Let’s Talk “Iced Tea”

It’s tea time and it’s almost summertime…which means…it’s iced tea time.  I still love my hot black tea with milk in the morning, even during heat waves in the summer.  Often I have just one cup from my morning pot, head off to an exercise class, then consume the remaining tea “iced” later in the day.

American’s are in LOVE with iced tea.  Over 80% of the tea consumed in America is iced.  There are some really good ones out there or you can prepare a great one of your own.

If having iced tea on the run (ordering out),  believe it or not, my favorite is Starbuck’s black iced tea…it is their Awake Tea by Tazo (Tazo is owned by Starbucks, fyi).  They pour it back and forth over ice, then into your cup…it is fresh, brisk, and “watery cold” every time.  It’s my idea of a fabulous tea product.

A few days ago, my daughter called to tell me just how much she loved her Jasmine Downey Pearls “iced” – this is one of my favorites too, has that subtle fragrance of jasmine that lifts you up with every sip.

One of my favorite urban tea houses, Tranquil Tea Lounge, serves impeccable iced tea.  The tea maker steeps fresh, whole leafed tea of your choosing in an infuser, then delivers it to the table like this.

For our Memorial Day Holiday, we had the family over for a barbecue.  My niece, S.,  baked up spectacular desserts…beautifully themed to the season.  These paired well with my Kenilworth Ceylon iced tea…

Can’t resist showing you these luscious looking desserts – fresh from the oven –   These washed down well with iced tea.

What tea is best for making iced tea?  Any good quality tea can be iced.  I am pleasantly surprised by how some teas which are just “so so” to my liking served hot, turn out to be delicious and fragrant cold.  Black currant tea is one that comes to mind.  I enjoy it hot, but love it cold.  Peet’s Teas has  a fruity black currant which ices well.  A high quality Ceylon black tea, such as the one from Kenilworth tea plantations, makes a superior iced tea.  Harney & Son’s, Adagio, and Mighty Leaf are a few purveyors who stock Kenilworth Ceylon.  It’s smooth and crisp tasting.  Also, Jasmine pearls ice beautifully.  I usually add the ice just prior to serving.  There is nothing more refreshing than adding a sprig of fresh mint to your iced tea too.

Experiment a bit, try icing some varieties you’ve not done before.  Enjoy!

Kenilworth Ceylon makes a wonderful iced tea!

Kenilworth Ceylon makes a wonderful iced tea!

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Anatomy of “Puttin’ On A Tea Luncheon” – Four of Four Posts

Taste is powerful at unleashing memories.  That’s one of the reasons I love to select menu items that are not only packed with flavor in each bite, or expose guests to a new sensation, but also ensure to include items which elicit remembrances we hold dear.

Our third and primary sweet item for this luncheon menu was geared towards reminding my best friend, T., of my mom’s pastry cream.  It seemed Mom made cream puffs often when were teens, we enjoyed scores of them.  Thus this vanilla cream tart topped with toasted coconut was to honor that past.  I posted about this fool proof, smooth as silk, patisserie cream a month ago.  It is quick to prepare and delightfully vanilla”y”.

That’s how we finished off our lunch…then each guest snacked on the mini mayo cake cupcakes and the petite oatmeal cookies…I also packed up several “to go” as some had a bit of a drive home.  We thoroughly enjoyed Jasmine Downey Pearls, green tea scented with jasmine flowers, from Peet’s Tea with dessert.  Perfect ending!

Using table setting pieces which were gifts or family heirlooms is another way I like to extract memories.  Using these is more important to me than setting the  table with “perfectly” matched items.  Here are a few I used for this lunch:

I don’t mind mixing metals as there is a story behind each one of them…

A couple have tiny cracks and are a bit worn around the silver, however, whenever I use these, I think of my spunky, 4′ 10″ Italian Godmother and how she snuck these to me and asked that I not tell her children that she wanted me to have them.  She always made me feel special by putting on a tea kettle for me the minute I arrived to visit. Everyone else were coffee drinkers in the family.

In the end, it’s the company you keep that truly makes your tea luncheon a success.  My best friend brought me this gift:

She is right.  Flavorful, colorful, small plates of food and fresh, exuberant whole leaf teas merely complemented the fabulous company.
Enjoy tea with your friends…



Teapot napkin ring given to me by my dear friend Pat

Teapot napkin ring given to me by my dear friend Pat

Tea teaspoons...given to me by my sister-in-law, old Franciscan china cup from my Godmother, oatmeal cookies to go for all

Tea teaspoons…given to me by my sister-in-law, old Franciscan china cup from my Godmother, oatmeal cookies to go for all

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Anatomy of “Puttin On A Tea Luncheon” – Third of Four Posts

All the prep is done!  Guests arrive at noon.  My remaining work is primarily “assembly only.”  This is my favorite part of food preparation – assembly and plating.

Before going to bed last night, I quickly scribed a list of “things to do” in the morning.  This way I went to bed feeling in control.   Here was my list…

  • Finish setting the table – add a few fresh flowers from the yard
  • Make scones
  • Assemble salad with the washed belgian endive, watercress, bleu cheese – add spicy toasted pecans at last minute…dressing is ready
  • Assemble prosciutto & asparagus finger sandwiches (asparagus is already blanched and chilled in fridge)
  • Make mascarpone cream cheese frosting and top mini mayo cupcakes
  • Chill the sparkling wine (chose a Napa Valley 2000 Anderson Diva…one of the last few bottles from before they sold to Clif Lede)
  • Whip heavy cream and fill vanilla cream tarts (shells and cream are done – top with coconut…toast with brulee torch
  • Set out the teas and infuser and teapots – put milk and sugar on table
  • Get myself cleaned up and ready for company

While snipping a few alsteroemeria (Peruvian lilies) I spied my Mexican sage and rogue mint and snipped a few of those for two small wall vases in my powder room.

Below…table set with Alstroemeria (Pervian lilies)…nice table flowers as they have no fragrance, (doesn’t compete with food aromas)…and low vases, easy to talk over.

Everything was coming together perfectly when a minor glitch occurred…as I prepared the sprouted wheat toast for the proscuitto and asparagus finger sandwich…oughto…the bread looked weird, a white mold or something…so, I could hear my mother’s voice saying..”when in doubt, throw it out!”  Also, as a culinary friend of mine recently told me, “when in catering, you have to improvise.”  I really wanted a finger sandwich to go with the potato leek soup first course, I had roasted some tomatoes for a caprese bruschetta I am taking to an open house later this week…I decided to scrap the first sandwich and make a caprese.

Salad ready to toss with dressing and toasted pecans just prior to serving:

I was working through my list well…then got a little stressed due to the finger sandwich glitch…I hadn’t made my scones yet and still needed to get myself ready…I could hear my sister saying, “go get yourself ready!”…so I did, thinking while doing so that my friends could help me make the scones, they’d like that if I ran out of time…and thought, scones are a quick bread…they should be easy to pull together in 10 minutes… well they were.  I sometimes forget that scones really really really are a quick bread.  Ten minutes and they were done, on the tray ready to bake off just before serving with the salad course.  All worked out.

My sister came a bit before to help put the finishing touches on Mom’s mini mayo  cake cupcakes and plate with Mom’s petite oatmeal with pecan cookies…

We decided to filled the vanilla cream tarts just before serving and top with the coconut for those who love coconut and toast them in front of guests…


Table setting...powder room flowers...Mexican sage and mint in wall vases.

Table setting…powder room flowers…Mexican sage and mint in wall vases.

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Time to start…..

All right…am set to go…the doorbell is ringing… my next post will finish off the tea luncheon.  See you then.

Drink tea…

Roasted tomato crostini

Roasted tomato crostini


Part of the food

Part of the food


Anatomy of a Tea Luncheon – Second of Four Posts

In yesterday’s post we finished getting the physical setting for the tea luncheon ready (the garden).  Now I get to concentrate on the food prep. Two days out from the event, a good deal of the shopping and prep work was accomplished. I try to shop at least a day prior to prepping so that I don’t exhaust myself cramming too much into one day.

Last week we determined the menu, deciding to offer a multi course luncheon.  Each course is to be served as small plate sized portions.

The Tea Luncheon Menu for a Party of Eight

While guests gather, to whet their appetites: Sparkling Wine served with a Pate Choux Puff filled with Minced Deviled Ham

First Course: Soup and Sandwich – Potato Leek Soup and Asparagus & Prosciutto Finger Sandwiches

Tea pairing – Kenilworth Ceylon Tea

Second Course:  Salad and Scone – Salad of Endive, Watercress, Grapes, Bleu Cheese with Spicy Pecans with Champagne Vinaigrette and Savory Scones with Pancetta & Asiago Cheese accompanied by  Vanilla Cinnamon Butter

Tea pairing – Masala Chai or Namring 1st Flush Darjeeling

Third Course:  Sweets – 1)  Mom’s Mayo Cake as Petite Cupcakes topped with a bit of Mascarpone Cream Cheese and 2) Vanilla Cream Tart topped with Toasted Coconut  3) Oatmeal Pecan Cookies

Tea pairing – Jasmine Pearl Green Tea or Assam

Prep Schedule:  Shopped for nearly all the groceries two days prior to luncheon.

Made the tart shells, cupcakes, oatmeal cookies, pate choux puffs last night and popped them in plastic bags and froze them.  They will be ready to fill morning of the luncheon.  I love cooking after everyone has gone to bed.  The house is quiet and I find enormous satisfaction moving through my checklist.  I also just love serving food made from scratch.  None of the recipes are difficult, many I halved for this luncheon.

Getting ready...table is set, flowers in the powder room, watercress prep for the salad

Getting ready…table is set, flowers in the powder room, watercress prep for the salad


The deviled ham was prepared last night, it keeps for several days in the refrigerator and literally takes 5 minutes to prepare in a food processor.  The vanilla pastry cream too was prepared last night and is covered and chilled in the fridge.  It too is a quick item to make and is a fool proof recipe.

I am just about ready… the only thing I need to do the morning of the tea is assemble items and make the scones – which are a quick bread and take about 15 minutes to prepare.

The table is almost set, my sister is coming by in the morning to finish that piece.

I’ve set out the teas and utensils I plan on using.  As soon as I put the bubbly wine in the fridge, I am done for the night…off to bed … see you tomorrow with photos of the table setting and food assembly.

Anatomy of “Puttin On A Tea Luncheon” – First of Four Posts

Beautiful gardens in Laguna Beach

Beautiful gardens in Laguna Beach

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Later this week I am having a few good friends over for a tea luncheon…it’s a gift to a friend and I want it to be special, memorable.  It takes a bit of planning and I love doing it.   My plan is scribbled on a yellow pad.  Over the next few days, I’ll post how I am doing against this plan and show you the final results.  My confidence is high that the event will be a roaring success for two reasons…first, these friends are engaging, delightful, and  easy going.  Second, we will start with sparkling wine in the garden :-).  My best friend and I developed the luncheon menu using our Tea With Betty books. I will share the menu in tomorrow’s post.

The Plan:  Four areas to work on… Yard/Garden…House/Table Setting…Food Prep…Final Serving including Tea

One week out:  Action: Spruce up the garden and front yard –  Status:  Done!

Four days prior to luncheon:  Develop shopping list and prep schedule – Done!

Two days out:  Set tables and shop for non-perishables – prep a couple items

One day out:  Shop for perishables and prep items

Day of:  Assemble prepped food items, serve

This post is about the garden setting… I forget how much I love gardening until I get out there and start bringing things back to life after winter.  Since guests first impressions will be of the front yard & porch, table setting, and backyard garden where we will gather prior to sitting down for lunch, I spent considerable time in livening up the flower beds and pots.

While I was motivated to get my yard into shape because of the tea luncheon,  additional inspiration came from seeing stunning gardens a few days ago on a garden tour of  homes in Three Arch Bay, Laguna Beach (hosted by the Laguna Beach Garden Club.)   Below are a few photos of the gorgeously inviting courtyards and gardens on the Three Arch Bay garden tour.  Many were most inviting for sitting down with a cup of tea and a book.


Beautiful table setting...Bird's nest themed from home on Laguna Garden Tour

Beautiful table setting…Bird’s nest themed from home on Laguna Garden Tour

O.K. – While not as elaborate as the gardens on the Three Arch Bay tour, here’s my yard, ready for company—four days prior to my luncheon.

My first effort at planting a succulent pot...for our front porch

My first effort at planting a succulent pot…for our front porch

Don’t you love having parties at your own home as a motivating factor to “get things done around the house?”  I grew up in a household where if we were having guests, we all ran

My backyard...sprucing up for spring and for the upcoming tea luncheon for my best friend

My backyard…sprucing up for spring and for the upcoming tea luncheon for my best friend

IMG_1541 IMG_1545 IMG_1546 IMG_1549 IMG_1552around with specific chores to ensure the house looked nice for company.

With the yard and gardens ready…I can move onto the food planning and table setting.  Am going to make a pot of tea and relax a bit for the rest of the day.

Willie resting after helping me plant tomatoes...he can't wait for them to fruit.

Willie resting after helping me plant tomatoes…he can’t wait for them to fruit.