Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Tea & Sympathy
Inside the Tea Garden in Holyrood.
Maybe it’s a peculiarly feminine rite, but there’s something about afternoon tea that sets the world to rights. I don’t often get the chance to indulge in this ritual, but when I do, I grab onto it with both hands so to speak and bask in the pouring of the tea, the selection of the goodies, the clotted cream, the preserves, the linens, the china and that peculiar triple cake rack that used to be de rigeur in the old days (i.e. my time) as a wedding gift. It would sit in the middle of the tea wagon, or the round occasional table in the parlour with little triangular sandwiches, scones and fairy cakes on each plate.
You wouldn’t often catch a man at these afternoon tea occasions, the odd reluctant one dragged by a spouse, perhaps, but on the whole it is an event populated solely by females.
There was a time, in my first job in my home city of Cork, where the afternoon tea was wheeled around on a wagon by the charlady. Her other duties included wheeling around the elevenses in the morning and cleaning the offices after we had gone home or fetching us office supplies from the cabinet during the day, or bandaging our paper cuts (seriously!). We all took afternoon tea complete with a tea cake or a bun. China was always used.
There is a place in Newfoundland, called The Tea Garden in a little town in Holyrood that specializes in this old fashioned ritual of afternoon tea.
The gardens, done in an English style, are a delight unto themselves. Inside there are embroidered tablecloths and napkins, bone china and food that is consistently out of this world, down to the double devon cream for the scones.
I’ve had a few long lunches with both friends and clients over the last few days, which got me to thinking of this old ritual which is dying fast and should by law, be revived. I was reminded of my mother’s and aunts’ and grandmothers’ afternoon teas. When all the men were at work and the children at school and they could sit down for a couple of hours and indulge the chat to their hearts’ content.
There's something so downright civilized about it all. And it should be ground rule one for conducting any kind of business transactions. For instance: how easy would tax return season be over a cup of tea, a watercress sandwich and a three inch scone topped with raspberry comfit and clotted cream, I ask you?