“How do you take your tea?” the meme begins. “Seriously. Very seriously” is the reply. That’s me, for sure. I take my tea very seriously. The tea itself, the teapot and serving dishes, the water, clotted cream, lemon curd, enjoying time with friends … these are some of what makes tea so very special to me.
While I enjoy tea every day, there have been some special tea times over the years, and I savor those memories. The first fancy afternoon tea I attended was at the Plaza Hotel in New York City with my husband, over 30 years ago. There have been memorable teas with my daughter, including one I created the day we adopted her and a Mother’s Day tea at a local shop with a surly waitress. There was a special tea at the Peninsula in Chicago to celebrate my 60th birthday. And just as memorable have been the teas spent in our home, gathered with friends, where I’ve made scones and tea sandwiches and all manner of yummy sweets, often drawing from my herb garden.
I’ve been watching some British television shows of late, and the Brits seem to pause for a cup of tea, no matter what the calamity. “Can I put the kettle on?” they ask. They seem to epitomize the saying “sometimes all you need is a good cup of tea.” I couldn’t agree more. Teatime is a calming time, a chance to pause and relax. It can be a reflective and prayerful time too. In our busy world turned topsy turvy with the pandemic, doesn’t that sound divine?
Mother’s Day—this coming Sunday, May 8—is a great time to enjoy tea. It could be a make-believe tea with your favorite four-year-old and her stuffed animals. It could be a lovely high tea with a mentor or special woman in your life. It could be a simple cream tea for two. You could also observe the day with a tea-for-one.
Just a few simple things will make your teatime special. After all, what’s really special is spending time with a friend or relative. May I suggest what the Brits call a cream tea? It’s simply tea and scones.
Start with the tea. I prefer loose black tea, the stronger the better. You pick what you like. Teabags are acceptable, and you can enjoy an herbal blend or tisane instead of black tea. A tea merchant I know is fond of saying tea is the most affordable luxury, and he’s right. So, I wouldn’t scrimp when it comes to selecting a good tea. At a tea shop, you can purchase as little as 2 ounces of a high-quality tea for a few dollars. You’ll notice the difference between that and what you can buy at a grocery store.
The other part of a cream tea is scones. Many grocery stores and specialty shops have scone mixes. Local bakeries often offer scones. You can make your own; they really aren’t very difficult at all. Enjoy with some clotted cream, lemon curd, jam, or preserves. I’m happy to share my favorite scone recipe.
A more formal tea, or the kind of afternoon tea you might experience in a fine hotel, will include, in addition to tea and scones, some finger sandwiches and some fancy sweets.
If pulling together an at-home tea is more than you can manage, and depending on where you live, you might find a “tea-to-go” option. Some tea shops and high-end restaurants began “tea-to-go” during the pandemic and continue with them today. Go that route and you have a ready-made tea party!
Whatever your teatime, enjoy the calming pause that it generates. Enjoy the time talking with your tea companion. Offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for the time spent together.
Linda Post Bushkofsky serves as executive director.