Destination Tea: Davenport House Museum

Where: Savannah, Georgia
Style:  1820s Federal/Greek Revival
Tea Selection:  2 pre-selected loose leaf teas
Teatimes:  Special Event Teas in March and May
Reservations: Reservations required, limited availability
Contact: 912-236-8097 or Purchase Tickets Here
Cost:  $18 Tea at Mrs. Davenport’s/Tea in the Garden; $14 (ages 8-17)
Destination Tea Tips:  Here you will take tea as they did during the 1820s (before the custom of afternoon tea existed). You will nosh, but not to the extent you would with a three-tier service. But then, there’s so much more to this experience (spoiler alert)…

Prices and teatimes are subject to change. Please see our Georgia afternoon tea directory for the latest details.

exterior Davenport House Museum

Destination Tea Notes: We admit, we feel a bit foolish upon discovering that we will not be experiencing a traditional afternoon tea during “Tea at Mrs. Davenport’s,” but we should have known. After all, at the Davenport House Museum, it is forever 1825; a decade before Alexandrina Victoria takes the throne and fifteen years before the advent of afternoon tea. So what happens at teatime, before the Victorian age, in the young United States? In a reenactment program that we love, love, love, Davenport House performers, docents and volunteer bakers invite you to see for yourself. How better to learn about these social customs of the early 19th century than to be instantly transported to an evening tea in 1825? Bring the kids too (we’d suggest 2nd grade and up, depending on your child’s interest and maturity) for this living history lesson. Special thanks to Raleigh Marcell for creating this superbly researched program, which answered a long-standing question of ours: what was it to “take tea” before the custom of afternoon tea? We’ve updated Destination Tea’s “Tea Story” to reflect what we learned, and encourage all tea lovers to attend this very special experience.

gift shop at Davenport House Museum, Savannah, GA
We peruse the gift shop before the program begins, and spy many fun teapots, serving accoutrements and gifts for tea lovers.
Tea brick and miniature teaset at Davenport House Museum, Savannah, GA
Yup, that’s a tea brick (the likes of which were once thrown into the Boston Harbor)

Introduction to Tea in the 1820s

Jamie Credle at Tea with Mrs. Davenport
Performer Jamie Credle takes on the character of an 1820s wife as she animatedly describes the tea customs and equipage of the time.
Tea equipage of the 1820s at Davenport House Museum
Are you familiar with all of these? Jamie circulates these tea accessories, teaching us that sugar nippers were used to break up a sugar loaf into the sugar bowl, and that a mote spoon has a pointed end for clearing tea leaves out of the spout of a teapot. Because tea leaves are not strained during tea service, a slop or waste bowl is used to collect the dregs from one’s teacup before a fresh cup is poured.

Taking Tea in 1825 at Davenport House

We begin our house tour at the front entrance. This clever design in the railing is to “muck off your boots” before entering.
Because Mr. Davenport is an architect, his home is a showpiece for his business.
The fabulous Jan Vach delights us with her portrayal of a vivacious society matron. She shares news of her recent travels to Charleston and chance meeting with the much celebrated Thomas Jefferson.
Note the slop/waste bowls at the ready to collect our cups’ dregs between the pouring of two loose leaf teas: Earl Grey and Gunpowder.
As the four performers converse about current events, our hostess first tempers the teapots with a swirl of hot water, then adds one teaspoon of loose leaf tea per cup into each pot (plus 1 teaspoon for the pot), steeps for about five minutes in the teapot, and serves.
We practice lifting our saucer with our cup, which is proper for this setting. As we finish our tea, we are given a rudimentary and humorous lesson in tea leaf reading and auspicious symbols of the era.
Performer Jeff Freeman is the picture of the mannerly brother, helping his sister to serve tea, and promising to carry a message to his brother-in-law at the club afterwards.
We spread prettily embroidered tea napkins across our laps as we are served freshly baked ginger bread and Sally Lunn bread (a rich, slightly sweet yeast bread brought to the Colonies from England). The program leaflet provides these historic recipes to try at home – love this!
Whoops! I mistakenly doctor my ginger bread before realizing it is really a cake. The proffered butter and honey are tasty condiments for the yeasty Sally Lunn bread.
Creator Raleigh Marcell doubles as the mayor, who admonishes our hostess for allowing her daughter to read Mary Shelley’s controversial book (proper misses do not fill their heads with the fantasy of novels). Our thanks to Raleigh and his team for educating and entertaining us in equal measure. Wonderful!

DestinationTea
Tea Voyageuse, discovering the world of afternoon tea, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

2 Comments

  1. What a wonderful addition to the site! I feel like a time traveler. Someday, I plan to visit this venue in person for the education and the experience. Thank you.

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