Update: Davenport House Museum’s Tea Programs will not be offered in 2024 due to staffing changes.
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)…
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.
Introduction to Tea in the 1820s
Taking Tea in 1825 at Davenport House
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!