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Come for a spot of tea

February 18, 2012
By Melissa Toothman - Special to The Inter-Mountain , The Inter-Mountain

Although tea is a very common drink today, it once was a product exclusive only to those who could afford such a specialty.

There was once a time when it wasn't so common to have the privilege to enjoy tea. Until trade routes began to open up through different areas, it was available only to royalty and the otherwise wealthy.

"(In the) latter part of the 1800s, tea became more common place because trade lines had opened up," said Karen Larry, a volunteer at the historic Adaland Mansion near Philippi.

Article Photos

Photo submitted by Sharon Harsh
The original roll basket was given to Sharon Harsh by Tom and Francis Woodford. Years later, when Harsh started working for Adaland Mansion, replicas of the roll baskets such as this one have been used in tea events at Adaland.

"We're working on establishing English tea as a set offering at Adaland," Larry said.

Adaland Mansion is just one of the places in West Virginia where people can experience a tea event in celebration of tea history, specifically England's, one of the last of the great sea-faring nations to be influenced by tea. The mission of Adaland is to preserve the history and the culture of the time and era.

Adaland mansion was built in 1870, and its first occupants were the Modisett family.

"The teas at Adaland are part of the culture of the house during the era in which the house was built," said Sharon Harsh, executive director of Adaland Mansion. "The teas that we're observing at Adaland, in addition to buffet teas and tea luncheons, (are) high tea and royal tea. These are specialty teas that are served in English style and in celebration of the culture of the house."

Guests don't have to worry about whether or not they know the proper tea etiquettes. Tea hostess Shirley Daniels, or one of her assistants, Betty Carr and Mary Jean George, will be sure to explain proper etiquettes at the start of the tea events.

The responsibilities of the tea hostess extend to explaining to guests how to brew tea, what the various portions are going to be and some of the tea customs.

Special buffet teas held at Adaland are announced on the annual calendar, as well as published in local newspapers. Reservations are required.

How quickly an event books up varies. A tea event could be announced three weeks prior and take the whole three weeks to book up, or it could fill up within a week, Adaland representatives said. It's best to reserve early, just in case.

In addition, buffet tea events can be booked for groups with as few as 20 guests and as many as 100.

Buffet tea is usually served in the late morning or early afternoon with finger sandwiches, fruit, sweets and desserts all set up on a buffet table. Pending the amount of guests in attendance, tea may be served or it may be among the treats at the buffet table for ease of access. Guests can choose between hot or cold beverages.

"We operate primarily with volunteers and we don't have enough staff to have one person per table for a large crowd," Larry explained.

Flavor preferences for teas of any event can be explained upon reservation so that the flavors can be prepared by special request.

"Adaland has that signature peach iced tea that is always a big hit with guests," Larry said.

Afternoon tea, usually held on Sunday, features fresh baked scones, an assortment of sandwiches and dessert served with hot or cold tea. Like with buffet tea, dates for afternoon tea are announced on the calendar and reservations may be made for the designated serving times.

In addition to buffet and afternoon teas, Adaland serves two special arrangement teas, high tea and royal tea. These teas can be booked for special events such as weddings, birthdays and other celebrations, as well as small groups of three or four people who simply enjoy tea.

High tea is a formal tea traditionally served in the afternoon at about 2 p.m. with four courses. Tea selections are individually served along with a formal presentation of traditional tea menu items such as scones, sandwiches, sweets and dessert. Menu selections can be made for high and royal teas at the time of booking.

Royal tea is very similar, featuring a menu of the same options served with high tea and is served later in the afternoon. However, royal tea's courses may be extended to five or six, and champagne is served at the end. Adaland usually serves royal tea around 4 or 5 p.m.

For the English, it was a late afternoon snack to help tide them over before a dinner that traditionally was served around 8 or 9 p.m.

"That's why the food was begun with the teas. One of the women in the English court noticed she was hungry in the afternoon and wanted something to tide her over (like a small sweet offering) with the tea," Larry said.

Royal tea serves small meat offerings, which can be a shrimp cocktail as small as a couple individual shrimps a per person.

Both high tea and royal tea traditionally began with tea and scones.

"Something we have begun using is a white lemon loft scone basket," Larry said.

The use of the roll basket is a tradition that found its way to Adaland as a gift to Harsh from Tom and Francis Woodford, of Belington, whose family has a connection to Adaland. The gift was presented prior to Harsh's involvement with Adaland.

"When she joined us, she found an organization that would make them for us and we now use them for our tea service," Larry said. The organization made replicas of the baskets based on the original gift to Harsh.

The baskets are now on sale in the gift shop for anyone who would like to take home a reminder from their tea event and a small token of local history.

Anyone interested in making reservations for a scheduled event at Adaland or those interested in scheduling their own specialty tea event can call 304-457-1587 or 304-823-2456.



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