Welcome to The Secret Garden Tea Room and Gift Shop, located in Sumner, Washington, a charming little town about 40 minutes south of Seattle (that’s with no traffic). My name is Elizabeth (or Beth) and I live upstairs with my family (Mark and Viola). Mark is head chef (and groundskeeper and maintenance man) and Viola is our hostess (when she’s not at kindergarten or at grandma’s). Downstairs, as you might have guessed, we invite people into our home and serve them afternoon tea or lunch and then tempt them with an array of romantic jewelry, clothing, accesories for their homes and gorgeous china and tea time accoutrements and our own house-blended loose-leaf teas.
Ah…tea. The beverage that both comforts and calms, yet energizes. I am not a huge coffee fan, despite living in the coffee drinker’s mecca. It’s okay if it’s loaded with chocolate, but it isn’t mood-altering like tea is. Coffee makes one want to do more, faster. Tea makes one want to do more, better and with grace. Just the process of brewing tea is a ritual that centers you. I know tea bags in paper cups is a possibility, but there is magic in brewing a pot of tea and carefully pouring it through a strainer into a delicate china cup. Drinking tea infuses one’s soul with a romantic way of living.
Every year we host dozens of parties, (sometimes 3 a weekend!) from baby and bridal showers to ladies teas and luncheons for churches to weddings and receptions. As a catering consultant, I work with folks planning parties both large and small in their own homes or other venues, and nearly every Sunday evening we invite our extended family and close friends to our Sunday Family Dinner. Entertaining is our life. It’s just what we do. Even our 5 year old begins planning her birthday party a year or more in advance.
I am also a collector of lots of things, like books (vintage juvenile series books, like Nancy Drew and The Meadowbrook Girls), 1940’s and ’50’s tablecloths, chalkware fruits, vintage glassware (boopie glass and hobnail are my fav’s) and vintage china (especially Canonsburg Moss Rose) and anything flowery and old-fashioned. Fortunately my collections combine well with my career, (although no one except my daughter seem to enjoy hearing a chapter of The Bobbsey Twins during the dessert course) and with the upcoming debut of our china rental service, it seemed like the right time to share some of my ideas and tips for enjoying life with a cup of tea in hand.