“But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.” — Jane Austen
In these last warm days, it’s the perfect time to plan a Regency garden tea party—replete with English bone china, lots of flowers, and recipes that might have been served in Jane Austen’s time.
During the Regency era, tea offered an opportunity for relaxing with good conversation between family and friends. There were teas for all times of day. Afternoon tea offered lighter fare, while high tea was a more substantive affair. These social gatherings often took place in the outdoors. London boasted hundreds of tea gardens during this period, many featuring immaculately groomed lawns and gardens with ponds and garden sculpture.
But you don’t have to visit a tea garden to recreate this experience. Throw a white table cloth over whatever outdoor table you have and make your own Regency garden tea party.
Create Regency Style With Unique Tableware
Set your table with mismatched vintage English bone china. The Washington Post chronicled the trend last year, noting that even bistros and restaurants are adopting the look to create a unique dining experience. To set an authentic table, make sure you’re shopping for real vintage made in England, not knock-off patterns! Graced by Lace carries a beautiful selection in pristine condition.
Use Lots of Regency-Era Flowers
This time of year, we recommend dried flowers, such as Lavender. During the Regency era, lavender fields dotted the villages outside of London. Lavender was widely used as a fragrance, valued for its supposed aphrodisiac effect on men. And lo and behold… it’s true! (For a fun diversion, see this recent research from the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons, which showed that the combined fragrance of lavender and pumpkin produced the highest sexual arousal among men.)
Lavender also enjoyed popular culinary and medicinal use. Curiously, it held favor as a magical flower that attracted faeries and repelled evil, and was often pinned to clothing or hung above doorways.
But all of this aside, dried lavender is simply beautiful and long lasting. For Bel Istoria’s Jane Austen Regency theme box, we sourced our bundles from Onederings Lavender Farm.
Choose Recipes that Harken to the Past—but with Modern Day Touches
Here are a few recipes that will make your Regency Tea a trip back in time.
Curried Chicken & Fruit Tea Sandwiches
Curry caught on in 17th century England as an expensive imported spice. By the Regency era, it was an established element of English cooking.
Ingredients For 8 petite sandwiches
2 cups cooked chicken
¾ cup dried cranberries
½ cup celery
¼ cup pecans
2 TBS spring onions
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 TSP lime juice
½ TSP curry powder
8 slices bread of your choice
- Mix mayonnaise, lime juice, and curry powder in small bowl.
- Finely chop chicken, fruit, and nuts, and fold into mayonnaise mixture.
- Make sandwiches, remove crusts, and cut twice on diagonal.
Sugar Snap Pea Salad With Radishes, Mint and Ricotta Salata
Radishes, mint, and peas were a staple of Regency England—though perhaps not prepared in this amazingly delicious way. The ricotta salata makes this a lovely parting nod to summer.
Ingredients For Four
¾ cup sliced radishes
4 ounces sugar snap peas, sliced (about 1 1/4 cups)
4 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled (about 1 cup)
½ bunch mint leaves, torn (about 1/3 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch kosher salt, more to taste
1 TBS freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 TSP balsamic vinegar
3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Toss together the radishes, peas, ricotta and mint in a big bowl.
- Make a paste of the garlic and salt. Place in a small bowl and add the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and stir well to combine. Drizzle in the olive oil, stirring constantly, and add pepper to taste.
- Pour dressing over salad and toss well to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Lemon Lavender Earl Grey Pound Cake
It’s the bergamot that makes this cake special. Legend has it that Earl Grey tea with its distinctive bergamot oil was gifted to Lord Charles Grey in the early 1800s by a Chinese mandarin whose son was saved from drowning by Grey’s men. Today, the quality varies significantly; a bergamot heavy blend is best for this recipe.
Makes two pound cakes
1 cup unsalted butter
3/8 cup cream cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 TBS quality loose leaf Earl Grey tea
2 tsp. culinary use dried lavender
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 lemons, zested
1/4 cup + 1 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray with oil two 8.5 X 4.5 baking pans. Electric mix butter, cream cheese, and salt until light and fluffy. In a blender, mix sugar, tea, and lavender until buds are broken into fine pieces. Combine flour and baking powder, and sift into sugar mixture. Electric mix flour and sugar mixture into cream cheese mixture for 5 minutes. Electric mix in eggs one at a time and lemon zest until well combined. Gently fold batter in the two pans. (Each should be about half full.) Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (Note: baking time may differ for your oven.)
Meanwhile, combine the juice from the two lemons with the 1/2 cup sugar and microwave until dissolved.
Let cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before flipping right side up onto a baking rack. Poke holes into the top to let glaze soak in. Pour glaze evenly over cake and let sit for a few hours before slicing.
Let’s Not Forget the Tea!
We chose Queen’s Teapothecary as our partner for Bel Istoria’s Jane Austen Regency theme box. We love the thoughtfulness behind the blends and especially the names! The teas in our theme box include Sleepy Princess Herbal, King’s Chocolate Chai, Royal Lavender Early Grey, and Jane’s Persuasion Rose—a tea made especially for our box!
Good luck with your Regency garden tea party!