Herbs in tea parties

Sadye Matula

I have loved tea parties since I was a young girl. My grandmother gave my sister, Sandy, and me a miniature china tea set that we used for our tea parties. Now my grandchildren use it when they come to Mimi’s house for a “tea tarty.” We serve tea and […]

I have loved tea parties since I was a young girl. My grandmother gave my sister, Sandy, and me a miniature china tea set that we used for our tea parties. Now my grandchildren use it when they come to Mimi’s house for a “tea tarty.” We serve tea and cookies.

My mother was a tea drinker and that is probably where my love for tea came from. However, she would steep her Lipton tea bag until the tea was dark and bitter. I, on the other hand, like my tea with wonderful flavor and no bitterness. I like the flavored teas – herbal is my favorite for good reason.

Tea parties as we know them stem from Queen Victoria. She used it to stave off hunger between the noon meal and the fashionably late evening meal with afternoon tea served with savory snacks like sandwiches and cake or other sweet treats. This is low tea because it was served on a low table.

High tea is a meal served at the regular dining room table. It is a hearty meal with meat pies, quiche and/or savories.

When I was visiting England several years ago, I wanted to try a cream tea. It was our last day in this little town, and I saw a sign out front that said “Cream Tea until 5 p.m.” I walked inside, told them what I wanted so they sat me on a love seat with a low table in front and brought out the tray with scones, raspberry jam and clotted cream, I was very enthusiastic. The other couple in the tearoom overheard me say it was my first cream tea and they announced to me, “It is customary for a native to buy a visitor their first cream tea. So we had them put your cream tea on our bill.” I thanked them and dove in. The lady then said one more thing: “Be sure you put enough jam and cream on the scone so when you bite into it, it runs down your arm.” I was surprised by the comment. It didn’t seem like that was something an English lady would encourage to happen. Not wanting to insult my benefactors, I did as I was instructed. It was wonderful. I spoiled my dinner by eating so much but had no regrets.

I have been to many tea parties since that time. They were all different from each other but still wonderful. The addition of herbs in both the tea and the food adds to the enjoyment. Earl Grey tea has the addition of bergamot which gives it the characteristic flavor. Herbal tea contains no caffeine if it is 100{0b665730f5e195e56f45088ce75c7e365ca1afa067b6c9c0bf555aa77d6d2cfa} herbal. If the label on the tea box says “decaffeinated” then it is black or green tea and may be flavored with herbs so read your labels.

Herbs add great flavor to the sandwiches as well, either in the spread like cream cheese and butter and in the filling like egg salad with dill, chicken salad with tarragon, smoked salmon with a sprinkling of chives. Herbal garnishes add color, texture and flavor in each bite. Adding herbs to the sweets is also very flavorful. Lavender sugar cookies, lemon tea bread with lemon balm and lemon thyme, brownies with chopped up mint, mint on a fruit cup, and basil in apricot squares will each be a nice addition to your tea party.

Herbs that make great herbal tea are basil, chamomile, fennel, hyssop, lavender, lemon balm, mint, rose, rosemary and scented geranium. Use them singly or mix a couple together. Start with cold water in a saucepan, bring just to boiling then pour over dry tea or herb leaves. Steep for 5-10 minutes and serve while hot.

Evergreen Garden Club is hosting a fundraising tea party where the proceeds go to Chippewa Nature Center Camperships for children that can’t afford to go to camp otherwise and the Phoenix Community Farm, a farm that grows food for residents with food insecurities.

We will be serving scones, fruit, finger sandwiches, sweets and of course two kinds of tea. The tea party is set for doors to open at 10 a.m. Friday May 20 at Trinity Lutheran Church. There will be many raffle items for you to place your tickets on. Our program will begin at 11 a.m. with Abraham Lincoln speaking about his life in Washington D.C. It should be a wonderful time you will not want to miss.


1 1/4 cups milk                                  

1 tablespoon lemon balm, finely chopped                 

1 tablespoon lemon thyme, finely chopped               

2 1/2 cups flour                                  

1 cup sugar

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 egg

zest of 1 lemon

Put milk and herbs in a saucepan.  Heat until steaming.  Remove pan from heat and allow herbs to steep in milk until cool. 

Grease and flour one 9 x 5 x 3″ bread pan or two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2/1/2″ bread pans.  Preheat oven to 350° F. Measure the rest of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add cooled milk and herb mixture.  Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides and bottom of bowl constantly.  Pour into pan(s). Bake 55-65 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan and place on wire rack that is set over waxed paper or aluminum foil.  Pour lemon glaze (recipe below) over bread while still hot.


Juice of 1 lemon                            

2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Put the lemon juice in a bowl.  Add the sugar, stirring until a thick, pourable paste is made. Pour the glaze over hot bread, spooning glaze back on bread from waxed paper or foil.


(The combination of currants and caraway is very nice)

2 1/4 cup flour                                

2 teaspoons baking powder            

3 tablespoons sugar                         

1 tablespoon caraway seeds            

1/4 teaspoon salt                                

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup milk

1 egg

1/2 cup currants

1 egg yolk plus 1 tablespoon warm water

Preheat oven to 400° F. Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, caraway, and salt. Add butter and blend until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (I use a food processor). In another bowl, mix together well, milk and egg then add to dry ingredients and mix just enough to hold it together in a ball. Place on floured cloth. Knead currants into dough for 30 seconds. Pat dough to 1/2″ thick. Cut with floured cutter.  Place 1″ apart on a greased cookie sheet and brush top with egg mixture. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.


 (This French herbed puff can be served as an appetizer or a ring to hold a luncheon salad such as chicken, shrimp or fish)

1/2 cup butter                     

1/4 teaspoon salt                         

1 cup water                         

1 cup flour                                 

4 eggs    

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives                            

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or 1 Tbsp. dried fine herbs

1 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 425° F. In a saucepan, combine the butter, salt, and water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat. Add the flour all at once and beat well until the flour is incorporated.  Return saucepan to medium heat and cook until the dough becomes stiff and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Remove from the heat and beat the eggs in thoroughly, one at a time.  Stir in herbs and 2/3 cup of the cheese. 

To make individual puffs for appetizers: drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto two ungreased baking sheets.

To make a large ring for a salad: drop dough by tablespoonfuls in a circle on an ungreased baking sheet. 

Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed.  Serve warm, filling with your favorite salad. Two of my favorites are below. Makes 18 puffs.    


1- 6 1/2 ounce can tuna, drained    

1/2 cup celery, chopped                  

1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced         

1/4 cup green onions, sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt, optional

dash of pepper                                

3/4 teaspoon dried dillweed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Mix all the ingredients together and chill.  Fill warm puffs and serve immediately. Enough to fill 9 puffs.


1 cup cooked turkey, cut in small cubes

1 cup celery, cut fine                      

1/4 cup mayonnaise                        

3 tablespoons slivered almonds      

2 teaspoons dill or 1 teaspoon each dill and tarragon

3/4 teaspoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons green onions, chopped fine

1/3 cup pineapple chunks

Mix all the ingredients together and chill.  Fill warm puffs and serve immediately. Enough to fill 15-18 puffs.

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