Friday, September 04, 2015

Tea, Anyone?

My mother retired this year and has told me that she values experiences now and doesn’t want or need to accumulate a lot of “stuff.” So early this month, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Her response was, “I want an English style tea in a real tea room.” You have to understand that my mother and I love British mysteries, dramas, and comedies, and tea is featured in many of them. I think this, and her love of Downton Abbey, made her want this experience.

So, being a dutiful daughter, I got out my tablet and started looking for places that served traditional English tea in the Birmingham area. I found the TownHouse Tea Shoppe only 30 minutes away in Mt. Laurel and called for a reservation for three (we wanted to take a friend with us). Tea is by reservation only in the summer on Thursdays through Saturdays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

The owners, Rebekah Mills and Darlene Self, were very kind and gracious and explained the menu. The basic tea was $18.95 per person and included a scone, three tea sandwiches, three sweets, and fruit. The pot of tea which comes in two sizes, small or large, is a separate price. They have a very extensive menu of teas which include variations of black, white, green, and herbal teas. If you don’t really like hot tea, you can have iced tea or juice. We thought we wouldn’t have enough to eat so my mother and I ordered the basic tea plus a cup of soup. We really should have listened to Darlene who assured us that the basic tea would be enough. We were too full to eat the sweets and had to take them with us.

My mother had a great experience and enjoyed herself. The food was delicious and the tea room was beautiful. We left knowing that we would come back again. We had such a wonderful experience at The TownHouse Tea Shoppe that I thought highlighting resources for afternoon tea and pastries would encourage you to try tea at home and when you get a chance, visit a place that serves afternoon tea.

I contacted Rebekah at The TownHouse Tea Shoppe and asked for a recipe to post in this blog article. She agreed to let me post her grandmother’s recipe for Lemon Tea Cake.

Grandmother Prosser's Lemon Tea Cake
Grandmother Prosser's Lemon Tea Cake is really easy to make. My grandfather was a blacksmith with the railroad and was very active in their church. He was also notorious for inviting everybody home with him for dinner. Grandmother was a great cook and very practical and fast. This is one of my favorite recipes.

3/4 cup of self-rising flour
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of whole milk
1/4 cup of melted butter
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon extract

Directions: Combine dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients one at a time beginning with whole milk. Mix well. Place in 8" X 8" glass baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 15-22 minutes, depending on your oven. When you take the cake out of the oven, immediately ice with lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
Juice of one large, juicy lemon or two little scrawny lemons
Zest some of the peeling if you like your glaze a little tart
Mix until really smooth and glossy
Poke holes in the cake with a fork immediately after you take the cake from the oven. Pour your freshly made glaze over hot cake.

Try to remember that it is really bad form to eat all the cake before your guests have a chance to have any. —Rebekah Mills

Alice's Tea Cup: Delectable Recipes for Scones, Cakes, Sandwiches, and More from New York's Most Whimsical Tea Spot by Haley Fox & Lauren Fox

The Afternoon Tea Collection 

For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History by Sarah Rose

The Great Tea Rooms of Britain by Bruce Richardson

The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard

The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook: A Guide to Enjoying the World's Best Teas by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss

Tea for You: Blending Custom Teas to Savor and Share by Tracy Stern

Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties edited by Jonathan Racine

Victoria, the Essential Tea Companion: Favorite Menus for Tea Parties and Celebrations

Vintage Tea Party by Carolyn Caldicott

I hope you enjoy your tea with Grandmother Prosser’s Lemon Tea Cake.

Maya Jones
West End Regional Branch Library

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