Despite sub-zero April temperatures in Southern Ontario and with a dusting of snow on the ground, I joined a group of interesting women at a local golf club yesterday for a springtime tea celebration. For winter-weary Canadians, this festive event brought a feeling of the freshness of spring despite uncooperative April temperatures.
While it wasn’t Downton Abbey, the local golf club set the scene with bright floral arrangements in the food and bar areas of the clubhouse. Centrepieces of beautifully arranged spring flowers in china teacups on white tablecloths with brightly coloured cloth napkins welcomed us to our tables.
Staff members greeted us, helped us with our coats and graciously ushered us into the areas reserved for our group. These small kindnesses created a welcoming atmosphere and set a festive mood.
Everyone attending wore something special for the event. Spring outfits abounded with a profusion of floral dresses and pretty tops in vivid colours providing a glimpse of fashion trends. I noticed a couple of women wearing Fascinators; perhaps such headgear was a nod to British traditions for afternoon tea.
We ate a variety of crustless sandwiches, fresh scones with clotted cream. and various sweets. We swooned over both the sweet and the savoury scones served with plenty of clotted cream, butter, and jams. Endless cups of tea from selections that included black teas, green tea, white tea, and various herbal blends helped to wash down the goodies on offer.
Afternoon Tea Memories
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to attend many delightful, decadent, boozy and otherwise special tea events.
On a trip to British Columbia, my husband and I took a ferry to Vancouver Island to the beautiful Empress Hotel in Victoria. One afternoon, we enjoyed a traditional tea served in the lobby. The menu included lovely open-faced sandwiches with local smoked salmon accompanied with glasses of a dry sherry and many cups of tea.
A few years ago, while staying for a weekend at the restored Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto, I joined a boisterous group of friends for flutes of champagne and afternoon tea. Seated on the comfy couches in the lobby, we laughed and gossiped while wallowing in food along with countless cups of tea until we were booted from the area as it was booked for an evening event.
During trips to the United Kingdom, I’ve sampled various styles of afternoon tea including tea served at busy bake shop counters in Cambridge, formal tea in the homes of friends, a tea tasting at the grand Fortnum & Mason department store in London, and various cakes with tea on offer at historic National Trust properties.
The most memorable afternoon tea experience happened years ago when a friend and I indulged in a traditional tea at the Savoy Hotel in London, England. I recall perfectly groomed waiters in formal attire who poured endless cups of steaming hot tea from silver pots. I also remember that the delightful afternoon tea along with the real Devon clotted cream for the fresh scones cost us more than we paid per night for our nearby bed and breakfast room!
Except for retirement teas, bridal shower teas, and mother’s day events, Canadians seldom pamper themselves with a formal afternoon tea. Instead, we take rushed coffee breaks, often at a local coffee and doughnut shop where we sit on hard chairs at Formica tables, drink from paper cups, and eat mass-produced sugar-laden pastries or muffins in plastic wrappers. Coffee selections usually include extra large double/doubles, single shot expressos, lattes, and straight black Americanos.
Making time for afternoon tea in a busy schedule reminded me about the importance a break in routine. Afternoon tea with friends meant time for conversation, laughter, and renewal of friendship. I came home with a new perspective along with a resolve to take time for a ‘cuppa’ more often.
Yesterday’s springtime tea celebration provided a break from the lingering winter cold. Sometimes indulging in a pleasant environment with good vibes is a welcome tonic that re-sets thinking. Here’s to more time for afternoon tea!
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