by Marty Metzger
North Forty News
Tea changed world history. Centuries ago, the English developed a taste for its crushed leaves, sending out ships in search of the treasure as early as the late 1670s.
China, Japan, India and Ceylon were primary sources of the shrub’s cured leaves and buds, thus driving trade with Great Britain. If not for the beloved beverage, America might well have been an entirely different proposition, sans Boston stirring the pot of taxation tea.
Ceremonies included formal etiquette: proper placement of silverware; proper manner by which to hold one’s delicate, decorated china cup; creation of pastries and biscuits to accompany the starring beverage of English tea time.
Tea was enjoyed in 500+ London coffee houses by 1700. Exhausted Industrial Revolution-era families returned from work to tables of meats, bread, butter, pickles, cheese and tea. Eaten at a high dining table rather than low tea tables (hence “low” tea), this meal was called “high” (or “meat”) tea.
There are three basic types of low (a.k.a. afternoon) tea:
Cream Tea – Tea, scones, jam and cream
Light Tea – Tea, scones and sweets
Full Tea – Tea, savories, scones, sweets and dessert
Speculation suggests the French might have popularized tea in Paris about 20 years before London caught on. Nevertheless, European royalty, poets and all classes of people from thereon have sung its praises and fought battles over it.
In 1981, a 10-year-old New York City girl spent an enchanting three months with her family in Bristol, England, when her father, an Episcopal priest, swapped parishes with an English vicar for the summer.
Jennifer Feagin, brother Jonathan and parents Jerre and Linda spent their initial three weeks in a London flat.
Little Jen was captivated by all things English: the land, its people, their culture, and…tea time! She was amazed that everyone stopped for high tea and personally enjoyed the experience several times in Big Ben’s city.
Now Jennifer Powell of Fort Collins, she recalled, “It was all very grand. I loved my beautiful cup, watching sugar cubes slowly dissolve, and the kind people serving us. We felt special and welcomed.”
Delicious scones “loaded up with real butter, then strawberry jam and clotted (Devonshire) cream” added to those memorable festivities.
As the Feagin family toured England on weekdays and tended their temporary flock on Sundays, all of Great Britain prepared for an upcoming royal wedding in London. Powell, fondly remembering falling in love with then-Lady Diana Spencer, wistfully remarked, “I always thought I’d have tea with her someday.”
Powell described Bristol’s excitement, including decorated caps on milk bottles delivered for the majestic day. Among myriad parties, she and 8-year-old Jonathan attended a costumed one—he decked out as a miniature Archbishop of Canterbury, and she as the woman who baked the wedding cake.
Like most 10-year-old girls, Jen had likely gone on endlessly about her new wedding-fevered passion. A few weeks later, her parents announced the family was to have dinner with Charles and Diana! As you might imagine, wildly excited little Jen was astounded. On the big day, she practiced impeccable manners and wore her finest.
The family drove, and drove, and drove farther through the countryside, finally stopping in front of a humble farmhouse owned by Charles and Diana…middle-aged parishioners at their church!
Bewilderment momentarily squelched disappointment. Jen, fancy dress stuffed into rubber waders, was minutes later helping the not-royal couple’s 18-year-old son shoo bovines from fields to the barn.
Following cow milking, Jen sat with the not-royal group for a dinner of traditional steak and kidney pie and…that ubiquitous British cuppa.
“So,” Powell wisely reflected, “I guess I actually did have tea with Diana, and Charles!”
Powell, husband Doug and sons Spencer (christened for Princess Diana’s maiden name) and Owen moved from California to Fort Collins in 2010. Although still able to work remotely at her California marketing position, she’s instead embarking on a new, full-time venture. Powell’s “Pemberley Woods” is bringing tea time to Northern Colorado.
Based on a combination of a fictional name in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice and the romantic notion of a deep woods, the company is the formalization of her (formerly occasional) catering business. Pemberley Woods exudes true English flavor.
Powell’s vision is to provide people an opportunity to celebrate special moments in a special way, whether laid-back casual or staunchly formal. She helped one woman celebrate 20 cancer-free years; she’s arranged business “Thank You” events, and gala bridal shower teas.
The difference is in the details. Pemberley Woods can completely cater a celebration or drop off food and vintage china settings, with after-event pickup/cleanup.
Powell buys estate items or whole collections of fine china cups and saucers, teapots, glassware and silver serving pieces. Family members often become emotional to learn their relative’s prized possessions will be used and loved as they’d want.
At an upcoming, special “Thank You” tea for the approximately 20 people from whom she’s purchased estate items since July 2017, those “heirs” will experience firsthand how much joy their family items will bring to Pemberley Woods tea time customers.
Both Charleses and Dianas would approve.
For more information:
Phone: 1-866-High Tea