Come along inside….
We’ll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place.
The Wind in the Willows
One of my favorite children’s novels, The Wind in the Willows, by British author Kenneth Grahame, depicts the adventures of Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger in the English countryside. What began as a series of bedtime stories for his son, became a beloved classic illustrating the importance of friendship. Afternoon tea and fireside chats also play a role in this book, as might be expected coming from a Brit. Yet, the simplicity of a cup of tea, alone or shared with a friend, is healing in so many ways.
According to Chinese legend, the history of tea dates to 2737 BC when the Emperor Shen Nong, ruler and scientist, accidentally discovered tea (peets.com). It is believed that tea was brought to India, today’s largest producer of tea, by the silk caravans that traveled from China to Europe centuries ago, and it was first brought to Britain in the early 17th Century by the East India Company. The first tea shop was opened in 1717 by Thomas Twining and the rest is history.
Tea is the world’s most widely consumed beverage and it is no surprise why. My allergies have been horrible these past two weeks and there is only one thing that soothes my throat, and becalms my soul, Evergrain Bread Company’s lavender tea latte, fondly named London Fog. I am obsessed with this satisfying brew, and its ironic name always makes me smile when I order it. Ironic only because our beloved town has a bit of a love hate relationship with the British.
Fake news or not, the Chestertown Tea Party is a local legend and a source of great civic pride. Claimed to have taken place in May 1774 as a response to the British Tea Act, Chestertown tradition is that, like the more famous Boston Tea Party, colonial patriots boarded the brigantine Geddes and threw its cargo of tea into the Chester River (Wikipedia). The event is celebrated each Memorial Day weekend with a festival and historic reenactment aboard the Schooner Sultana. Kent School is a proud sponsor of the Chestertown Tea Party Festival and our 5th Graders, dressed in Colonial garb, rode into town on a float in the parade and proceeded to recite the Declaration of Independence at the reviewing stand. I was so proud. Their efforts were rewarded with a First Place win for parade floats!
My Boston family does not believe that a second Tea Party happened anywhere else, but I most certainly do now that I am a Chestertown resident! I love that a Tea Party, one of my most favorite childhood activities, is part of my heritage and now also my present! Both of my Boston grandmothers collected bone china teacups. (My grandmothers lived across the street from each other, making it awkward to visit only one, but that is another story.) They each had a vast collection of unmatched floral-themed cups and saucers which I have inherited. Too delicate to use, I love looking at their dainty shapes, pretty designs, and vibrant colors in my china cabinet.
In Jim’s family sweet southern iced tea is the drink of choice, a drink he discovered while in college in North Carolina. It is also a favorite in our house. Jim has a secret recipe given to him by the mother of a friend when he lived with them during his baseball career in the Carolina League. The tea is super sweet, too sweet for me, but all of my children are obsessed with it! Jenna visited for Tea Party last weekend and immediately upon arrival opened the refrigerator to pour herself a tall glass.
On Mondays, when Evergrain is closed, I have to make my own tea. Thank goodness for Lockbriar Farms Clover or Blueberry Honey to sweeten my cup to perfection. Or, I could also go to Afternoon Tea at our Pre-Revolutionary War landmark, the White Swan Tavern. So many beau-tea-ful choices.
And, to the owner of the aptly named Tea Time docked at the new Chestertown Marina during Tea Party weekend – well done.
Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.