Would you like to come to a tea party? In times past this was an innocuous question, but these days it sounds like an invitation to a political event. I am not polling you for your voting record, because I have in mind the kind of tea party that involves Willow Blue China dishes and curls of steam coming from the spout of a cozied pot.
There will be feasting on crustless jam sandwiches and crumbly sweets. And there will be time to savor each bite.
Doesn’t that sound lovely on a gray afternoon? You don’t have to rely on your childhood memories of a miniature china tea set that made vanilla wafers and Fig Newtons look big. I recall my early tea parties always had company – sometimes it was a friend and other times it was Raggedy Ann. It always was a good time.
Tea can be appreciated on any afternoon (or morning). On one of our days of brilliant sunshine at the end of December, I drove to Tacoma to relax at the Healing Garden Tearoom. Owner Fannie B. Kelley opened the tearoom on June of 2003 after a full teaching career which included much overseas travel and living in Germany. She and her husband, Al, eventually settled in Tacoma. Opening the tearoom had been a long-held dream. Her husband has had the frame shop adjacent to the tearoom, although that is now in the process of closing.
My pulse and blood pressure lowered the moment I stepped through the doorway. It was like a living room totally set up for tea time with floral tablecloths, china cups and a bowl of sugar cubes on each table. There were also fresh-cut flowers on the tables. I started with a pot of robust Earl Grey. It took a moment to arrive at my table, as each pot is made upon the order.
At a sunny table by the window, I let out a deep sigh and relaxed. In the midst of the holiday season, it was a noticeable treat to sit quietly for a bit. And we all know that even though the holidays are over – our fast-paced lives continue to be just that – fast-paced.
Healing Garden offers all you might imagine for an afternoon tea, including the tiered trays: traditional treats like scones, lemon curd, Devonshire cream, creamed honey, preserves, nuts, savory sandwiches, fruit, and desserts are all options, depending on your hunger levels. You can also have a “regular” lunch with homemade soup and the festive celebration tuna sandwich. Of course, there are lots of types of teas.
Kelley’s desire is to have everyone, including children and men, “enjoy a beautiful tea experience with us.” You can bring a friend and chat up a storm or come to sit and be still by yourself. Time slipped by as we enjoyed an easy conversation.
Kelley offered a couple of tea tips. First, use fresh, cold water and bring to a full boil. Let the tea steep for 3-5 minutes (depending on how strong you like it) then take out the tea. If you leave the tea too long it causes your beverage to be bitter, as more of the tannins are released. Adding milk will also reduce the astringent quality of the tannins. If you are brewing white tea, it takes only one minute at most. White tea is gentle and low in caffeine. My tip is to be sure to enjoy your tea in a lovely cup.
Kelley’s sister Eria created the Curry Chicken Salad recipe that is featured on the menu. You can use the salad in a sandwich or scoop mounds onto your favorite greens. Some night when you are cooking chicken, cook extra and use this recipe for the leftovers.
I drink tea every day. I like it a lot – there are so many varieties from which to pick and, like Kelley, I appreciate the health benefits. My husband says my veins must be stained brown. Good. I like brown. It will go perfectly with my curry chicken salad. Bon Appetit!
Mary Ellen Psaltis lives locally and eats globally. You can reach her at TheRecipeWriter@hotmail.com.
The Healing Garden Tearoom
Where: 111 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma
Curry Chicken Salad
4 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
1-1/2 cups celery, diced
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and chill. You can use as a filling for a sandwich or scooped onto a salad. This will serve 6 or more depending on your serving size.