Tea Anyone?

I love tea. I especially love the art of having tea. It is one of my most favorite things to do. When I was 17 years old, my parents congratulated me for graduating from high school with high honors with a small tour of Europe. We travelled to Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo, Nice, Florence, Rome, Athens and Delphi. My father also gave me my very first American Express card to use for emergencies only. While we were in Madrid, we were waiting for our room to be ready, and we had just made the trip over from the U.S. At this point, we hadn’t found an opportunity to exchange our money, and we were hungry and tired. We came across the Ritz Carlton Madrid, and since we were of the legal drinking age, decided to go in for our first European cocktail. Seemed like an emergency to me. I think we ended up with coffees with liquor, but also with a tea service. I loved the room we sat in. The decor was very Victorian, as well as the furniture…high back, over stuffed chairs, and small tables. With piano music filling the background, it was the perfect atmosphere to relax and have a great conversation with friends. It was comfortable, it was high society; thus, my love of Afternoon Tea began.

It took some time for me to rediscover Afternoon Tea. Shortly after my return to the States, I was whisked away to college in San Diego, and though the memory of that tea in Spain stayed with me, I was on a budget and Afternoon Tea didn’t really fall in line with Domino’s pizza and mac-n-cheese. In fact, I don’t think I had Afternoon Tea again until I studied abroad in France for a semester during my junior year in college. I had taken a weekend trip to England to visit a sorority sister, and sadly, when I arrived, she had to leave because her grandmother had passed away. I was in London, and there was no way I was going home without seeing the sights, even though I was alone. Remember that American Express card I was to use for emergencies only? Well, again, I classified this as an emergency, and booked myself a room in one of the nicest hotels in London. For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the hotel, which breaks my heart, because I love to go back and revisit places that hold a spot in my fondest memories. In that hotel, they served High Tea, and no better place to experience High Tea than in its country of origin.

My next experience with Afternoon Tea was the first wedding in which I was a bridesmaid, the bride requested Afternoon Tea at the Penninsula Beverly Hills for her bridal shower. Having Afternoon Tea became a tradition for me again when I was planning my own wedding to be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas. They have a quaint restaurant called The Verandah where they serve Afternoon Tea, amongst other delightful menus. While planning my wedding with my mom, we would often meet the wedding coordinator there at that time. I loved the rituals of the way the tea is served. The trays to satisfy the perfect break between lunch and dinner, filled with tempting little pastries and finger sandwhiches, and the most devine, the scones. The scones are made daily, and they are baked with or without currants. Fresh made Devonshire cream, lemon curd and strawberry jam is served to top the scones with, and they truly are scrumptous! With my reintroduction to Afternoon Tea, my mom and I invited my bridal party to visit Las Vegas, and we threw a Bridal Tea at The Verandah. At the time, The Verandah was more of a traditional European decor, and it brought back memories of that first Afternoon Tea at the Ritz Carlton in Madrid.

My mom took my sister and I on “Girl’s Trips” once a year after I was married and before getting pregnant with my son. We went to San Francisco, Chicago and New York sprinkeled in with trips to Los Angeles and Dana Point. In every city we visited, we planned for Afternoon Tea. Tea at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco-it was during Chinese New Years and we were fortunate enough to see the parade happen in Union Square below. Tea at the Drake in Chicago-the most fabulously, glitzy room I think I have ever seen with etched mirrored walls, dripping chandaliers, and furniture dating back to the 1920’s when the hotel was first built. That hotel is truly an original. I remember my sister and I thinking the elevator was so cool because their was a small, red velvet bench inside for the ladies to sit.

Afternoon Tea continues to be a tradition in my life. I requested Tea at the Verandah for my 30th birthday party. When my husband and I travel, he comes with me to tea. The one that will always be the most memorable to me is Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, Thailand on our honeymoon. We had tea in the same room where Ernest Hemingway escaped to write his novels. The decor and the furniture is the same, and there are black and white pictures of him on the walls, along with a special table where he would write. My mom and I often go to tea at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, and we love to find secluded little out of the way places that have tea, just to see if they compete with the big name hotels. For me, the ritual of tea is a big part of why I love it, but I would be lying if I were to say that is the only reason. I love history and tradition, and to me Afternoon Tea personifies that. You can visit any big city in the world and find the most ostentatious tea rooms or the sweetest most picturesque rooms, all with their own history and traditions.

It is even a tradition I have introduced to my daughter. I can’t even count the number of tea sets this girl has. She gets 2-3 every year, all with different themes. They really are so hard to resist. She will play in her play room for hours having tea parties with her dolls. When she can, she convinces her older brother to participate, sometimes my husband and I will, too. She is the only girl in our family (right now), and my two nephews are both under the age of two. They are still very willing to play tea party with her, but I fear the day is coming soon where they will give up the tea party for trucks and soccer balls. When I am at home with her in the mornings, she requests that we have tea and toast with jam. I love having a girl. She is my dream come true!

One of Stella’s first tea parties, a baby shower for a friend at Anthem Country Club.

Every year for her birthday she requests a tea party. She is four years old, and we have had two princess tea parties. This year, I splurged and treated her, my mom, sister, mother in law, grandmother, my girlfriend and her daughter to Afternoon Tea at the Verandah at the Four Seasons. It was very emotional for me, seeing my daughter at the head of the table at the place where I rediscovered my love for tea six years before she was even thought about. What is crazy to me is that she really does love tea. I think for her it is about the ritual of tea. The coming together of friends and family for a light snack and great conversation. It is amazing to think that she gets this already. I really think she does. I love it because it is something we will have together to share in our lives, and she can pass the tradition on to her own children.

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