Words to Live by, from a Soulful Virtual Tea Party: Tea and Justice

[BONUS: includes 2 Easy Tea Sandwich Recipes]

Thistle Farms' Tea and Justice Virtual Tea Party
Image credit: Thistle Farms

Tea has a history of both violence and hope. It has been there for every war and every peace treaty.”

– Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farms

Readers of Destination Tea may recognize Thistle Farms’ name, from our past visit to their Nashville cafe for a delicious afternoon tea. We have deep admiration for founder Becca Stevens, and for her organization’s mission [excerpt: “Together, we rise up against systems that commoditize, criminalize, and abuse women”]. As co-hosts of the virtual tea party, Becca was joined by chef-owner Tanya Holland of the Brown Sugar Kitchen restaurants in San Francisco, and women’s rights advocate Fiona Prine, who is also a Thistle Farms Global Advisory Board Member.

Becca Stevens, Tanya Holland and Fiona Prine discuss tea and justice on a virtual tea party
Clockwise from top left: Becca Stevens, Tanya Holland and Fiona Prine discuss tea and justice

700 of us across the country joined the call to sip tea as three strong, caring women discussed their justice work. That hour was a balm for our hearts, as many participants attested in the chat.

“That’s How the World Changes: Women Get Together Over Tea and Say We’re Going to Be Revolutionaries.”

As I prepared my tea tray for Thistle Farms’ virtual tea party, I was unaware of how significant the occasion was.

women's equality day graphic by national women's history alliance

The “Tea and Justice” tea party was held on August 26th, 2020, to commemorate the Centennial Woman’s Equality Day, the 100th anniversary of the day the 19th amendment took effect, giving American women the right to vote. All women? Sadly, not then, even though women of all races had led the American suffragist movement. [Aside: I am grateful to the Girl Scouts for featuring women of color in this overview. The stories on pages 10-11 filled me with emotion].

"Let Mother Vote" button
Button from the Ann Lewis and MIke Sponder Women’s Suffrage Collection

Fiona reminded us that 24-year-old Tennessee legislator Harry Burn broke the tie to ratify the amendment because he listened to his mother. Love this.

I knew that a mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification,” he said. “I appreciated the fact that an opportunity such as seldom comes to a mortal man to free 17 million women from political slavery was mine.”

Our Virtual Tea Ceremony

Becca led us through a four-step tea ceremony, encouraging us all to join the conversation and share our thoughts in the chat. That was part of the fun, feeling a closeness to faceless new friends in the online conversation.

Tea tray for Thistle Farms' Tea and Justice Virtual Tea Party
Tea tray at the ready!

Step One: Offer Thanks

Fiona spoke about how fortunate she feels to come from a legacy of women who fought for her right to vote. Her parents taught her how little it can take to make a huge difference in a whole situation. She recalled a tea party at the cafe, after which some of the women there went on to become donors to Thistle Farms.

Zi Chun Teas on the tea tray for the Thistle Farms Virtual Tea Party, Tea and Justice
I had a private moment of gratitude to Zi Chun Tea, for gifting me their Milk Oolong tea to sample.

Step Two: Always Enlarge Our Circle

Becca shared a story from her work in Mexico, when she met with a group of women who were survivors of violence. They were taking tea together and going around offering one thing they’d each like to make real in the future, and one woman said she wanted to be invited to drink tea again in a women’s circle. This had been her first time.

I like the idea of small intimate groups where everybody feels comfortable because they know they are welcome to be there.” – Fiona

This immediately reminded me of my belated Aunt Mary, who lived like this wherever she went, always making new friends and inviting them to her parties small and large, encouraging us all to welcome newcomers into the fold. Today, a china teacup she gave me as a wedding gift hangs in the Cafe at Thistle Farms, exactly where her energy belongs.

Angela's teacup at afternoon tea at The Cafe at Thistle Farms in Nashville, TN
Aunt Mary’s gift to me became a gift to Thistle Farms, as she would want it.

Step Three: Steep Your Tea and Pour

It was a joy seeing which teas, teacups and teapots our hostesses had brought to tea. They did a quick poll and found that 66% of attendees were using teabags, versus 34% loose leaf. I had brewed a Milk Oolong (one of my favorite tea varieties), from Zi Chun Teas, right in my teapot. I happily discovered that my Japanese Lusterware teapot had been crafted with small holes inside the spout’s base, a design feature that perfectly strained the whole leaf tea as I poured.

MIlk Oolong from Zi Chun Teas
Tightly balled milk oolong leaves are a richly saturated forest green color.
Milk Oolong steeping
I pour in 200 degree water and watch these leaves unfurl. This tea is handpicked in a Nantou County tea garden in Central Taiwan. The tea plant varietal is Jinxuan or “Golden Lily,” which naturally gives a subtle milk aroma and taste, but Zi Chun Teas also adds a light natural milk flavoring.
Sipping milk oolong from Zi Chun Teas
The aroma of this tea puts a smile on my face. It brews a light golden liquor, with a hint of creaminess in the sip. Also check out my pretty saucer with the hidden flower that reveals itself as you drink your tea.

Step Four: Make A Toast

Becca made this beautiful toast to the power of love, especially where women gather:

Cup by cup is how tea brings justice into the present, while we celebrate the heroes of the past. We raise our cups to the suffragists, to all women who dared to conjure up dreams of freedom and to all the friends who longed to share their dreams and make it a movement. Women are gathering so that silence and shame can be transformed into powerful forces. To the mother of all things — Love — the most powerful force for change this world knows.”

Angela of Destination Tea at the Thistle Farms Virtual Tea Party, Tea and Justice
Toasting the wonderful women at this virtual tea party

Two Tea Sandwiches: Salmon Salad and Boursin-Watercress

Destination Tea Tip: Make your tea sandwiches ahead and chill in the fridge before cutting into finger sandwiches, to help them better hold their shape.

Tea sandwich prep
Ready to assemble two tea sandwiches: Watercress-boursin and salmon salad

Tea Sandwich #1: Salmon Salad

salmon salad part one
salmon salad ready to spread

Leftover salmon fillet gets a second life once blended with chopped celery, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.

salmon salad sandwich

After spreading the salad on my Dave’s Killer “White Bread Done Right,” leafy romaine finishes off the sandwich.

Tea Sandwich #2: Watercress and Boursin

watercress and Boursin sandwich

Let the Boursin (herbed cream cheese) come to room temperature to make spreading easier. Coat both slices of bread and pile high your watercress leaves.

tea sandwiches for the Thistle Farms Virtual Tea Party, Tea and Justice

An afternoon tea menu doesn’t have to be a three-course meal, especially if you are whipping up something the day of. These two sandwich bites were the perfect pairing for my DIY teatime, easy to make a bit special by serving on a pretty plate.

As our tea party drew to a close, Becca, Tanya and Fiona reflected on justice as a way of life.

People say, “I love Thistle Farm…but I buy my soap from Target.”

Tanya: “For me, being a restaurant owner in this community has given me a platform to use my voice with political leaders or to do advocacy work. I do take it as a responsibility now. People will listen, so I’m going to speak up for people who don’t have that voice yet. I feel like that’s my duty. As much as I can encourage the younger generation because they have to vote, even though they feel rightfully discouraged. There’s also the choices I make in hiring or choosing vendors. I am particular about which nonprofits I give to, mostly supporting women and children, food banks and feeding people. There is a local organization Elizabeth House, like Thistle Farms.

I also make a lot of time to find the joy. If you don’t, we’re doing it all in vain. We have to find the joy even when there’s tough moments.” – Tanya

Fiona: “It begins with empathy. I saw that displayed in my parents growing up. I didn’t know that word, but I knew that my father identified with people and he was grateful for what he had in his life, and that meant something to me.

If I stop growing my empathy, therein lies despair.” – Fiona

Becca: “I am doing the justice work on ‘shared trade, fair share for women,’ instead of the market deciding what is fair, which leaves so many women in poverty. We take out the links to create more direct relationships and women get a share of the retail value. I have helped start 5 or 6 small groups of women doing amazing things. Justice is a way of life.”

fair trade teas and "Love Heals" teacup from Thistle Farms
“Love Heals Everybody” is a Thistle Farms slogan.

In the chat, many of us commented on how important it is to vote with your dollars. By purchasing our everyday consumables from organizations like Thistle Farms, we are saying we want healing and prosperity for the women these organizations uplift. I happily took action by treating myself to their fair trade organic silver tea, fabulously scented bath salts and bath gel. I’ve also got my eye on this teacup, when it’s back in stock.

Thank you Becca, Tanya, Fiona and Thistle Farms for sharing your wisdom over tea, I loved being a part of it!

Justice is a way of life…in what we consume, what we do with our days.” – Becca

[Note: We thank Zi Chun Teas for the gift of their Milk Oolong Tea.]

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


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