Category Archives: Tea

Tea recommendations, afternoon tea recaps, etc.

Tea with Miss Marple

Over the last several months I re-read (or in some cases read for the first time) Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories featuring Miss Jane Marple. What a delight! In addition I introduced myself to the Joan Hickson TV adaptations (most excellent) and revisited nearly all of the Geraldine McEwan and Julia Mckenzie versions that were canon Miss Marple. Might you indulge me as I share a few favorites?

Favorite book: I keep changing my mind on this one, but at the moment I think it might be A Pocket Full of Rye. Miss Marple has a very personal stake in this one as her former maid Gladys is involved. The pacing is good and the misdirection effective, and I enjoyed the chemistry between Marple and Inspector Peele. That said, I’d also put The Moving Finger, 4:50 from Paddington, and Sleeping Murder close to the top. The beginning of At Bertram’s Hotel is so charming (and I will revisit it even though the mystery itself is rather “meh”), and I quite enjoyed Nemesis for its window into Marple’s sleuthing process.

Favorite short story: The Thirteen Problems was an entertaining story collection and I was pleasantly surprised to find so much Gothic goodness running throughout. The most Gothic of all was “The Idol House of Astarte,” a country house mystery involving a fancy dress party that ends with a deadly accident. Or was it murder? I wish this one could somehow be adapted to television!

Favorite TV adaptation: While the Joan Hickson versions are excellent and much truer to the original texts, I have to admit that my favorite of all the individual adaptations was the Geraldine McEwan version of The Moving Finger. One might say it takes liberties with its blatantly Noir setup and the hero’s PTSD angst, but it also gives more agency to the love interest and effectively reimagines that troubling “makeover” scene. It’s a delightfully cheeky adaptation, and James D’Arcy and Emilia Fox have great chemistry as the Burton siblings.

Favorite Miss Marple quote: “I like living myself — not just being happy and enjoying myself and having a good time. I mean living — waking up and feeling all over me, that I’m there — ticking over.” (from A Murder is Announced).

[My favorite non-Marple quote might be Gina’s description of Stonygates in They Do It With Mirrors: “It’s pretty ghastly, really. A sort of Gothic monstrosity. What Steve calls Best Victorian Lavatory period.”]

And now for tea!

After all the time I spent with Miss Marple, I felt she deserved a celebratory afternoon tea out on the town. Las Vegas actually has several options for proper tea, and for this occasion my husband and I tried the offerings at Rí Rá Irish Pub in Mandalay Bay.

[Did Miss Marple ever take tea at an Irish pub? Probably not. But I certainly can imagine her nephew Raymond coaxing her into a local pub for tea just so he could study the “local color” for one of his novels.]

We found Rí Rá very charming. The server placed us in a comfy little nook near the entrance of the pub — does one call this a “snug”? — and we were fortunate to have it all to ourselves.

Here is a closer look at the cozy china pattern. We both chose the Organic Assam tea, which was perfectly steeped and delicious.

And here you see the tea tray, featuring sandwiches (ham & tomato, egg mayo, cheddar with Ballymaloe relish, cucumber & creme fraiche), raisin scones with cream and black current jam, and a selection of “decadent desserts.” It was the perfect amount for two — we ate almost all of it and didn’t feel too stuffed. (It helped that we took a long walk through the Luxor to Excalibur and back before returning to our car.) I do think Miss Marple would have approved!

Do you have a favorite Marple novel, story, or TV adaptation? If so please share in the comments!

Friday Favorites: traditional afternoon tea in Las Vegas

Last week while Steve and I were in Las Vegas we made a special visit to the Mandarin Oriental to partake of their afternoon tea.

It was amazing! Let me show you. (Click photos for a larger view.)

First we were served perfectly steeped tea — Steve chose the Mandarin Orange (specially blended for the hotel chain), while I went with my comfort tea, Golden Tippy Assam. You can find the latter and much more at

Next came the tea tray — isn’t that a marvelous design? Our server suggested we start with the scones in order to enjoy them warm with the devonshire cream and preserves (we had a choice of apricot or cranberry). That’s always seemed the proper order to me, you know? Sweet, then savory, and then MEGA SWEET to finish. Yum.

A close-up of the savory offerings — curry chicken in sesame cones, goat cheese tartlet with apricot jelly, Black Forest ham sandwiches, and smoked salmon and cucumber. What a treat!

The “assorted tea pastries” had a charming holiday/winter theme (the snowmen were my favorite). Due to sugar coma, I can’t remember much about them except that they were delicious.

One of the loveliest things about this experience was our view — it was such a pleasure to sip our tea and watch the sunset.

This really was one of the best afternoon teas I’ve had in a long time. Such attention to detail in the food offerings! And the servers were attentive without being obtrusive. Highly recommended!

Christmas glee part III: Tea and HIGH RISING

This month’s “tea and a book” recommendation has such a Christmassy cover, doesn’t it? Or perhaps it’s just wintry, but that’s almost as good. Angela Thirkell, granddaughter of Pre-Raphaelite phenom Edward Burne-Jones, published High Rising in 1933 and went on to write several more novels set in Barsetshire, a fictional English setting borrowed from Anthony Trollope.

This edition from Virago Modern Classics is particularly attractive AND free of typographical errors, unlike my older copy from Moyer Bell. Looks like Virago will be releasing more of Thirkell’s books in the near future, and I look forward to getting my hands on Wild Strawberries in March.

High Rising centers mostly upon Laura Morland, a widowed mother of four who makes ends meet by writing best-selling suspense novels set in the fashion industry. Laura gets involved in several real-life village intrigues over Christmas and New Years, all while trying to survive the boundless energy and volubility of her youngest child Tony, who only wants to converse about trains. Allow me to share some favorite passges:

On motherhood:
Oh the exhaustingness of the healthy young! Laura had once offered to edit a book called Why I Hate my Children, but though [her publisher] had offered her every encouragement, and every mother of her acquaintance had offered to contribute, it had never taken shape.

Laura on the first church service of the new year:
Tony was an exhaustion to the spirit . . . and they had one of those psalms about Thy molars gnash upon me exceeding hard and my loins are spilled abroad on the ground, and I nearly got the giggles.

George Knox, after he and Laura leave King Lear at the first interval:
If there is one pleasure on earth which surpasses all others, it is leaving a play before the end. I might perhaps except the joy of taking tickets for a play, dining well, sitting on after dinner, and finally not going at all. That, of course, is very heaven.

(I certainly can relate to the last remark, having escaped an outdoor production of Lear at the interval last summer. I mean, it’s not like the story takes a happy turn! And it was cold. And my bottom hurt.)

Aside from a few unfortunate anti-Semitic jabs (which baffles me because one of the romantic heroes–beloved by everyone in the book–is of Jewish descent), this is a jolly read that had me barking with laughter throughout. Can’t wait to read more from Thirkell.

And now for tea…

This month’s tea offering is a product of my curiosity and laziness. A few years ago my in-laws served toasted slices of panettone for breakfast, and I, fearing potential grossness but not wanting to be a jerk, ate a small slice. Glory be, turns out I love the stuff! My husband, however, is not such a big fan, so it doesn’t really make sense for me to buy the usual cake-sized portion. But lookee here what Immaculate Baking Company has on offer — mini panettones that you can bake at home. Huzzah!

They are as easy to make as canned biscuits, and quite delicious! Keep in mind, however, that they are only available during the holiday season. I found mine at Whole Foods.

For tea, I chose “Esprit de Noël” from Mariage Frères. Lucky for you, getting your hands on this tea does not require a trip to France. You can order it online from The Cultured Cup. It has a delicate nutty/fruity/spicy flavor that pairs well with holiday treats.

I cut the mini panettone in half and toasted it — so delicious with butter. Don’t let Rustic Santa’s grim face fool you, he heartily approves!

And that about wraps it up for me in 2014. Happy Holidays and see you in the new year!

November tea and a book: The Signature of All Things

I first saw The Signature of All Things recommended at the blog of Stephanie Burgis, and knowing how much Steph and I have in common when it comes to fiction preferences, I figured it would be just my cup of tea. Prior to this, I’d never read a book by Elizabeth Gilbert, who (as you probably know) shot to fame with her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. I became a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert the person, however, when I saw her Ted Talk on creative genius. And when I learned that the heroine of this novel is a botanist in the Victorian era, I was eager to dive in.

What an odyssey! All I wanted to do all day was read Alma’s story, which is not to say I found the book perfect, but it certainly was wildly absorbing and thought-provoking. (And since I tend to recommend children’s books on this blog, I want to be sure you know this is an adult story, probably suitable for older teens and up.)

If you’d like a little more context, please watch this three minute book trailer. I love it particularly because Gilbert admits to searching out an actual house in Philadelphia to be White Acre (the grand house where Alma Whittaker grows up), because she likes to “go out and roll around in the world” she’s inventing. I certainly can identify with that!

And now for tea . . .

This month I chose the Almond Oolong from Adagio. I don’t drink Oolong that often, but I wanted to feature something a little different, and its delicacy and fruity/nutty flavor paired nicely with a sweet treat.

That red blob, a frosted sugar cookie, is supposed to look like an autumnal maple leaf, but oh well! My tummy was pleased. You can find the recipe here. And be sure to use almond and vanilla extract in your frosting. 🙂

To conclude, I’ll link you to this List of Thanksgiving novels from I attempted The Ghost at the Table (too dreary) and finished A Patchwork Planet (nice). Would you second any of the other recommendations on the list? If so, please let me know!

Happy Thanksgiving!

October tea and a book: The Crowfield Curse

Early this month I listened to Ric Jerrom’s exquisite voice performance of Pat Walsh’s The Crowfield Curse while driving home from Iowa, and nothing I’ve read since has topped it. Though it’s not a horror story, it does offer chills and thrills fitting for Halloween.

The story revolves around fourteen-year-old Will, an orphan taken in (and put to work) by the monks of Crowfield Abbey. One day when collecting wood in the forest, he encounters a creature caught in a trap. When the creature speaks to him, Will knows he’s stumbled upon something strange and magical. He frees the hob and soon enough is thrust into a gripping conflict involving a leper on a quest, a war between Fey kingdoms, and a faith-related mystery.

I loved so many things about this novel: the insider’s look at life in a medieval Benedictine abbey, the encounters with magical beings, the eerie perils of Whistling Hollow, and, most of all, the truth behind the aforementioned mystery. You guys! There is a scene in this book, a scene of awe and transcendence, that had me in tears. All I can say is if you have even a passing interest in medieval England, and are open to mysteries with fantasy and supernatural elements, this would be a great read for you.

I didn’t know much about the book before I listened — it was recommended to me by the analytics of — so I won’t give more details. I’d love for you to be as pleasantly surprised as I was! However, if you need a little more info before leaping in, I very much appreciated this review from Amazon (though for some reason it misidentifies the setting as seventeenth century). Just so you know, I loved the audio so much that I purchased the hardcover copy. And I look forward to seeing Will again in The Crowfield Demon.

Check out the cool trailer:

And now for tea!

I suppose if I were being true to the book, I’d have a tea of rancid lard on bread with a cup of ale to wash it down. (!!!) I decided instead to make something sweet and spicy. In fact, I experimented with a flourless recipe that might appeal to my paleo friends! Keep in mind that I’m not an old hand at baking with almond butter and ground flaxseed, and thus these Flourless Pumpkin Pie Muffins were not exactly a breeze for me to make. (My blender was NOT happy.) As you might imagine, the muffins do not rise to fluffy heights, and I think I added too many chocolate chips. (Is this possible? Apparently, yes.) But overall I was pleased with the results.

The muffins were even better the second day, and though I have three pictured here, just one satisfies my sweet tooth quite nicely. The tea is a fair trade Assam I purchased at the Co-op in Waterloo, Iowa.

The cup came from Waterloo, too! It belonged to my ex-stepmother Rosemary, but I fell so deeply in love with it during my visit that she secretly stashed it in my bag before I hit the road back to Oklahoma. Thanks, Rosemary! The cup’s concept could make for a great costume, eh? (Well, maybe for a grad school Halloween party.)