"Why not consecrate ourselves to the queen of Camellias, and revel in the warm stream of sympathy that flows from her altar? In the liquid amber within the ivory porcelain, the initiated may touch the sweet reticence of Confucius, the piquancy of Lao-tzu, and the ethereal aroma of Shakyamuni himself" - Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea
Only after taking Afternoon Tea for a year did I understand that this ritual is an exquisite expression of living Aromatherapy. My realization occurred as I prepared my weekly tea-time provisions. The Afternoon Tea's many aromatic moieties are woven together to allow the diner not only nourishment but also sustenance to the soul. The hostess does not consciously offer this as her goal, but nonetheless achieves it by simply following the Afternoon Tea-Time ritual. Intuition and the subconscious lead the hostess to offer for acceptance to the diner the tea-time meal selections. The Hostess's distinct table setting and surrounding atmosphere also serve to satisfy the occasion.
Eastern culture developed the adoration of tea-time into a system of religious worship and ritual. Japanese author Kakuzo Okakura, in The Book of Tea, reveals to the Western reader tea-time as a Zen spiritual discipline. Okakura explains that tea-time involves elements of architecture, art, table-setting, ceramics, and flower arrangement. These elements are orchestrated by a Tea Master for the spiritual and gustatory enjoyment of the guests. Summing up the aim of the Japanese Tea culture, Okakura, writes, "Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence." He describes the ceremony as "an improvised drama whose plot was woven about the tea, the flowers, and the paintings."
In the Summer of 1993 I experienced my very first Tea-time. We were vacationing in Fiji Islands. My family was invited to take Afternoon Tea with our hosts, Isoa and his wife Mary. Isoa and Mary lived on an isolated beach only approachable by boat. The local chief, his wife, and our fishing guide delivered us to this remote and idyllic spot. Upon our arrival we were offered tea-time. Just yards away from the shore, we sat at a long wooden picnic table under a thatched open-air awning, beside the hosts' very modest dwelling. We were surrounded and isolated by huge coconut, mango, papaya, and lemon trees, as well as lush fragrant tropical flowers and foliage. The table was covered with a white table cloth and cloth napkins! The tea served was "English Breakfast" with milk. On modest china, our hostess offered English style biscuits and fresh-made scones with butter and local jam. Then we were offered roasted "Ivi" nuts, a local vegetable, which tasted like roasted chestnut. As I breathed in the astringent scent of the tea, I noticed how it smelled against the backdrop of the briny sea odor. As I chewed on the roasted "Ivi" nuts, the earthy digestive aroma seemed a counterpoint to the surrounding floral and sea scents. I look back on that tea-time as one of my favorite moments, when the sensations of nourishment mingled with nature's scents to bring me into harmony with my environment. Afternoon Tea Time formalities in almost any setting can be a time of food for the soul.
Tea-time is a lilliputian-sized meal. The Afternoon Tea is not a substitute for dinner (although that is the purpose of High Tea). The hostess offers just enough protein and carbohydrates in the form of sandwiches, savories, fruits and sweets to help the diner make the transition to the evening hour. Thus tea-time rituals are designed to provide the affirmation of the Body-Mind-Spirit synergy over the need for food. What a delightful opportunity Tea-time provides us for experiencing the daily Aromatic Life.
I offer for your enjoyment the following ideas for creating an Aromatic Afternoon Tea. Let us follow the example of the Zen Tea Master in composing the tea-time elements of ambiance, tea, and food to evoke feelings of relaxation, peace and serenity. My Aromatic Tea-time offering will feature the following essential oils: Rose, Bergamot, Jasmine, and Lemon. I chose these essential oils because of the association with traditional teas and tea-time foods as well as for their profoundly physically and emotionally appeasing properties.
The Aromatic Afternoon Tea-time Plan is:
*perfuming the atmosphere through the use of cut roses
*floating essential oils of Rose or Bergamot in a decorative bowl of water
*use of a room spray, Rachael's Jasmine Tea Room Spray (recipe follows)
*Jasmine Tea or Earl Grey Tea
* Recipe Suggestions:
**Rachael's Poppy Seed Crackers topped with Rachael's Lemon Curd
**Strawberries, Raspberries, or Melon-balls doused in Balsamic Vinegar (Balsamic Vinegar is aged in wood casks of oak, juniper, and mulberry)
**Rachael's Montrose Tea Cakes with Rose Water
The classical choice of the rose bouquet for tea-time ambiance offers an abundance of therapeutic qualities. The ancient Greeks associated the rose with Aphrodite, the goddess of spiritual and intellectual love. According to Marcel Lavabre's Aromatherapy Workbook, inhalation of the rose scent is stimulating to the heart chakra, and is uplifting for issues of depression and nervous tension. If scented roses are not available, instead use Rose essential oil for perfuming the atmosphere. A single drop of Rose oil or Bergamot floating in a decorative bowl will substitute for fresh flowers.
Rachael's Jasmine Room Spray is made with brewed Jasmine Tea with an addition of a tiny drop of Jasmine essential oil. I fill a 3 oz spray bottle with the Jasmine Tea and add 1 drop of emulsifier in addition to the Jasmine essential oil.
For choice of teas I suggest Jasmine or Earl Grey. Jasmine Tea traditionally contains the dried Jasmine flower. According to The Aromatherapy Workbook Jasmine has the aromatic powers of lifting depression , anxiety, and lethargy. Patricia Davis in Subtle Aromatherapy writes Jasmine "brings together the strength and fiery dynamism we associate with Yang energy and the soft earthiness of Yin." Earl Grey Tea is traditionally infused with the Bergamot essential oil. This essential oil also has properties of lifting anxiety and depression. Subtle Aromatherapy describes Bergamot as an oil that "can help an individual radiate joy and healing to others."
The recipe for Rachael's Poppy Seed Crackers topped with Lemon Curd appears below. The Lemon Curd is made with drops of Lemon and Bergamot essential oils.
These essential oils gives the Lemon Curd a delightful fragrance and aromatic physical and emotional benefits. The Aromatherapy Workbook recommends Lemon and Bergamot essential oils as highly effective anti-depressants as well as aids for digestion.
The Aromatic Afternoon Tea-time is a concerto of solo aromatic elements which can bring healing to the participants. Enjoy the following recipes in Good Aromatic Health.
Rachael's Poppy Seed Crackers
1 1/4 C Whole Grain Flour
1 t Baking Powder
1 t Salt
4 T Margarine, softened
2 T Sugar
1 C Poppy Seeds
1/2 C Milk
In an electric mixer cream the margarine and the sugar. Add in the remaining ingredients except the milk. Drizzle in the milk and mix until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Form into a log, and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator until firm. Cut into rounds, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until crisp. Top with Lemon Curd for tea-time!
Rachael's Lemon Curd
3/4 C Sugar
3/4 C Lemon Juice
1/3 C Butter
2 drops Lemon Essential Oil
1 drop Bergamot Oil
In a large saucepan heat the sugar, butter, and the lemon juice. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted. Meanwhile whip the eggs until very thick, light and frothy. While beating, slowly drizzle the heated mixture into the eggs. Return the mixture to the sauce pan and heat until thickened. Add in to taste the essential oils. Pour mixture into a heat-proof container. Cool and refrigerate. The Lemon Curd will keep refrigerated ~ 2 weeks.
Fruit with Balsamic Vinegar
Choose : Strawberries, Raspberries, Melon-balls
Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Granulated White Sugar or Powdered Sugar
Place the fruit in a bowl. Drizzle on to taste the Balsamic Vinegar. Dust with the sugar. Mix gently. Adjust for sweetness. Serve in small bowls.
Rachael's Montrose Tea Cakes with Rosewater
4 oz flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of allspice
4 oz butter
4 oz sugar
3 oz dried cranberries
1/2 tsp brandy
1 tsp milk
1 tbl Rosewater
Sift flour with baking powder, allspice. Combine eggs, milk, brandy, and rosewater. Cream the butter and sugar, beat in gradually the egg mixture, and then the flour mixture. Add the dried cranberries with the last of the flour. Half fill cupcake pans with batter. Bake for fifteen minutes in a 350 degree F. oven.
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