The Joy of High Tea

Caroline Graham Swann

Caroline Graham Swann

Hello darlings, sipping a delicious cup of hot tea by the fire side on these cold days with rain or snow falling is so delightful. My love of having high tea (meaning served with tiny tea sandwiches, bite size lemon tarts, petite fours and scones with crème and jam) started as a child, but became a major passion with my time spent in London, England.  My friends love to be invited for high tea in the drawing room; it is such an English setting and it is so much fun to go back into a time that is almost forgotten in our busy world.

There is an interesting story about my tea set: it was a special gift from Lady Edith Foxwell, whom I met in London.  Lady Foxwell is related to Queen Elizabeth, and I was a guest in her country home in the Cotswold country.  It is a charming place built in the 1500’s and filled with antiques that go back to that era. Marvelous, simply marvelous was my visit there, with all of the customs and grace of the British aristocracy. She had been such a lovely hostess I invited her to visit me in Dallas, Texas, where I was living at the time.

Lady Foxwell accepted the invitation and was my guest for three months.

Texans love any part of royalty, and when her visit was announced invitations came for having parties to honor her from all over the state.  One event of special interest was arranged by Caaren Struble and Linda Heath. Linda’ s father is the late Ambassador Heath, that was in the LBJ Presidential Administration.  LBJ  and Lady Bird were very close friends of Ambassador Heath and his wife. We were invited to meet Lucy and Lady Bird along with Mrs. Heath; it was a charming visit, just like the girls getting together and chatting about the facts of Lucy’ s divorce, and, naturally, the topic of his chasing women was the focus of the discussion! We had a private tour of the LBJ private home, which was a simple warm home.

Our lodging was at the Texas Governor’s Mansion in Austin,Texas during this event.  A huge dinner event was held in the LBJ penthouse at the University of Texas for Lady Foxwell. Well, darlings, I must confess , when asked about the most embarrassing happening of my life, I relate this true story.  This posh event was in August, and the Texas weather is broiling that time of year.  With my love of fashion, I had on the highest black patent leather shoes, and the hot weather makes the patent leather very sticky.  I had excused myself  for a visit to the powder room and upon my return to the room full of dignitaries, I paused at the door as a lady is taught to do… and my sticky patent leather designer shoes stuck together.  Upon trying to take a step with the shoes sticking together, I fell flat on my face!  Yes, flat on my face.  The whole room rushed to my embarrassed flattened body to help me.  Okay, I thought this was time for Poise 101!  I smiled and graciously thanked the gallant gentlemen for helping, and, with my bruised ego and painful ankle, walked through the room with a smile and head held high, all the time wanting to run and hide somewhere.

Lady Foxwell had a grand time in Texas, to say to the least, and being  a lady, she sent me a most special hostess gift: the tea set, one exactly like the favorite of Queen Elizabeth for her private tea time. The tea set is an Ansley pattern–rosebud–so delicate and feminine.  So when my friends come for high tea, we feel very special having tea , just like HRH . We even practice the royal manners of taking tea.  Never stir the spoon around and around to mix sugar, etc.  Place the spoon in a standing vertical position and only lightly swish once toward the other side, do not clink the china with the spoon, a dreadful faux pas.  Never place one’s fingers through the handle, the handle is gracefully clutched as one sips.

Darlings, we should have high tea together one afternoon. Tea time is 2 or 4 pm.