Vintage Tea Party by Carolyn Caldicott is one of those books that need repeated readings to be fully absorbed.
Once through just for the photographs, which are simply stunning. From the double page spreads of English landscapes to the smaller photographs of tea cups, finger sandwiches and beautiful tablescapes, the photographs draw you in and make you want to linger a bit.
Another trip through the book and you glean the history and importance of tea, the rise of afternoon tea, the difference between low and high tea, the joy of a fireside tea and the petite adventures of a nursery tea.
The book draws you back again for the recipes, which require another – now deeper – study of the photographs. The recipes are written in English measurements, but can be easily converted.
From beginning to end, this book is charming. To quote, Vintage Tea Party tells “how afternoon tea developed from its modest beginnings to become a much-loved celebration of indulgent pleasures.” A century and a half may have passed, but I am absolutely in love with Anna, the Duchess of Bedford’s idea of “a tea and a walk in the fields.”
How to get that vintage tea party look?
Step one: Check your attic or Grandma’s china hutch for cups, silver and linens. Antique markets always offer an abundant selection of tea party essentials. One need not have matching dishes. Mix and match and coordinate to please your tastes and style.
Step two: The food… When homemade treats are not possible, shop at a local bakery or pastry shop for tiny morsels. A baguette sliced and topped with butter and fresh jam and a few bits of fine cheese are simple enough yet pleasing. I adore Ms. Caldicott’s advice: “You don’t need to be a domestic goddess to have a tea party. As long as the tea ingredients look home-made and are served with vintage style, there are ways to cheat and make life easier.”
Step three: The tea… Ah. The tea. So many possibilities and so many personal favorites. The British Emporium in Grapevine is one of my favorite places to shop for tea, but most groceries now carry a variety of options.
Now, about that tea and a walk in the fields. Brisk fall days such as today are the perfect pairing!