February Teas: Gardens at Heather Farms Fundraiser and Downton Abbey Valentines Day

In mid February I enjoyed two delightful teas – a fund raiser for the Gardens at Heather Farms in Walnut Creek and a most delightful afternoon at my long-time friend, Laurie Callaway’s home.

At the fundraiser, the Garden Club members made the tea sandwiches and used their own china tea services making it a wonderful, personal, and charmingly eclectic event. The highlight of the afternoon was the speaker – James Norwood Pratt.  I thought Mr. Pratt’s gentle suggestion to the Garden Club that they plant Camellia sinensis – the tea bush from which all tea is harvested (green, black, white) – at the Gardens at Heather Farms was spot-on. I already knew of the tea plantation in South Carolina and had recently learned about the tea plantations in Hawaii, but was interested to know that tea is now also being grown in Oregon and Washington states.  Hear, Hear.

James Norwood Pratt signing autographs

James Norwood Pratt signing autographs

In his talk, Mr. Pratt mentioned that his first published book about tea was Tea Lover’s Treasury (101 production series) first published in 1982.  Coincidentally it was the first book that I purchased about tea.  He mentioned that over the years he has updated the book multiple times as his knowledge and experience has broadened and deepened. At the event I purchased his newest book, James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary, and am so glad that I did.  Today we think we can find everything on the internet but the information, maps, timelines, history, and terminology contained in this book is both useful and delightful to inquisitive or serious tea lovers.

Laurie's signature sandwiches - chicken salad, egg salad, and, of course, cucumber

Laurie’s signature sandwiches – chicken salad, egg salad, and, of course, cucumber

My second tea was the very next day, a ‘Valentines Day at Downton Abbey’ themed party, at Laurie’s lovely home.  We all dressed in Downton Abbey outfits (of sorts), drank wonderful champagne, and dined on Ms. Callaway’s  signature chicken salad, egg salad, a cucumber tea sandwiches,  chocolate covered strawberries, and her superbly delicious heart-shaped coconut cake (Ina Garten’s recipe from Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You’ll Make Over and Over Again) colored a lovely pink for Valentines Day.

Personalized table setting including the charming engagement cup and saucer - think demitasse size.

Personalized table setting including the charming engagement cup and saucer – think demitasse size.

Laurie’s tea parties are always delightful but I must say this one was all the more special for her Valentine’s Day theme, decorations, and the thoughtful favors she made for each of us  – large personalized heart shaped cookies, hand-made note cards for each of us, and gifts of engagement cups and saucers, each one carefully selected from her personal collection, for its recipient.

 

My outfit for the tea - yes the cape is real but from the 30s, not the 20s.  Hat is from Hats on Post.  Dress is ebay

My outfit for the tea – yes the cape is real but from the 30s, not the 20s. Hat is from Hats on Post. Dress is ebay

Each of us wore something to pay homage to Downton Abbey.  My outfit was from ebay, collectible stores, and my closet.  As I shopped for my dress and gloves, I was stunned at how ebay and the collectible stores have Downton Abbey sections making it easy and fun to create one’s costume.  We discussed the series (the last episode of Season 3 had not yet been shown) and, like so many others, were amazed at how much we love the drama and care so deeply for the characters.

February was a stellar month for tea in my life – including redoing my displays, sorting through my teas on hand, visiting with friends, and visiting the Japanese Garden in Golden Gate Park (my first time there).  As March unfolds and spring slowly arrives in northern California, wishing all of you a warm and delicious pot of your favorite brew by yourself as well as with your friends and family.