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A Celebration of Tea

Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea…

October 8, 2009
Cindy Schumacher

The tea ritual has been a source of fascination and pleasure for more than a century-and-a-half. Charmed by the smallness of the cups and saucers, delighted with tiny sandwiches and other treats, tea sippers were thrilled to step away from their everyday selves and enter a world of endearing friendship and politeness.

Kula resident Nicoleta Neagoy has attended, prepared and hosted many high teas for family, friends and retreat groups.

“Once upon an afternoon tea celebration, I observed a joining of hearts,” she said. “A serene calm is shared over tea,” said Neagoy. “Pouring tea is like the twirl of a ballerina.”

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John Harrisson has written and co-authored over 30 books, mostly in the food and cookbook realm.

She believes chocolate, cherry and mint are as surprisingly delicious as Earl Grey and Darjeeling, each tantalizing sip by sip. Constant Comment warms a cold evening but Maui Mango tea “brings to life places designed by dreamers,” she said.

After savoring the orange poppy seed scones, baklava with macadamia nuts, and chocolate grape jam torte along with more tea served, Neagoy’s guests receive an inspirational favor called a prayer pocket. This tea party favor contains a message of good fortune along with an assignment. They are to read their quote and share with the others a personal story related to it.

“There have been stories that would melt the Arctic,” she said.

“Ah yes, High Tea!” exclaimed John Harrisson, an Englishman now living on Maui, and chef and author of many cookbooks. “Growing up in the U.K., we’d have tea at home around 5 p.m. It was a mini-meal between lunch and supper. A pot of strong tea, properly brewed leaf-tea, never teabags, even for us kids, served with bread and jam and cakes, such as Chelsea buns, cupcakes—and my favorite, the colorful marzipan-covered Battenburg cake. Later, supper would be a light meal.”

Harrisson assisted Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong in writing their cookbooks and  worked on the Neiman Marcus Cookbook, which includes some great high tea finger sandwich recipes, as well as the famous chocolate chip cookie recipe.

The custom of afternoon tea is thought to have been introduced in England in 1840 by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. Lunch was taken earlier then, and dinner was not served until about 9 p.m. Not surprisingly, the duchess became hungry during the afternoon and requested tea, bread, butter and cake to be brought to her room. After sharing the idea with her friends, afternoon tea became a widespread social event in England.

In Edwardian times in Britain, tea shops flourished and fashionable hotels serving elaborate and elegant afternoon teas were popular meeting places.

“Today,” said Harrisson, “you’ll find tea rooms in most English tourist towns; cafés that serve afternoon teas with cream teas or pastries.”

While teatime in England may be far away, the Upcountry Makawao Steak House offers a quaint teahouse fit for a queen. Owners Donna and Ray Eneim, and teahouse Manager Karen Medeiros have provided an opportunity to experience a revived old-world tradition. The moment you enter the tearoom, you are transported into another time and place.

“We take care to set each teatime table with lace tablecloths, dainty china plates, cups, and saucers with floral patterns,” said Donna. “The room is decorated with china cabinets full of dishware and wonderful teapots purchased on trips. People from around the world who have enjoyed teatime at the steak house have donated china pieces from their own collections.” Add two cozy sofas by the brick fireplace, and you are in store for the charm and relaxation that only a genuine teahouse can provide.

“On the menu are freshly baked, melt-in-the mouth scones served with butter, strawberry jam, lemon curd and cream,” said Medeiros, who graciously tends to customers. “There is a selection of three tasty finger sandwiches and a wide variety of many different teas presented in a nice wooden box. The petit fours are heaven for those with a sweet tooth, as well as the sorbet that follows,” she said. Medeiros’s warmth and chitchat add to the feeling of well-being that lasts long after the gathering.

Teatime at the Makawao Steak House tearoom (courtyard entrance) is served between 12 and 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Parties and special events are welcomed. For more information, call 572-8711.



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