Sunday, February 26, 2017

Downton Days at Meadow Brook with Barb's Tea Service (Part I)

Barb & Rachel (BTS), part of Downton Days at Meadow Brook

Last week, Barb's Tea Service was part of Meadow Brook Hall's Downton Days Afternoon Tea. After our presentation, guests were scheduled to tour the mansion. However, we provided a tour of our own that covered the history of tea, its introduction to England, the invention of afternoon tea and "Cora's Story", the prequel to Downton Abbey.  A lot of ground was covered in thirty minutes!

BTS "tour" included history of tea & more!

Starting where it all began, we traced the history of tea from China to Japan (brought to the latter by Buddhist monks) until it finally made its way to England in the 1600's.

BTS' display table and some of the guests at Meadow Brook

As England embraced tea, it elevated it to the fancy affair we refer to as "afternoon tea" in 1840. (For Victoria fans, it's a delight to note, it was that Queen's lady-in-waiting, Anna Duchess of Bedford who is credited for that spectacular creation.)

Gothic Room at Marble House where Lord Marlborough proposed to Conseulo

Afternoon tea was not the only event to shake up England in the 1800's! There was also the invasion of the "American Heiresses" or "Dollar Princesses", as they were referred to -  daughters of the American noveau riche who married British aristocrats in  "cash for class" transactions. Downton Abbey's Cora married Lord Grantham in such an arrangement.

Alva V. who pulled the strings on the marriage

A true life Cora, Conseulo Vanderbilt married Lord Marlborough in 1895, at the insistence of her mother, Alva, and became a Duchess at the age of 19. Lord Marlborough proposed to Conseulo in the Gothic Room at the Marble House, one of the many Gilded Age "cottages" we toured last October.

Attired in our own Gilded Age gowns, we were thrilled to be part of Downton Days afternoon tea at Meadow Brook Hall. It's a beautiful venue and we had the event captured by our cousin, Karri B., who is a professional photographer. We'll be sharing those photos very soon!

We also met a great group of ladies at the tea, dressed in gorgeous period dresses, who graciously consented to be part of our photo shoot. We'll share those pictures soon as well!

Stay tuned for Downton Days at Meadow Brook with Barb's Tea Service, Part II!! 


Great fun at Meadow Brook. More pictures to come!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day! Give Dark Chocolates to your Sweet-tea: It's good for them!

Students of chocolate at Hershey's Chocolate Lab in PA

Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate love . . . and chocolate!  We at Barb's Tea Service take both quite seriously and are thrilled to share that the latter can now come with less guilt, according to a recent article in the  Huffington Post. Here nine reasons are listed as to why you should eat dark chocolate every day.

In the classroom waiting to work on our project.

Among the reasons cited for making dark chocolate part of your daily diet:  it  reduces stress and makes your brain sharper.


Making our own chocolate bar  to make our brains sharper!

We at Barb's Tea Service are devoted to the study of chocolate. We have studied at the Chocolate Lab in Hershey, Pennsylvania.


Went to the head of the class in this course.


We've also taken classes at Bon Bon Bon, the amazing chocolate company in Hamtramck.

Delicious bon bons at Bon Bon Bon

Bon bon bon are good, good, good for you!

With Alex, owner of Bon Bon Bon

In addition, we have participated in several taste testings with Mindo Chocolate, to create  delicious chocolate/tea pairings for our special events.

Chocolate and tea pairings.  Not a bad assignment.


Devoted students? Yes! Hard work? Well, truth be told, not exactly! 

Dark chocolate with sea salt makes me happy!

Other benefits of eating dark chocolate, per Huffington Post, include lowering both blood pressure and cholesterol. And, because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that produces serotonin in the brain, it makes us happy.  (I did not need a research study to tell me that one).

Happy Valentine's Day and, remember, giving your loved one dark chocolate is not only a good idea, it's good for them.  And, even better, it is sure to make them happy!


Friday, February 3, 2017

Dining Etiquette Series begins at Birmingham's Townsend Hotel

Bar'b's Tea Service presents Dining Dos and Don'ts

There are many dining dos and don't's, but there is only one "do" in regards to the Etiquette Series at the Townsend Hotel - do come and join us for an afternoon of fun, education and delicious tea time fare!

Last Sunday, Barb's Tea Service kicked off the first program of  its  Etiquette Series at The Townsend Hotel. Every month (or so) a special etiquette topic will be featured. This past month, we started with, "Dining Dos and Don'ts".


Beautiful tablescapes: flowers, crisp linens and beautiful china

The etiquette programs provide important information for young people and a refresher for those of us who are veteran social diners. We're a lot more informal in everyday life in the "new" milenial than society was in the 1920's when Emily Post wrote her guide to etiquette. However, as we at BTS like to say, good manners never go out of style! And, there are some issues Emily Post would never have been able instruct on, such as what to do with your cell phone at the dining table. (We've got you covered there, too!)


Guests enjoy tea and scones during the program 

During the program, guests are served excellently brewed tea and delicious scones.  Guests are also treated to a full afternoon tea menu after the formal presentation, complete with tea sandwiches and pastries.



Delicious savories and tea are served



Beautiful and scrumptious pastries, too!





















We had a wonderful group of guests for "Dining Dos and Don'ts".  It was a great gathering of friends and moms-and-daughters. Two of the young ladies in attendance each won a "Michigan Tea Rooms" book as they were both celebrating birthdays!



A delightful group of friends partake in afternoon tea and talk


Mom and daughter, celebrating a birthday.



Three generations come together for tea and etiquette.

Barb's Tea Service presents Etiquette programs at The Townsend (almost) every month


The next program in the Etiquette Series at The Townsend is "The Dining Tutorial" on March 4th!

Don't wait! and Do come and join us for an afternoon of tea and etiquette fun in the world's most beautiful classroom.  Those are dining do's and don'ts that will never fall out of fashion.



The world's most beautiful classroom - Townsend tea lobby!

For more information on the Etiquette Series at The Townsend, see The Townsend Hotel Afternoon Tea page or Barbsteaservice.com, (events page!).



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tea and Chocolate pair well at Huntington Woods Library

Mindo chocolates and tea from Socra Tea were featured at this weekend's pairing

Chocolate, tea and a little bitter/sweet history was on the menu at the Huntington Woods Library last Saturday.

In connection with the current DIA Exhibit, Bitter|Sweet: Coffee, Tea and Chocolate, Barb's Tea Service hosted: "Tea History with a Tea and Chocolate Pairing" to a "sold out" crowd at the Huntington Woods Library. Teas from Socra Tea were matched with tasting squares from Mindo Chocolate.



Rachel & Pam of BTS prepare the tea and serve guests chocolate

Four different tasty teas, ranging from Earl Grey to White Chai, were paired with absolutely delicious Mindo chocolate. Three of the sampling squares were dark chocolate featuring fruits or spices along with one milk chocolate with a hint of peppermint.

Four different types of chocolate were served

In one afternoon, we spanned several centuries and a few continents, covering the introduction of coffee, tea and chocolate to Europe around the 17th century. Although the focus was mostly on tea, we talked about the Royals early adoption of coffee and chocolate and, of course, those amazing chocolate rooms at Hampton Court Palace.


Barb T. and Barb G. at the Chocolate and Tea Pairing

Barb's Tea Service team (aka Rachel and Pam), brewed the tea onsite and served the chocolate. Guests each received a tea and chocolate pairing card and a BTS pen to take notes!

This was an amazing group of guests  and it was a pleasure to linger after the program and talk to everyone. We were introduced to some wonderful new friends and met up with a few of BTS's bff's, including Barb T.


Guiliana L. talks about Newby teas and presents samples to all guests

The program ended with a special treat from Newby Teas. Guiliana Loaiza, outreach coordinator for Newby Teas, presented one guest with a special zodiac tea for her birthday. All other guests received a sample tea packet to take home.

A special thanks to Anne Hage, Huntington Woods Librarian, for inviting us to present as well as all the guests who participated!

If you are interested in having BTS prepare a chocolate and tea pairing for your group, contact us anytime at barb@barbsteashop.com or 248-840-4356.  We'd be delighted to create and prepare a special tasting event just for you!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dining Dos and Don'ts: Etiquette Series with Afternoon Tea begins this month at The Townsend Hotel



Rachel &  Barb Gulley of Barb's Tea Service will present dining etiquette at The Townsend

  • What do you do when the person on your left appropriates your bread plate?
  • If  both the salad fork and the knife are placed next to the plate, what does that mean?
  • Where do you place your cell phone? 

Have you ever wondered if there were answers to the dining perplexities cited above? Barb's Tea Service and The Townsend Hotel are here to assist. Starting this month, a delightful and delicious combination of instruction and afternoon tea will be served up at Birmingham's luxury hotel with presenters, Barb and Rachel Gulley.

The first in a series of monthly etiquette programs starts the last weekend in January at The Townsend Hotel. Barb's Tea Service  will instruct guests on proper dining protocol. The course will teach table manners to young people as well as serve as a refresher for veteran social diners.



Afternoon tea at The Townsend:  beautiful and scrumptious

In truly the most elegant and beautiful "classroom", guests will enjoy the scrumptious sweets and savories from the Townsend. The first program will cover dining do's and don'ts. Future topics will include table talk, finessing the business meal and forms of service.  We'll also slip in a few tea etiquette tips at each event.

Tea etiquette tips will also be shared. How DO you eat a scone?

Bring your friends and family to afternoon tea at The Townsend Hotel. BTS will present the mini-etiquette programs starting January 29th at noon.

And, yes, there are answers to the questions above. Join us and we'll unlock the mysteries!




For more information, see The Townsend Hotel Afternoon Schedule or The Townsend Hotel website.


Barb Gulley, author of this blog, is certified by the Protocol School of Washington in etiquette instruction.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Victoria premieres tonight on PBS: Celebrate with afternoon tea and credit the Queen's friend, Anna, Duchess of Bedford




Rachel in front of Kensington Palace - our visit in 2011

For those of us still looking to fill the void Downton Abbey created last year with its final season, and who have already binge-watched The Crown, it's with great anticipation we have waited for tonight when PBS premieres its new mini-series, Victoria.

It seems absolutely fitting to celebrate this new drama with afternoon tea as it was Queen Victoria's friend and lady-in-waiting, Anna, Duchess of Bedford who is credited with creating this quintessential British repast.

The Orangery tea room on the grounds of Kensington Palace


The summer of June, 2011, Rachel and I toured Kensington Palace. We were in awe of being in Queen Victoria's bedroom, the exact spot where, on June 20, 1837, she was told she would be the new reigning monarch of England.

Another highlight of the tour was having afternoon tea at The Orangery, the beautiful tea room on the grounds of Kensington Palace. (It still remains one of our Top Five Tea Rooms in England.) Considering afternoon tea was a creation of Victorian times, it seemed essential to partake in one so near the childhood home of  the Queen.

But what inspired Anna to package up scones, tea and tiny sandwiches into an elegant mid-day event? It began as a solution to a problem. In 19th century England, the span between lunch and dinner for the "one-percenters" was great. By mid-afternoon, our poor Duchess suffered from what she described as a "sinking feeling". Basically, she was hungry.

To combat this, Anna began asking for cakes and breads to be served with her afternoon tea. She loved it - and so much so, she began to invite friends to join her. And, since this was Victorian times where more was more, it became not only a time to break scones with fellow aristocrats, but an occasion to show off your lovely new tea accouterments and fancy tea dresses.


Afternoon tea at The Orangery. Prepare your own for Victoria viewing!

So, my anglophile friends, buckle your seat belts, brew up some Earl Grey, warm up the scones, slather on the clotted cream and get your remote control pointed to your local PBS station at 9:00 tonight. Victoria may not completely fill the empty Sunday nights we've experienced since last March, but served up with scones, sweets and savories, (thank you, Anna!)  it should be delicious fun!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Revisiting the Chocolate Kitchen at Hampton Court: Marc Meltonville, Historic Royal Palaces Food Historian at the DIA



Rachel. Barb and Chris with Palace Food Historian, Marc Meltonville

Last November, as part of the Bitter/Sweet: Coffee, Tea and Chocolate Exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts, we had the great pleasure of attending a presentation about the chocolate kitchen at Hampton Court Palace from Historic Royal Palaces Food Historian, Marc Meltonville.

Visiting Hampton Court in 2015, ready to see the chocolate rooms

When we visited Hampton Court in the Fall of 2015, we saw the chocolate rooms but had no idea they had only recently been uncovered and restored.  Per Marc Meltonville, the general location of the chocolate rooms were known to be somewhere along the Fountain Court, but not until 2013, when a curator found inventory documents, did they find the specific spot.

Hampton Court


Fountain Court, at chocolate rooms

Hampton Court, located on the Thames. was once the home of Thomas Wolsey, until  Henry VIII took it over in 1514. During the reign of William and Mary, famed architect, Christopher Wren, designed an "addition" which included the Fountain Court. 


The chocolate room  displays all the sweet treat accouterments of the Georgian era

In 2013, excavating began in the area along the Fountain Court where the chocolate rooms were documented and, astonishingly, the original shelves and ovens were uncovered. After careful restoration, the chocolate kitchen was opened on Valentines Day, 2014. Today, visitors will see both the chocolate room (where chocolate serving pieces were housed) and the chocolate kitchen as they were in 18th century when they were run by the personal chocolate maker to King George I, Thomas Tosier.



The Chocolate Room

According to palace records, Thomas Tosier had his own bedroom at the palace. It's telling of the status of being the Royal chocolate maker  - not just your average court minion. Thomas and his wife Grace, from all accounts, lead quite a comfortable life for servants of the King.



The Chocolate Kitchen were the original oven and shelves were uncovered

In the chocolate kitchen, you can view the original oven and shelves. There are holograms that demonstrate chocolate making.



Holograms of chocolate makers are displayed on the rooms' blank walls.

At the DIA's Bitter/Sweet Exhibit, visitors can see a film of Marc Meltonville (below) at Hampton Court's chocolate kitchen.


Marc Meltonville is featured in a film as part of  DIA exhibit

It's an interesting (and delicious) part of history. An added treat to meet the Royal Food Historian in person.

BTS (at the DIA exhibit) will host chocolate tea pairing this month

Although Marc Meltonville 's presentation was only in November, the Bitter/Sweet exhibit at the DIA continues through March.

In addition, in connection this exhibit, Barb's Tea Service will be presenting The History of Tea with a Chocolate and Tea pairing at the Huntington Woods Library on January 28th.