Sylvia is one of my neighborhood girlfriends of whom I am highly enamored. Not just because she’s British and I’m obviously an Anglophile who adores afternoon tea, Agatha Christie and Henry Cavill (not necessarily in that order). Nor only because her twin daughters are my first choice when I need to entrust my kids to a babysitter. And definitely not least of all because she is an upcycler who creates beautiful trash-to-treasure furniture makeovers (see how she transformed the mirror pictured below). She’s just herself at all times, that’s what I admire most about her. She is direct, fun and possibly most importantly, Sylvia does a killer Olivia-Newton-John-starring-in-Grease performance at karaoke.
When Sylvia learned that I was working on Destination Tea and had become obsessed with the tradition of afternoon tea, she declared that upon the completion of her dining room’s redecorating, we were invited to an afternoon tea in proper British style, chez Sylvia. True to her word, when the project was complete, invitations to tea at Sylvia’s went out.
Upon entering Sylvia’s new dining room, I am impressed. Knowing the work that goes into putting together an afternoon tea — from tablescaping to baking — I am touched by Sylvia’s efforts. The centerpiece of freshly picked greenery with bright red berries catches my eye, as well as each unique teacup and saucer, inspiring a round of my private teatime game, “My Favorite Teacup” (winners pictured below).
Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets
One big surprise is that Sylvia reports she did some research to plan this afternoon tea, because in England today, you’d find this kind of three-course tea meal served mainly in restaurants. So while we carry on in the States with our elaborate tea parties, in Britain, where this custom originated, Sylvia says it is no longer common practice to serve the afternoon tea meal at home. Millie Smith, of the former Florida cafe The English Rose Havana, confirms this in a prior Facebook comment, “For a very casual tea round a friend’s house, you would have a tin on the table with a variety of biscuits in it, and a whole Victoria sandwich cake. There wouldn’t usually be any savoury items.” So we are fortunate indeed that Sylvia decides to treat us to the sort of afternoon tea you might experience in a high society parlor in 1800s England (which leads to a conversation on how “high tea” is a misnomer for this meal).
The best part of this lovely experience is of course, the friendship and laughs we share around Sylvia’s table. I treasure each of these women who, as we walk the path of motherhood and middle-age together, are there to counsel, relate, encourage and cheer one another. Thank you Sylvia, for all the hard work you put into giving us this beautiful time together! This is what afternoon tea is all about.