A Special Tea
A second cousin of mine, who I have been corresponding with via email and through letters, mentioned she was coming to Seattle for her grandnephew’s baptism. I was excited to see her as it had been probably 30 years since I’d seen her last. I invited her over for afternoon tea.
I have a cute yellow teapot that I bought years ago at an antique store and some lovely china my mom gave me, so I decided this was a good excuse to have a tea party. I knew I wanted to serve traditional tea fare, but wasn’t quite sure what that was. In my search for ideas, I found a recipe for cucumber mint sandwiches. They were very easy to make and so delicious.
The recipe is courtesy of Gourmet magazine and makes 12 tea sandwiches.
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, rinsed, spun dry, and chopped fine
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- 6 slices of whole-wheat bread
- a 3-inch length of seedless cucumber, cut into thin slices
In a small bowl combine the mint, the butter, and the cream cheese and stir the mixture until it is combined well. Spread the bread slices with the butter mixture, top 3 of them with the cucumber, distributing the cucumber evenly and seasoning it with salt. Top the cucumber with the remaining bread slices. Cut off and discard the crusts and cut each sandwich diagonally into quarters.
Cucumber sandwiches alone wouldn’t cut it, so I augmented them by purchasing some petit fours and chocolate truffles from Whole Foods Market. Sadly, my guest had just eaten lunch so she was not tempted by my goodies. But my sister Holly and my husband Eric gratefully indulged.
Traditionally, tea was served by the female head of the house for her female friends between 3:30 to 5:30pm. The finest china and sterling silver tea accoutrements were used. And the table was covered in fine linen and lace.
The hostess always pours the tea for her guests unless there are a lot of guests, ,and asks her guests how they would like their tea – “Do you take cream or sugar?” “One lump or two?” The sugar and cream (actually it’s supposed to be whole milk but is called cream) are put in the cup after the hot tea is added. The hostess hands the cup with a spoon in the saucer to the guest with the handle facing them to the right. The hostess serves her tea last. It’s not proper to stick the pinky out.
I really enjoyed the tea party and think serving afternoon tea is a very civilized tradition. I hope to have more tea parties in the future.
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