definitely the highlight of this afternoon tea experience! It quickly arrived at our table, which had been beautifully laid for us after placing our order. The loose tea was perfectly brewed using correct water temperature and steeping time and served over glass warmers. I enjoyed each sip of my countryside blend and Dancing Girl loved her Lapsang Souchong.
Despite the 25 minute wait for our three-tiered tea tray to arrive, the service was friendly. We found chicken salad, egg salad, pimento cheese and Nutella sandwiches, which were all fine, on the top tray. Next tier was a plate of grapes and a few sliced strawberries followed by the bottom tier dessert plate. This was the least appetizing portion of the meal; a selection of commercially prepared, bland tasting cookies and tiny “cake cubes” with thick sugary glazes. Scones were not included in this afternoon tea.
When the tea tray had been removed, we were served a glass flute of chilled Jasmine tea, a square of caramel chocolate and a chocolate truffle. The presentation was very attractive but the tea was floral and sweet and difficult to get down after the sweetness of the food and chocolates.
Overall, our assessment is that Shineworthy Tea is a tea bar which also serves an afternoon tea upon request. The cost was $30 for afternoon tea for one guest, which we shared, and $10 for an additional pot of tea. The total price seemed high for the quality of food and ambiance of the shop.