The Ladies' Tea Guild

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Celebrate Iced Tea Month!

image from Wikipedia.
Did you know that June is known as Iced Tea Month among tea-lovers? With the beginning of summer comes the perfect weather for a refreshing glass of iced tea. Although there is no reason to become bored with good old iced tea – because of the wide range of flavored teas commercially available – tea can be used to make many other cold beverages.

Alcohol-free beverages include punches, virgin cocktails or “mocktails”, spritzers, and of course, the ever-popular Arnold Palmer. Named for one of the most famous California golfers, an Arnold Palmer is nothing more than iced tea and lemonade mixed together in equal parts. It is one of my favorite ways to drink iced tea in the summer! You can also add things like rose water, orange flower water, and simple syrups flavored with mint, orange peel or other fruits to your iced tea for more variation.

Tea punches are simply iced tea (any flavor) mixed with your choice of fruit juice and/or soda pop (especially fruit flavored). Spritzers are iced tea mixed with flavored or unflavored soda or carbonated water, in a 1:1 ratio, or whatever you like. Tea "mocktails" are mixed drinks containing iced tea and any non-alcoholic ingredient used in a regular cocktail, like bitters, mint, sugar, lemon, ginger ale, salt, limes, etc. All of the above beverages can and should be garnished with edible flowers, a sprig of mint or lavender, or something else equally refreshing and attractive. They can be served in traditional cocktail glasses, wine glasses, punch cups or iced tea glasses, whatever you have and want to use. You have no need to limit yourself to plain water at a party, if you don't want to!

Here are some interesting non-alcoholic tea drinks that might be a good addition to your next summer barbecue:

Mint Edition martini
* 1/4 cup of fresh spearmint leaves.
* 1 ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice.
* 1/2 teaspoon of powdered sugar.
* 8 ounces of cold tea (black tea works just fine).

Crush your mint leaves. Rub a pinch of mint on the inside of the bowl of two frozen martini glasses. Pour your tea and lime juice into a shake 1/2 full of cracked ice. Add your crushed mint leaves. Shake gently, in a diagonal motion for a full minute. Add your powdered sugar and shake for another full minute. Strain into your martini glasses.
-- from

Geisha Tea

1/4 oz. ginger syrup
1/2 oz. lemon juice
3/4 cup brewed or bottled green tea
1/2 oz. Sprite

In a tall cocktail glass, fill to top with ice. Add syrup, lemon juice and green tea. Top off with Sprite. Garnish with a lemon slice.

To make ginger syrup:


2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1-inch knob fresh ginger


1. Put sugar, water and fresh ginger in a small saucepot.
2. Bring to a boil and let sit for 15 minutes.
3. Remove ginger and chill.
-- Recipe from 10 Fabulous Alcohol-Free Cocktails, by chef Debbie Gold of 40 Sardines in Leawood, Kansas, reviewed in Fine Living Magazine.

History of iced tea, sweet tea and tea punch
Sweet Tea Mocktail recipe
Pomegranite Iced Tea
The Tiger Woods Mocktail (variation on Arnold Palmer)
Boston Iced Tea
Lemon Almond Tea
Five Great Mocktails from San Francisco

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Iced tea for Memorial Day.

image from
Iced tea is a particularly American beverage, and we’re starting to see the warm weather here in San Jose that makes iced tea really refreshing. Some Americans have even set aside the month of June as National Iced Tea Month! Since tea is naturally calorie-free and contains antioxidants and minerals, iced tea is a great choice for a refreshing warm-weather drink, although there are some Americans who love it so much they drink it year round! There are three main ways of making iced tea: hot-brew, cold-brew, and sun tea. [NOTE: the information below is for black or oolong teas. If you want to use green or white tea to make iced tea, use less-than-boiling water for the hot-brew method.]

To use the hot-brew method, basically, you make a pot of tea in the regular way, with boiling water in a heated teapot, but you add extra loose tea or tea bags -- about 1 1/2 times as much as you normally would -- to make a strong infusion. So, instead of using 4 teabags and 4 cups of water, you'd use 6 teabags for 4 cups of water. Add your boiling water to the pot and steep as usual, then pour the hot tea into a large heat-proof bowl or container, straining out the tea leaves or removing the tea bags, to cool, and then refrigerate. When it is thoroughly cold, pour the tea over ice cubes in a tall glass and serve. The tea will last, refrigerated, for a few days before it needs to be discarded (or used to water your garden).

To use the cold-brew method, fill a container with cold fresh drinking water and add your tea. This is my favorite way to use tea bags, since the small pieces of tea leaves in the bags won’t make the tea bitter if kept cold. Cover your tea-water container and place it in the refrigerator overnight, where the tea will infuse slowly. The next day, remove the tea bags from the container and enjoy your tea, served over ice! I like to use this technique to make tea in my water bottle: just put one or two teabags in there, fill with fresh water, put on the lid, and go!

To use the sun tea method, prepare a clear glass or plastic container with a cover – a large, clean canning jar is perfect – and add drinking water and tea bags. Instead of the refrigerator, cover your container and set it in the sun for at least 4 hours. Make sure the container is in the sun the whole time, so that the gentle heat can infuse the tea. When the tea is as strong as you like (taste it after 3 to 4 hours), remove the tea leaves, chill and serve as above. Since it's looking like Memorial Day Weekend is going to be really warm, make sure to bring plenty of iced tea to your barbecues, parades, or living history reenactments, and stay hydrated!

For more info:
How to make sun tea
How to make iced tea

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A picnic in the park on a Saturday in Spring.

our picnic table at the park.
We had a really nice time last Saturday at History Park, although it was fairly warm. The roses were in bloom!

We found a shady picnic table, O'Brien's had plenty of iced tea and ice cream, and conversation flowed freely and pleasantly. There were plenty of fried chicken salad sandwiches, cookies, and chai green tea pudding (!) for everyone.

antique 1890s wedding dress in the _She Made It_ exhibit.

Then we visited the two new exhibits, _Home Front_ and _She Made It_, both of which were really interesting. _Home Front_ is all about the effect of World War 2 on American families at home, including USOs, rationing, Victory gardens, and the internment camps. _She Made It_ featured a nice collection of textiles -- embroideries, garments, lace, tapestries, samplers and even hair art -- made by women between the mid 1800s and late 1900s.

Touring the Umbarger House at History Park.

At 2 p.m. we joined History San Jose docent Chuck Morrow for a really nice tour; despite the heat and the fact that our feet were hurting in our Victorian style shoes, we willingly walked all over the park! We saw the Umbarger House, Santa Ana One Room Schoolhouse, Fruit Barn and Dashaway Livery Stables.

Riding the restored antique trolley through the park.
Lastly, we enjoyed the breeze as we rode the restored vintage trolley.

History Park is a real hidden treasure in San Jose. It is surrounded by so many gardens and stands of trees that you can't hear the traffic going up and down busy Senter Rd. just outside the gate! You step back in time when you step into the park, and while parking in the city lot costs you $6, admission to the park itself is free! History Park is open to the public between noon and 5 p.m. every day except Mondays, throughout the summer, and the gift shop, ice cream shop and cafe, and a few of the restored historic houses are open on weekends for visitors to see. There are also some great community events scheduled for the season, beginning in June, and the Education department is offering a brand-new kind of tour this year, a summer day camp for kids! Check the website at for more information. I encourage everyone to make the trip to San Jose this summer and enjoy this park!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tea as a "special occasion."

image from Cat-Tea Clips.
In preparing for my tea guild's upcoming meeting this weekend -- a tea picnic and tour at San Jose's History Park -- I have been researching the various foods traditionally associated with tea. Tea's history as a luxury item means that many of the foods enjoyed with it were also luxury items: scones (an everyday quick bread) with lots of jam (requiring lots of fresh fruit and sugar) and thick cream (only available to those who own a cow, or have a country estate with milk cows. Dainty sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Cakes and cookies. These are special-occasion foods for all but the wealthy in the Victorian era. Luckily, eggs, milk, sugar, flour and butter are not as expensive or hard to get as they once were, so those of us who are more ordinary than aristocratic can have tea and treats much oftener than our Victorian counterparts. The great thing is that the "special occasion" aura still remains around tea, and having a tea party -- or "alfresco tea luncheon", otherwise known as a tea picnic -- is an affordable way to entertain friends.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A spring menu from 1860.

image from
I always find it interesting to read domestic magazines and see the editors' recommendations for things like menus and home decorating. Here is one of the suggested menus from the April 1860 issue of Godey's Lady's Book:

"Green pea soup, chicken pie, broiled ham, peas, asparagus, beans; biscuit pudding, gooseberry fool."

It looks like the pea soup, chicken pie, broiled ham and vegetables are pretty straightforward; most recipes that I've seen seem to call for boiling or stewing the vegetables, and serving them with butter and salt, the pea soup can be made with fresh peas or regular dried split peas, the chicken pie can be a chicken pot pie, etc., and according to Godey's Lady's Book, broiling in 1860 is what we'd call "char-broiling" or "grilling" these days. Here's the definition, and cooking instructions: "Broiling differs from frying in that there is no addition of oil or fat, and that the effect is produced by the direct radiation of heat from a clear fire, the broiling article being supported over it by a gridiron. ... In broiling, after heating and larding the gridiron, put on the steak, chop, or other article, and continually turn it every half minute, moving it gently all the time, to avoid the marks left by the bars if suffered to remain still."

As for the desserts:

"Gooseberry Fool.
Two quarts of gooseberries; one quart of water; sugar to taste; two quarts of new milk; yolks of four eggs; a little grated nutmeg.

Put two quarts of gooseberries into a stewpan with a quart of water; when they begin to turn yellow and swell, drain the water from them and press them with the back of a spoon through a colander, sweeten them to your taste, and set them to cool. Put two quarts of milk over the fire beaten up with the yolks of four eggs, and a little grated nutmeg; stir it over the fire until it begins to simmer, then take it off, and stir it gradually into the cold gooseberries, let it stand until cold, and serve it. The eggs may be left out and milk only be used. Half this quantity makes a good dishful."
--from Warne’s Model Cookery, ca. 1891.


"Biscuit Pudding, Without Re-baking.—
Take water 1 qt; sugar ¼ lb.; butter the size of a hen’s egg; flour 4 table-spoons; nutmeg, grated 1/2 of one. [plus some leftover biscuits]

Mix the flour with just sufficient cold water to rub up all the lumps while the balance of the water is heating, mix all, and split the biscuit once or twice, and put into this gravy while it is hot, and keep hot until used at table. It uses up cold biscuit, and I prefer it to richer puddings. It is indeed worth a trial. This makes a nice dip gravy also for other puddings."
-- from Dr. Chase’s Recipes or Information for Everybody, by A.W. Chase, M.D., Ann Arbor, Michigan, 38th edition, 1866; reprinted 1970.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mother's Day Tea, part 2

image from Grandma's Graphics.
For the past few years I’ve prepared a tea brunch for my mom on Mother’s Day, setting the table with her mother’s everyday dishes (1940s vintage Franciscan Desert Rose pottery, which lives in the cabinet most of the year), and putting a bunch of her favorite flowers, orange blossoms, in a vase on the table. Here is a menu that I’ve used in the past for my mom on Mother’s Day:

Twining’s Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea
Lemon-currant scones (purchased from a local farmer's market)
Homemade lemon curd
Savory Breakfast Casserole (from my grandma’s cookbook)
Cherry cobbler (from my grandma’s cookbook)
Dutch Baby with fruit

In my family we often make savory casseroles/bread puddings for special occasion breakfasts like Christmas and Easter morning, because they can be assembled the day before, covered and put in the fridge overnight, and taken out and baked the next morning, saving time on a holiday. Not only are sweet and savory bread puddings easy dishes to make, they have been part of American home cooking for many years, definitely among the ranks of “comfort food,” which is a good thing to have on a holiday.

Here are some of the vintage recipes I've used:

Plain Muffins:
Temperature, 400 degrees; Time, 25 minutes

¼ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

Cream the butter and add the sugar gradually, creaming while adding. Then add the well-beaten egg. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and add them alternately with the milk to thebutter and sugar mixture. For variation 1 cup of blueberries or other berries may be folded into the muffin mixture. Or, if desired, add ½ cup of chopped dates and ½ cup of chopped nut meats. Bake in greased muffin tins at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Yield: 12 muffins, 2 ½ inches diameter, 1 ½ inches deep.
-- from Magic Chef Cooking, ca. 1925.

Breakfast Casserole:
Place olive oil in skillet and in it fry one piece of onion and one piece of garlic until clear. Add one can solid pack tomatoes, pour into a glass casserole and cover with half slices of bacon. Add six well beaten eggs on top and cover with pieces of bacon. Bake 45 minutes in a slow oven. Serve with hot corn bread.
-- from Burnt Toast: Victory Recipes, ca. 1942.

Cobbler (fresh fruit):
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk

[Mix together to form batter.] Pour batter in pan. Cover with fresh fruit (I used cherries for my Mother's Day tea breakfast). Pour syrup over dough. Syrup: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water [brought to a boil and then cooled]. Bake 45 minutes -- 350 degrees. Serve hot or cold with cream. [NOTE: like fruit pies, this dish will overflow and drip sugar syrup all over your oven. Put a cookie sheet underneath when you put it in the oven to catch the drips.]
-- from Burnt Toast: Victory Edition, ca. 1942.

Other recipes that would be a good addition to your Mother's Day tea brunch:

Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes

Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Dill

Alsatian Cottage Cheese & Onion Tart

Caramel Risotto

Lemon Rice Pudding from Laurie Colwin's More Home Cooking

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mother's day is coming up; why not have tea?

So many of us are beginning to think “what should I give my mom on Mother’s Day?” Flowers are always nice, and chocolates are, too, but if you did that last year, how about something a little different for 2009? And seriously, does your mom really want another bottle of perfume or shower gel? And then there are the jewelry store and restaurant ads that attempt to open your already thin wallet ...

If you live nearby, or can travel to see her, why not prepare a leisurely brunch for your mom – or aunt, grandma, or other women who’ve nurtured you – and use your money more efficiently, while giving her a really meaningful present: your time and effort. Get some nice flowers – no need for a florist’s arrangement unless your mom prefers them – for a bouquet for the table, make her a pot of tea, and keep the whole thing simple, so that you can sit down with her and help her enjoy the day. Set the table with a tablecloth, cloth napkins, china, family heirlooms, if you have them – many mothers don’t bother to get them out for themselves – and have everything ready so that all she has to do is sit down and relax. And remember, don’t let her do the dishes!

In choosing the menu, your mother’s favorite foods should definitely be included, but if she’s like most moms I know, she’ll like most things, as long as she doesn’t have to make it! Choose foods that you can make well especially if you are a beginner cook; this is where simplicity will help. If you like to cook and you have family recipes – that your mom likes – do try and make at least one of them for her on Mother’s Day.

A tea brunch menu is different from a regular brunch menu, and from an afternoon tea menu, in a few small ways. Afternoon tea menus include tea, scones or crumpets, tea sandwiches, and petite pastries or other delicate sweets. Traditional brunch menus usually include coffee, juice, egg dishes, bacon or sausage dishes, fruit dishes, cereals, toast and breads, and perhaps some sweet pastries like danishes and doughnuts. A tea brunch is more substantial than an afternoon tea, and lighter than a brunch. A balanced menu is a good idea, so try to include tea, scones or crumpets, at least one light protein dish, some vegetables, fruits, and something sweet.

See the next post for recipes and a menu!
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)