Monday, November 10, 2014

Country Tea Parties, by Maggie Stuckey

As if I need any additional motivation to host tea parties, a beautiful copy of the gift book Country Tea Parties landed on my door step a few weeks ago. I sat down with it and browsed for (even more) ideas for future tea parties.

Written by Maggie Stuckey, Country Tea Parties offers ideas, tips and menu items for parties which you could host each month of the year. (Yes, you could!) The book is filled with beautiful illustrations by Carolyn Bucha depicting picnics, floral arrangements, table settings and, of course, tea cups. (Is it the pretty cups that make taking tea so exciting? Or the delicious, calorie-free flavors? There is just something special about tea in a lovely china cup!)

This book is only 62 pages long and won't take up much of your time. If you have a friend or family member who likes gathering up ideas for tea parties, this is a fun book to peruse. Country Tea Parties is divided up into sections with ideas for each month of the year. Stuckey suggests things like Children's Tea, Bedtime Tea, and a Twelfth Night Tea which I am going to have to do (maybe next year). For each party suggestion she also provides a few recipes for items which you might consider serving to your quests. There are recipes for basic scones, Scotch Eggs, hot cross buns and pastry puffs among others. She also recommends tea to pair with your food which is helpful when you are thinking through themes and flavors. Personally, I enjoyed flipping through this book and I absolutely gathered up some new ideas!

One thing that I was good about last December (but ceased doing further into the year) was daily tea times with my kids. My mother-in-law has told me several times how she used to relax with her kids every afternoon and read to them while eating scones and drinking tea. It is something that all of her (now grown) children enjoyed doing and she has fond memories of these times herself. This prompted me to start up the habit with my own kids and so last year we had tea while reading through Keeping Holiday. (This year I think we'll read A Christmas Carol together while we do the same.)

At any rate, I had fallen out of practice post-holidays and flipping through Country Tea Parties helped re-motivate me. We haven't worked up to a daily tea yet but recently we had some friends visit us and their kids and ours put together a fall tea for our two families to enjoy together.

We set a fairly simple table as you can see and served Republic of Tea's Banana Cuppa Chocolate Rooibos (Red Tea) and their new flavor, Gingerbread Cuppa Cake (a Rooibus Red Tea).

(Important note: Little is big in the eyes of a child. You do not have to set a fancy table for them to be able to understand that you are doing something out of the ordinary. In our case, we just laid out matching plates and special fall napkins. Plus I let them use real tea cups because, otherwise, what's the point!?)

Now, Republic of Tea had kindly sent me a sample of their Gingerbread Cuppa Cake Tea which is why we served this one at our fall tea. (This tea, too, added to the pressure of having a family tea party to try it out!) The Gingerbread Cuppa Cake was the collective favorite. Even Jonathan (my husband) likes it and he's not one to drink much tea. However, this new flavor is so fantastic I don't know how you could not like it. (I am not faking my enthusiasm here.) I've served this new flavor to several friends now and it never fails to meets with approval. It tastes kind of like a sweet chai. If you like chai, you'll absolutely love this Gingerbread. (I liked it so much I'll be ordering more for myself to have on hand all winter. I'm really not faking.)

Back to the tea party though - I always underestimate just how much fun a family tea can be. I don't know why, really, because I myself enjoying sitting down to special meals. This particular tea included foods made by the kids which made it even more fun. Bookworm1 made us a batch of Gingerbread Chocolate cookies and Bookworm3 and her friend made the families some Gingerbread Spice cookies. So our food pared nicely with our tea, as you can see. (smile) We served soup, biscuits, fruit and cookies and had a fine time.

Somehow or another tea just makes events more special. Or, perhaps, tea creates events. Either which way, I'm always on the look out for how I can improve our experiences with tea and also family time and so I'm glad to have had a chance to peek at this book and also try out a new flavor! It's been fantastic fun.

Many thanks to Storey Publishers who sent a copy of the book in order to facilitate this review and also to Republic of Tea who sent a sample of their new tea. I have received no additional compensation for this post and I truly did enjoy all of the above.

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