I love Marilyn Miller's concept of planning a tea party from things in your cupboard. She's written a book called "Tea Party in your Cupboard" and it is filled with ideas for implementing this helpful approach. Her idea is that simple tea parties can be impromptu and simple to prepare. She encourages them for individuals or groups of two or more. A piece of toast with tea or a more elaborate meal with sandwiches, scones, and sweets can be easy to put together in a few minutes using her ideas and recipes. Marilyn includes suggestions for enhancing the tea experience by including flowers from the garden, a pretty piece of china from the cupboard, and heirlooms linens from a drawer.
The concept of impromptu teas has been one I've enjoyed adopting. I've found that friends appreciate a few hours of reprieve from the stresses of daily life. Whether they simply drop by or call ahead to say "I'm going to be in your town. Can I stop by?" --- the tea party in a cupboard makes special times of afternoon tea easy and lacking in stress.
My friend, Tari, called to see if I'd be home. She was taking a niece to the airport and said she'd be in my town and would like to stop by. Of course I said "yes, please, stop by"! Since it was last minute, I thought I'd simply serve tea from the traveling teapot. But as I started to think of foods on hand in my refrigerator and cupboard, a tea party resulted. First, the flowers. A walk around the garden resulted in a simple bouquet of roses.
I set the bouquet on the countertop along with the little plum teapot, a tea tray, teacups, plates, napkins, and silverware.
By the time Tari arrived, an impromptu tea party was prepared and ready to carry out to the pergola for afternoon tea.
Our three tiered tray had sandwiches, fruits, and desserts.
Our first course was chilled broccoli & cashew soup with dill. It was a refrigerator find and made from scratch the day before for supper. Although it was originally served hot, we found it was quite delicious served cold.
The fruit layer was simple, but added color and texture to our meal. A Bosc pear, Fuji apple, and cold red and green grapes provided crunch and juiciness.
Our sandwich layer was simple. We had tomato sandwiches on sourdough...so yummy!
And tortilla pinwheels filled with vegan cream cheese, chopped raw broccoli, chopped walnuts, fresh thyme and dill. Since there wasn't time to prepare and chill in the fridge for a few hours, I rolled the tortilla with fillings, covered and twisted it with plastic wrap, and placed it in the freezer for 30 minutes. That was enough to help it hold its shape and it sliced nicely. The tiny purple flowers on the thyme were pretty in the pinwheel and the fresh dill added just the right accent to the raw broccoli.
Rachel Ray has me thinking about sliders these days, and so I decided to try them for tea. Oat and walnut patties were in the fridge, so I made them into bite-size sliders. A layer of fresh pea greens in chiffonade topped the patties and were placed on sourdough.
Cashew butter and blueberry-lavender jam on whole wheat completed our sandwich selection.
The household is eating low-carb these days, so the dessert layer was a bit more difficult to put together on short order. We simply had no fresh-baked desserts in the house. Fortunately, there were some packaged desserts in the emergency drawer in the cupboard. A variety of mochi and wafer cookies were found and packages opened and prepared for the tea tray. Mochi are a traditional Japanese confectionary; a little cake made from glutinous rice. We had a variety of flavors including some coated with pretty black sesame seeds.
The teapot was brimming with Bai Hao Oolong, full leaf tea, by Steven Smith Teamaker. It is a Chinese oolong that is harvested mid-summer. The large, tightly-twisted leaves have an abundance of silver tips. This oolong is fermented more than many, bringing lovely peachy tones and a light color and aroma. Just lovely.
Mismatched, vintage cream and sugar pieces that complemented the little plum teapot were selected for the tea table.
We enjoyed casual conversation, yummy food, and a pot filled with tea. The "Tea Party in your Cupboard" concept gave me the ability to sit, relax, chat, and enjoy, as it really is a low-stress way to serve afternoon tea. I'm so glad Tari dropped by for a visit! Thank you, little plum teapot, for being a starting point for such a lovely time.
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Marilyn Miller's book, she has contact information posted on the right column of her blog.