In the beginning....there was tea time.
How did my tea story begin?..... Have you ever been to The Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia? That's where I had my first experience with afternoon tea. That was 30 years ago, and it made a lasting impression on me. I tried to relive that moment but never succeeded. When I was married, many tea cups and saucers were passed on to me by family members, some long gone from this world. They sat in a place of honor in my china cupboard. Years later a dear English friend, Sue, began having an all day open house tea party on Boxing Day. Every thing was hand baked by her. Some ingredients were brought from England by her aunt. Oh, those sausage rolls! We sat for hours, sipping a few cups of tea, a scone, a tiny glass of sherry, more tea, more sherry, as friends came and went all day. This became a tradition in the neighborhood. When Sue passed away in 2000, I couldn't let her tradition go. I dragged out my tea cups, and dug through my cupboards, finding all those pretty little dishes that had accumulated over the years. I sent out invitations to the regulars and added a few more of my friends. Of course instead of it turning out to be a few people in and out, they all came at once. I panicked but a level-headed friend calmly said, "boil the water". Thus began my first tea party. From there I had a few more, each time inviting different friends, adding to the list, trying to convert more of them to tea. I found it was the soothing atmosphere and the beauty of tea that was most inviting to them. **It's now 2010, and I have kept up this memorial to Sue and her tea tradition for all my friends. It led me to wanting to run my own tearoom, but when reality set in, I decided to cater them as a side business, so "Just a Cup of Tea" was born.**
I spent many hours searching for new tea rooms to visit. Vacations were oportunities to discover a new one. I closely watched the servers in the tea rooms, and when the chance arose, visited their kitchens. I was amazed at what could be done in a very small space. I then haunted antique malls all over the county looking for special tea cups to add to my collection. It became an obsession. Ebay and Yahoo auctions became great places to find unusual tea cups. I bought a couple beautiful ones from a lady in Sook, British Columbia. I bought and read every book available on tea parties and etiquette. I began to invision my own tea room. In my head, I designed my decor and menus. I went so far as to file a ficticious name of The Blue Willow Tea Cottage, in honor of my first love, Blue Willow. [That love has now changed to pink rose and floral patterns]. I designed a sign with my tea room name and hung it in my dining room. My wall became a photo gallery of tea parties. My accumulation of tea cups overwhelmed my china cupboard, and my husband lovingly bought me a second one. That one is now full too. But tea cups can be stacked.
As I dreamed of my own tea room 10 years down the line when I retired, I began purchasing tea cups and tea pots that I knew I would need eventually for my business. I took into consideration that if I had everything purchased already, when the time came to open shop, I wouldn't have major outlays of money to hinder me. I purchased most of it wholesale and was just itching to be able to use it. One day a friend suggested that I cater tea parties. !!! What a concept! I could start my business now, gradually working out the bugs, and if we moved when we retired, I could take my business with me. No storefront to worry about. Although the idea of lace curtained windows and flower boxes still drew me. I began designing flyers, business cards, and contracts, and waited for the phone calls.
My first client: A Brownie troop. What more perfect way to start young ladies learning etiquette and the gentle art of tea. I had offered them hats and boas and jewelry to dress up. But they were 13 years old. They said they were too old for that. They arrived all dressed up for their party in their prettiest dresses. We had fun learning how to properly introduce ourselves and how not to drink tea. Not with a spoon, as one young lady found out. I was afraid they wouldn't like the cucumber, the curried chicken, or the egg salad sandwiches, but they loved them, and consumed them all. I had brought a guest book for them to sign, and asked for any comments or suggestions. I got RAVE reviews! I was so pleased. And hopefully they went home with a new knowledge and appreciation of the gentler arts.
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