Victorian-Style Party Might Just be Your ‘Cup of Tea’
Years of collecting antique teapots and china dishes has spawned a quaint culinary business for Cathy Martin.
The Fishers resident has started My Cup of Tea Parties, where she serves up a perfect blend of sweet and savory food with Victorian ambiance, all washed down with hot tea and a brief history lesson on the popular herbal drink.
Her new part-time business allows her to tap into her love of hostessing – as well as put good use to all those tea sets her husband, Greg, has been wondering why she’s collected at antique malls and garage sales for the last two decades.
Cathy has long been fascinated with the Victorian era and its elegant social gatherings.
“I’ve always said I was born in the wrong century,” said Cathy, who works full-time as a customer service manager at the Fishers YMCA.
Our fast-paced lifestyle is so busy that friends find it hard to schedule time to just sit and enjoy each other’s company. That’s why Cathy’s offering area women the opportunity to take a break from the fast food lane and invite a few friends over for tea. It can be a special occasion, like a wedding shower, or just a chance to catch up.
Cathy makes it easy by providing all of the tableware and preparing the tea sandwiches and desserts. She usually arrives at the hostess’ home about three hours before a Saturday afternoon party to prepare food using the hostess’ kitchen.
A typical menu includes scones with jam, tea sandwiches, cake, cookies and two types of tea. Cathy usually serves a black tea, like Lady Grey, and a decaf green tea.
Longtime friend Ann Rockhill hosted Cathy’s first tea party for about a dozen friends at her Fishers home in November.
“Cathy really has a wonderful flair for hostessing and making it special,” Rockhill said.
Rockhill grew up in Holland and had a British dad, so having tea is a way of life for her, not a one-time novelty. Rockhill knows what it takes to pull together a nice tea party for friends, so she was more than happy to pay the $175 for Cathy to do all the work this time. Going to a fine tea room like The Canterbury with that many people would easily cost as much, and Rockhill liked the intimacy of having the gathering in her home.
She also loved the artistic tea sandwiches and fresh-from-the-oven scones Cathy cooked up. Her friend even introduced a tea she hadn’t tried before.
“I thought it was all very authentic,” Rockhill said.
Rockhill’s seal of approval means a lot to Cathy, who has never been to Europe herself. She has done an extensive amount of research, however, and includes a mini-history lesson as party of her “tea talk.”
For instance, did you know tea was first discovered 5,000 years ago in China but was always served hot until the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis? A record heat wave made for weak tea sales, so a frustrated vendor dumped all of his hot tea in ice and started giving it away. Suddenly his booth was one of the most popular at the fair!
Tea, of course, was also in the spotlight of American history when the fury caused by the 1773 Boston Tea Party sent things thundering toward the inevitable Revolutionary War.
“Tea has a big part in our history,” Cathy said.
While tea rooms are not as abundant these days as coffee houses, tea seems to be gaining ground. There are at least half a dozen tea rooms in the metro area, including Helios in Carmel and the historic L.S.Ayers Tea Room at the Indiana State Museum.
“There are a lot of health benefits to the green teas with their antioxidants,” Cathy said.
Tea enthusiasts might also like to visit Conner Prairie for its Victorian Tea Party, which will be presented during four weekends in February and March. Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman, a well-to-do couple of the year 1886, will host the gala at their Victorian-era farmhouse.
Guests will sample and learn the history of several types of tea and other period delights, as well as learn the proper etiquette of having tea, said Jimmy Klemz, with Conner Prairie’s Guest Services. It’s a very popular program, he added.
To join the tea party, which costs $30 ($25 for members) and lasts two hours, call Conner Prairie at 776-6006. To set up a tea party of your own with Cathy, contact her at 845-9720 or send e-mail to email@example.com.
I recently sat down to tea with Cathy and can vouch for the delight you’ll have at trying her fresh-baked, cranberry scones with jam.
“It’s just a fun, relaxing and elegant atmosphere I try to provide,” she said.