Tea at the Unicorn Wine Guild

Tea-related education and events, the enjoyment of the beverage and the culture of tea

A New Year’s Tea

The excitement of the season is drawing to a close.  A new year  is about to begin.  You resolved that on  New Year’s Day you will make resolutions.  The end of the world didn’t happen on December 21.  Maybe 2012 was a great year for you.  Maybe not.  The United States sure went through it’s traumas from mass shootings to election woes and financial cliffs.  Still, you have survived and maybe thrived. When the New Year’s Eve party is over and you have served your traditional New Year’s dinner, whether it’s kraut and pork or Hoppin’ John or whatever is traditional for you, perhaps a Jasmine or Earl Grey tea will do.  Or maybe you will be ready to curl up with your notebook, calendar and a chocolate chai.  Today is the day to take some time for you.  Take a breath.  Ponder on your resolutions.  Yes, enjoy the football games if you desire, but maybe your tastes run to a good movie.  Or maybe you are spending some time with your significant other or immediate family planning how to be more prosperous, healthier and connected this year.  Thank you notes can wait until tomorrow or get them out of the way now and then relax.  The important thing to do is take time for you.  Relax.  Meditate. Think about the last year.  Did you meet your goals?  Did you have to set them aside for something more urgent?  Is it time to bring those goals forward again? Regroup and make plans.  If they are big plans break it into manageable pieces.

Maybe your tea is a party with friends or club members.  The same goes.  Take the time to plan the coming year.  Review last year.  Were goals achieved?  What are the new goals?  How will you measure success?  Are they achievable in the time you have given it?  Does the goal or the time need adjusted?  You cannot lose 50 pounds in a week and trying to lose it in a month is dangerous.  But a year?  It’s doable.  Maybe treat yourself  to a pretty notebook and calendar set.  Mark your goal deadlines on the calendar.  Keep a diary.  Reward yourself for your little successes.  Maybe your goal is to save money.  Think of ways to do this.  Maybe couponing and saving $10 a week is a doable goal for you.  Maybe eliminating that fancy coffee drink twice a week (and still saving that $10) will work for you.  Maybe stopping smoking is one way.  That could save you even more down the road by saving hospital bills.  Maybe it’s time to learn a new skill.  Use the library and the internet to help with that or research ways to get that training for free or with financial help.

Take a couple of hours to sit and dream.  Plan and make notes.  Whether it is by yourself, or with family or circle or club, take the time to enjoy tea, think positive thoughts and may 2013 be a brighter year.

Leave a comment »

Holiday Tea Party Themes

The holidays are here and you want to spend some time with your friends.  You feel you should host a party, but don’t have the funds for a huge holiday blast.  An afternoon tea can be more relaxed and can even provide a sense of accomplishment.  Here are several ideas other than the traditional tea.  If you have a Christmas set of dinnerware, use it.  You can decorate in the traditional red and green colors or expand to the new themes of lime and blue, blue and silver, brown and cream or whatever you desire.

Tree trimming.  This theme can have a variety of sub-themes.  You can decorate your tree, make it a progressive party and decorate each others or decorate a tree for charity or for a shut-in or care facility.  In our area there is a tree decorating contest each year with the trees being auctioned and the money going to a charity.  If you do decorate for a shut-in be sure to arrange to take them down after the holidays.

Card writing.  This is a great time for each of you to do those special cards for family and friends.  You can meet at someone’s home and each of you provide part of the needed items.  Someone might buy the postage stamps, someone may be into scrapbooking and have colored pens, stickers, and other embellishments for the cards.  Someone may bring the cards and others might bring the food.  Have a fun time for the afternoon.  Have a table to place the cards while they dry.  Have a table for the food and plenty of work space.  Already have your list done?  Send cards to shut-ins or to our military personnel away from home.

Peppermints and the Nutcracker Suite.  Use peppermints for decorations, as table favors, and in the foods served.  The either go to the live performance (or have the tea after the matinee), what it on TV or just listen to the music in the background as you share an afternoon of catch up.

Exchanges.  There can be several types of exchanges.  Cookies, ornaments, tea cups, tea (a great way to sample new teas without having to buy a lot), gifts, books and more.  Bring enough for each person of whatever you are exchanging plus one for sampling at the event – or bring two.  One for those present and one for a shelter or charity.

Christmas Bling or Divas.  This is the time for you to bring out the best, or worst, in you.  Dress up in your antlers and jingle bells,  the holiday tiaras and the blinking Rudolph pin.  It’s up to the hostess as to whether she was classy or campy for the party.  There could be prizes.  Or maybe you dress up and go to tea out in public.  You don’t have to be a Red Hatter to do this.

Candles and Firelight.  Ward off those dreary days and evenings with a table set with candles and a cozy fire burning.  Candles bother you?  No fireplace?   Bring on the twinkle lights.

Christmas Carols.  This theme could also mix with some of the others.  Enjoy the tea and add a caroling event  to a  nursing facility or hospital.  You’d look great in your Christmas Bling.  Or just sing along around the tea table.

Traditions Around the World.  Each person tells about a tradition, either their family one or each study a culture’s tradition.  Great theme for a club meeting.

Afternoon at the Movie.  Enjoy tea while discussing the movie you just attended or while watching one on TV.  maybe the Downton Abbey Christmas Special (dress in the theme), Christmas Vacation, It’s a Wonderful Life, etc.

Friendship Tea.  This is pretty much your traditional tea.  You can share any of the exchange, the carols, etc.  This is a time to renew a friendship with someone who’s moved back to town or is in town visiting or even that new family that just moved into the neighborhood.

Victorian Tea.  Share the tradition, the dress, the food of the Victorian era.  Maybe combine it with a movie, book review or songs related to the era.

Where’s Santa.  This is like Where’s Waldo.  The person who finds the most wins a prize.  Decorate with Santas, hide a Santa, and wrap gifts in Santa paper.  This could also be the theme for a tea where the attendees also bring a gift for a shelter or for Toys for Tots or the local food pantry.

It’s a Wrap.  This is kind of like the Christmas card party, but you wrap presents for your family or a charity.  This is a great time to share paper, ribbons, etc. And you might even be able to exchange storage space so your daughter doesn’t find her new doll too soon.  It makes the chore go faster and maybe talents can be shared.  It could even be assembly line time.

Cup of Christmas Cheer.  Include a reading of the Cup of Christmas Tea.  Decorate in the Christmas theme.  It can be combined with a visit to a shut-in or a nursing facility.

Holiday Stress Relief.  Yes.  Aromatherapy, a spa day, massages, guided imagery or a Christmas Comedy.  The idea is to relax, take off your shoes and enjoy each other’s company.

See the Sights.  After afternoon tea, pile into the van and drive around town to take in the decorated homes, the lights in the park, etc.  Then finish with another cup of tea before parting company for the evening.

I hope you find these ideas helpful.  Have a wonderful holiday season.  Merry Christmas.



Leave a comment »

Take-Home Tea Sachets for your Guests

In a previous blog I told you about the great finds I had this year at the church and library book sales.  I was thumbing through Williams-Sonoma “Entertaining” that I purchased for 1/7th the original cost – and helped give to charity – when I cam upon their idea of a table favor or gift for the guest.  They suggest that you might gift them with samples of teas that were served at your event, enough for a pot of tea tea for each guest – assuming you use loose leaf teas.  You will need enough extra tea to give each guest enough for a pot of each tea, small glassine envelopes (the ones that look like wax paper), ribbon, decorative self-stick labels, a hole punch and a pen – or if your penmanship is as bad as mine, a computer and printer and sheets of printer acceptable labels.  Prepare the labels with the type of tea clearly printed on them.  If you can do calligraphy, even better.  You may want to make a second set of labels with brewing instructions for the back of the bag.   Scoop the tea into each envelope, keeping track of the types of tea in each.  Stand the pouches up to move the tea to the bottom of the bag.  Fold the top down 1/2 inch and seal with the correct label.  Punch two small holes at the top of the envelope and thread a length of decorative ribbon through the holes and tie into a bow.  Arrange the sachets on a tray or in a basket.  Or you could place them in a small gift bag that you have decorated with rubber stamps, stickers and or ribbons and place at each place setting.  Use ribbons, labels and bags to match your decorations.  The glassine will preserve the tea a little better than placing them in tea sacs.  Use your imagination.  I am sure that your guests will appreciate the extra efforts you took to send them home with a momento of the event.

Leave a comment »

Tea For a Crowd

I love books.  I miss my Borders store greatly.  So I was thrilled that one of the local churches and the county library had book sales on the same day.  Because I love bargains, too.  Old cookbooks are a favorite.  So, I now have “The Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Cook Book” from 1959.  I must have been a popular book because I saw three that day.  While there are some recipes that make me cringe.  One is for “Hurry-up Hot Tea” which, believe it or not, recommends that you keep a jar of instant tea handy for a bracing cup of hot tea.  Measure the tea into each cup according to the label directions; fill with boiling water; stir.  Oh, come now.  Really?  Instant tea must have been new then.  However, there was one recipe that I think will come in handy for the holidays.  It’s “Tea for a Crowd”.  It’s a recipe for tea concentrate.  And I quote.  “Planning a tea?  A tea concentrate make serving large groups easy.  At teatime, all you have to do is pour a little concentrate into each cup and fill with ho, hot water.  The tea can be strong or weak — its’s the amount of concentrate that makes the difference.  Or just before serving you can combine the concentrate with the hot water in a large teapot — 1 cup concentrate to 6 cups boiling water.

“Tea concentrate for 40 to 45 servings:  Bring to a high bubbling boil 6 cups freshly drawn cold water.  Remove from heat and promptly add 1/4 pound loose tea, stirring in leaves.  Cover; steep 5 minutes.  Strain into teapot.

“Concentrate cloudy?  Add the hot water at teatime will make it sparkle again.”

That’s a pretty good start.  I have a couple of suggestions.  You can strain or  you can put the tea leaves in large tea filters – paper or mesh.  Four ounces equals 113.36 grams (for those of you metric folk) or 1/4 pound.  For the purposes of this recipe and the time period it is from, I can safely assume this is black tea used int he recipe.  As the size of the tea leaf varies with the quality of the tea, weighing is recommended.  And as black tea weighs more than others, for green tea you would use about 2/3 the weight and for white only about half.  And, I would suggest that while you may chill the concentrate and add to hot water a cooler tea will result.  Perhaps a tea too cool.  Another idea is to place the concentrate in a thermos or airpot.  And finally, I would suggest that instead of a “high bubbling boil” that the water just come to the boil to conserve as much oxygen as possible.  By making the tea ahead – I would not suggest it be more than 2 or 3 hours – you do save a bit of last minute grief and it is easier to carry.  Enjoy.

Leave a comment »

Planning an Autumn Tea Party

I couldn’t say it better myself, so I include this post from my mentor, Dawnya Sasse

The Guide to Planning a Tea Party–Autumn Edition

To begin planning your tea party event, no matter what the season, you need start by answering a few questions:

  1. How many people will you invite?
  2. Who will they be?
  3. What is your budget? How much does that give you per person?
  4. When will your event take place?
  5. What will be your theme? Some ideas for your autumn event are available through my post, “Six Possible Themes for your Autumn Event”. Other possibilities are:
    1. Halloween/Reformation Day/All Saints’ Day
    2. Election Day
    3. Thanksgiving (both America’s and Canada’s Thanksgiving holiday take place in Autumn)
    4. a Costume-Planning Party (thank you Sarah Ban Breathnach…I love your book! If you own it, be sure to check out her Autumn-themed party for Martinmas…so inspiring!). What a great idea for you crafty/seamstress types! Why not plan an afternoon to gab over tea and your handiwork in time to prepare your children’s costumes?
    5. All Soul’s Day–November 2nd. A great theme for a tea party. Really. Have you lost someone dear to your family? Why not set aside time to share memories over tea with your children and tell them stories about your loved one. Has a friend lost a loved one in the past year, maybe even in a season of grief? What if you planned a tea and invited a small group of some of her friends that may have struggled to help through this time. Allow her to share freely and “weep with those who weep”.

Once you make these decisions, you need to send out your invitations. These can be done a number of ways. Remember, keep your budget in mind. I’ve listed some options below.

  1. E-vites (free)
  2. Snail-Mail Invitations with
    1. fall-themed papers and your computer
    2. preprinted Hallmark invitations you pick up at your local store and handwrite.
    3. handmade, scrap-booking materials
  3. Telephone Calls (personal, but take up your time. depending on the number of people you are trying to coordinate).

Next, you need to plan the menu. Remember to keep your budget, theme, and time of day in mind. And DON’T forget to plan the tea. I’ve written a thorough article on The Steps to Creating a Tea Party Menu to help with your planning. Specific ways to incorporate flavors of fall in the traditional tea menu are with:

Tea flavors I suggest to serve at an autumn-themed event, depending on your menu, are:

Once you’ve decided on your menu, think through how you will set your table. I’ve written some about setting the tea table already. Now is the time to think through what you already own, what you need to purchase, and what you can borrow. How many tables and chairs will you need? Remember, intimate is never more than eight, so take that into account when you think through your seating arrangement. What will be your centerpiece(s) and how you will incorporate your theme? Some ideas for autumn centerpieces are:

  1. hollowed-out pumpkins as vases filled with chrysanthemums as they are prolific in fall.
  2. large-pillar candle surrounded by mini-pumpkins and unusual gourds.
  3. beautiful bowl filled with fall fruits like pomegranates, apples, pears, or a combination of all.
  4. colored leaves from your neighborhood with unscented and protected tea-lights.

Part of setting your table means polishing any silver pieces and ironing any linens. Will you include a printed menu for your guests benefit? This is also the time to make/purchase some place-cards and decide what you want to give as a favor.

Take time now to decide what to wear and what music to play. How can these two elements add to your theme? Warm colors of red, orange, yellow, and peaches are associated with autumn. Can you wear one of them to your event? Some ideas for autumn-themed music are:

Once these decisions are made, you will see your theme come together with all the elements that help us celebrate autumn’s beauty. Be sure to spend some more time perusing Tea Party Girl’s archives for further details you might need to plan your tea party event. As always, feel free to email me or leave a comment with your questions as well.

May your event bring blessing to all who attend, and to you as well.


Resource Box:

Dawnya Sasse is the author of Tea Party Girl.com and is a long time educator in the art of tea. Grab 52 FREE Afternoon tea recipes by subscribing at http://www.TeaPartyGirl.com You are going to love it!

Leave a comment »

Tea and Star Trek

It’s hard to believe that 46 years have passed since James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock first started their five-year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations.  I was young enough to be a Chekov fan then.  Then came Star Trek – Next Generation.  Jean-Luc Picard and Will Riker expanded the galaxy even more.  Not only that, but Captain Picard reintroduced me to tea, specifically Earl Grey.

Growing up I shared Bigelow Constant Comment and Plantation Mint with my mother.  My grandmother drank Lipton.  If I was lucky in the summer we found Plantation Mint instant and had iced tea.  Once I got to college, however, there were a lot of “all-nighters” studying for nursing exams and writing a 32 page paper for each patient I would be caring for – 4 a week, plus term papers, and the other classes.  I needed caffeine.  Lots of caffeine.  The sorority house where I was a dormie – they didn’t have enough sisters to fill the rooms – always had a coffee pot full.  Granted it could be 15 hours old, but it was coffee.  And when I began my nursing career, there was coffee in the unit kitchen.  And when anesthesia school started and we attended EVERY delivery – that’s when a lot of them occurred in the middle of the night – and took call – well, you grabbed what was there quickly.  It was that pot of 15 hour-old coffee.  I learned to drink coffee hot or tepid or cold.

But, there was Jean-Luc Picard.  Walking up to a wall and saying “Tea.  Earl Grey.  Hot.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHsgt4NN9GA  in case you’ve forgotten.  And I became intrigued.  Just who was Earl Grey and why did he have a tea named after him?  And what did it taste like?

The Earl Grey that the tea is named for was the 2nd Earl and he was a British Prime Minister in the 1830’s.  He received a gift of black tea flavored with Bergamot oil, which is from an Italian orange. According to one legend, a grateful Chinese mandarin gave it to him after one of the Earl’s men saved his son from drowning.  This is highly unlikely as the Chinese did not know about Bergamot oil.  Jacksons of Piccadilly claim to have invented the recipe and have had it in constant production since.  The Grey family says the tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Lord Grey,  to suit the water of  Howick Hall, the ancestral Grey home.  The bergamot was to offset the lime in the local water.  Lady Grey used the blend to entertain her London guests and it was so popular she asked if it could be sold to others, which is how Twinings came into the picture.

Earl Grey tea is not only good as a drink, but has been used as a flavoring for many types of cakes, chocolate confections and even in savory sauces.  Here at the store Inggrie of TehKu  Teas has blended Earl Grey and added mallow flowers.  Earl Grey de la Crème.  My favorite.  Of course, now , the doctors say I have to limit caffeine.

So, thank you, Jean-Luc, for reigniting my love of tea and expanding my horizons.

Leave a comment »

Vintage Videos on Entertaining

Sometimes as I stand in line at the fast food counter of a national chain restaurant grabbing a quick dinner to go I think of women of past generations and marvel at their abilities and the difference a couple of generations can bring.  How many of you can remember Swanson or Banquet dinners in the aluminum foil that Mom would cook on those really busy nights or when she wasn’t feeling well.  I don’t mean the ones of today that are microwaveable, I mean the ones that still took a half hour in the oven.  Can you remember what a treat it was when they started adding desserts in the little square in the middle – and how those trays made great angel decorations?  And then came the three course dinners from Swanson.  If you don’t remember or want to reminisce, someone was nice enough to post the commercial on YouTube.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49Qn38WdTTs will take you to it.

And while I was searching YouTube, I came across a couple of really cute 1940’s Home Ec reels.  The first is on “Arranging the Tea Table”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBscvgHSJyY will take you to that.

The second is “Arranging the Buffet Supper” table.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCHw0H1dbs4

And the third is “Let’s Give a Tea” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPCJJJnboKo&feature=related

And finally, “Dinner Party” is a lesson on dinner etiquette. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdo4efNsdOM&feature=fvwrel

Yes, the lighting is bad, the acting is less than Oscar-worthy, but they are still good tips for today.  I hope you enjoy them.

Leave a comment »

Hosting a Friendship Tea – The Easy Way

OK.  The easiest way is to make reservations and come to Unicorn Wine Guild for tea.  The next easiest is to do it yourself.

Make a list of 4 to 6 close friends.  You might also want to include a couple of newbies in the group, but be sure that they are included in the conversation and don’t feel left out.  It is a great way to introduce the new neighbor, club member, etc.

Make, buy or e-vite the group.  Be sure to include a respond by date.  You can even ask them to each bring a plate of their favorite dessert.  In this case indicate the size of the group.  It’s OK to ask.

Send out these invitations at least two weeks in advance.  In this modern age, the longer the notice, the better.  Saturday or Sunday afternoons are often the best time.

For your tea you will want to have 2 or 3 varieties of tea.  Make sure that one is caffeine free such as a fruit or Rooibos. 

A couple of days before the party gather your supplies – tablecloth, napkins, plates, cups and saucers, tea pot, silverware.  Be whimsical or formal.  Paper or china.  The choice is yours.  This will give you time to shop to complete your needed items. To ease the cost of entertaining, many recommend that if using china to collect plain white china or clear glass.  This way the china lasts year round and you can accessorize with patterned linens (or paper).  A centerpiece adds sparkle to the table.  Choose flowers or a whimsical arrangement.  It is nice to give a small gift to each participant.  These can even be arranged as the centerpiece.

A few hours before the guests arrive, prepare two types of tea sandwiches, cut into triangles and cover in the fridge until serving time.  You might also want to prepare something like a simple fruit dish.  Don’t forget the milk, lemon and sugar cubes.

Arrange the food as a buffet.  Serve iced tea in pitchers and hot tea in teapots.  Let the guests serve themselves.  (While one lump or two is wonderful for hot tea, it doesn’t do so well for iced.  Having a small pitcher of simple syrup is a great benefit to the guests.  It’s easy.  Just stir equal amounts of sugar and hot water until they form a solution.)

Above all, have a good time with your friends.  Don’t worry that it’s not perfect.  The point of the whole thing is to share in friendship.

Leave a comment »

Fruit Cloud Cream

I think all of us are looking for something simple that can dress up our tea time.  This is something that can be made a bit ahead and will go wonderfully with cake – whether it be a store-bought pound cake, from a mix or made from scratch.  Experiment a little to find your favorite flavor combination.


2.5 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (that should equal one packet)

1 cup fruit juice concentrate

2 cups heavy cream


Whip the cream to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, soften the gelatin in 1/4 cup fruit juice concentrate for 5 minutes.  Microwave until the gelatin is dissolved.  Add to the remaining fruit juice concentrate.  While continuing to beat the cream, add the concentrate mixture to the whipping cream.  Spread between cake layers.  Chill.  Yummy!

Note:  Strawberry daiquiri mix or white grape/raspberry are very good with chocolate cake.  Lemon would be good with white cake.


Leave a comment »

Rooibos “Tea”

I love tea, especially black tea.  But, somewhere along the line in the last few years my body has rebelled against caffeine.  I have inherited a heart arrhythmia that requires a zap to the chest to fix.  Not fun.  Not cheap.  So,  I limit my caffeine consumption and save it for a piece of chocolate,  and the occasional half cup of decaf coffee or a treat of a cup of tea – usually the second brew.  My new love is Rooibos.  A tisane from South Africa also known as “Red Bush”, many consider it to be a more healthy alternative to Camillia sinensis.

South African Bushmen harvested the Aspalathus linearis for centuries.  However, as the number of Bushmen declined, it was almost lost.  In 1772 botanist Carl Humberg rediscovered the plant.   In 1904 Benjamin Ginsberg began production of a commercial product of Rooibos.  During World War II when importation of tea from China was especially difficult, it saw a rise in popularity.  Still expensive, it wasn’t until Annique Theron wrote a book on it’s health benefits in 1968 that production increased and thus became more affordable.

Rooibos undergoes oxidation and fermentation like black tea with an end result of containing more antioxidants.  It is naturally decaffeinated as it contains no caffeine to begin with and has fewer tannins.  With fewer tannins, the body can more easily absorb iron and thus the person feels more energized.  It has a sweet and nutty taste.

Not only is Rooibos tasty as a hot drink, it makes a refreshing iced beverage.  So, if drinking tea too late in the day makes you jittery or delays your rest, try substituting Rooibos.  Use a heaping teaspoon brewed with 180 degree water for 7 minutes for a fine drink.  Enjoy.

Leave a comment »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.