Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shafer, Eileen. Royal Teas with Grace and Style.

With art work and designs by Anna Griffin and photographs by Thom Rouse. Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc.. 2011. c134p. photogs. illus. ISBN 978-1-4349-0467-6. $25.00.

For nearly two centuries, afternoon tea has been a tradition in countries associated with the British Empire. (p. 2) Individuals typically “took” afternoon tea or “low tea” between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.. The light meal involved drinking tea and eating a snack consisting of sandwiches, breads, pastries, and cakes. Today teatime continues by means of informal breaks from work (ex. “coffee” breaks) and more formal afternoon teas usually taken in hotels, cafés, and teashops. (p. 10; Wikipedia contributors. "Tea (meal)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 13 Aug. 2011. Web. 21 Aug. 2011.) In this beautifully- designed and presented book, which is intended for tea enthusiasts, individuals who are interested in hosting an afternoon tea, and those who are invited to tea (p. 5), Shafer, an interior designer, author, lecturer, tour guide, and former proprietor of Royal Tea Impressions, a teashop once located in the historic river towns of St. Charles and Geneva, Illinois (p. 5; back cover), guides readers through a proper afternoon tea fit for royalty. Helping readers prepare for an afternoon tea, which according to the author, requires time, effort, and atmosphere (p. 4), Shafer covers the subject in thirteen chapters, setting forth information about tea history, tea varieties, brewing tea, planning teas, invitations, menus, courses, appropriate venues, table settings, customs, manners, and recipes. While the first half of her book addresses preparations, the second part presents more than 50 recipes for tea savories (i.e. tea sandwiches), tea breads, tea cakes, and beverages. Here you will find step- by- step instructions for making traditional and non- traditional teatime fare, not limited to cucumber, salmon, ham, and egg salad sandwiches as well as scones, clotted cream, lemon curd, English shortbread, chocolate strawberries, lemon drop cookies, raspberry jam cookies, chocolate lady fingers, English trifle, chocolate pound cake, two tone cheese cake, fresh flower cake, liquid sugar, black ice tea, fruit sparkler, and citrus wine cooler. Filled with interesting and useful background information, advice, tips, quotes by famous authors and poets, recipes, and much more, this book will assist in enabling you to host a formal afternoon tea “fit for a queen” (p. 4), with the confidence, “grace,” and “style” that you will need to be successful. Artwork and engraved designs by Anna Griffin, with more than thirty color photographs by award- winning photographer, Thom Rouse (Professional Photographers of America Master of Photography degree; Master of Electronic Imaging degree, Master Craftsman degree; recipient of Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Photographer of the Year Awards, PPA; recipient, Illinois Photographer of the Year), further instruct and delight. Of interest to tea lovers, tea aficionados, and others, this book is recommended for many public libraries, even though it lacks a selected bibliography, back- of- the book index, glossary, and appendices, all of which would have been helpful to many readers. On a personal note: If you never have experienced a formal afternoon tea, I highly encourage you to do so. Your memories of afternoon tea will last a lifetime. Teas make great gifts and are excellent ways to celebrate the achievements of individuals or commemorate special occasions such as birthdays, engagements, weddings, graduations, anniversaries, and retirements. Many hotels and cultural institutions in the United States and Europe offer teas. For a list of hotels and institutions worldwide serving tea, try this Internet resource: Tea Guide. Always telephone in advance to verify locations, times, and other pertinent information. Reservations and appropriate attire may be required. Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit Dorrance Bookstore to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team. Availability: Amazon, Dorrance Bookstore