Of teapots and teacups – the (very) short history


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Porcelain teapots came to Europe from China in the 17th Century. We thank the Portuguese and Dutch sea captains for their wisdom.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas


Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas


Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

China cups followed, in waves. The first teacups were small bowls – they too came from the Orient; handles – the ‘ear’ – were added to the bowls a century later and by the 19th Century when tea became more affordable, the cups became bigger. And because the cups were larger, matching saucers were added to pick up any sloshing tea.

Buck Lake Collection

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

E. Rouleau

E. Rouleau

E. Rouleau

E. Rouleau

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Early British teapots were made of silver and were the norm, but what with one thing or another, drinking tea became the national craze in the 19th Century. This national craze for drinking tea coincided with Queen Victoria’s glorious reign. images-1The Queen’s glorious reign and the national appeptite for tea gave rise to a subset of a bourgeoning manufacturing industry in England: The English Potteries, which produced, inter alia, tea sets to satisfy the national craze.

In Her Ladyship’s opinion, (that would me!), only a fine bone china teapot will do, so when you are shopping for your teapot here is what you should look for:

First, we believe the teapot should be beautiful – of structure and design. And as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you are the only one to be the judge.

Secondly, the teapot must be easy to lift and your knuckles should not touch the side of the teapot.

Thirdly, the teapot must have a hole in the lid to allow air to enter the pot the tea is being poured. This will stop the spout from dripping and splashing when tea is poured.

And finally, your teapot should have a protrusion on the lid to keep in place while the pot is being tilted.

Enjoy your simply splendid afternoon tea!



Anne Day and the Company of Women


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Dear readers and tea lovers everywhere,

Welcome to a regular feature of our blog,
‘Afternoon tea with …. 
people of note’

Today, we’re taking afternoon tea with Anne Day, founder of Company of Women, a community of like-minded entrepreneurial women who gain support, confidence and connections to grow professionally, personally, and as Anne likes to note, profoundly.

“Our lives are a tapestry with different threads woven into the fabric of who we are, and who we can become. Through Company of Women, we weave wisdom, warmth and wellness into everyday life.  We want to inspire women to achieve their full potential and to realize their dreams,” says Anne

Anne Day, Founder of Company of Women

Anne Day, Founder of Company of Women

Throughout her career, Anne’s focus has always been on helping women and children. She’s held leadership roles in the non-profit sector, has worked in government on women’s issues and was editor of a national parenting magazine. And then established her own successful consultancy. But working at home is isolating. “I sensed other women likely felt the same way too. So in 2003 I started Company of Women as a way to meet up and connect with other women entrepreneurs,’ says Anne. Company of Women took off and became an influential organization. In 2005 Anne shuttered the consulting business and focused on growing Company of Women.

Company of Women mug

Today Company of Women has six chapters in Toronto and its environs and over 300 members who attend more than 80 events a year to grow professionally, personally and profoundly. It has also garnered a slew of recognition for enabling women. Success seems almost guaranteed when your mantra is: Be bold, be brave, belong.

Born and raised in Scotland, Anne immigrated to Canada with her husband over 35 years ago.  They have two lovely daughters and a puppy named Brodie. Anne has written three books: Courage to Succeed: Inspiring Stories by Enterprising Women, Faces of Opportunity, a book which is a fundraiser for Opportunity International and Day by Day: Tales of Business, Life, and Everything in Between. Both books and the mug are available from the Company of Women website.


Our interview took place on a hot and sultry day in August, so Her Ladyship (that would be me!) offered Anne some Lighthouse Lemonade made by Jill Fisher. Fanning ourselves, and cool glass at hand, we sat down to sip lemonade (digitally) and to chat.

There are so many definitions of ‘passion’; how do you define passion?
I feel so lucky – I love what I do; I get to meet amazing women who inspire me with their courage and determination to succeed. That is one way of looking at passion.  Passion is also giving back and that’s very important to me. Over the years I have been an active volunteer, serving on boards, both nationally and internationally.  Through Company of Women, we support several charities that improve the lives of girls and women. I suppose you could say this is one way I define passion.

Besides guiding Company of Women, what else grabs your time?
I write – perhaps this is another of my passions!  I am a regular business columnist for Huffington Post and blog for several online publications.  I am currently working on co-authoring a fourth book that looks at why women feel they’re not good enough.

Where did your entrepreneurial attitude come from?
At home. My father was laid off at the age of 52 from the company he had work for all his life. He used his severance package to buy a newsagent and at one point had 18 paperboys working for him! What was amazing is that my mother served them a hot breakfast everyday. My father was very big on giving back; growing up we were given a sense of balance – a sort of ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’ philosophy. Also, I love to start things.

Success is like passion – we have many definitions for both; what’s your definition of success?
Making a difference! When I introduce two women business owners and they connect, forge ahead, and go further because of their relationship with one another, now isn’t this the definition of success? But I see success also when a woman comes out of her shell, blossoms and flourishes to become a successful person and entrepreneur; when a Company of Women program has positively impacted the women in attendance and they leave changed by the experience – that is also success – big time.

It’s proven that small businesses started and managed by women have greater survival rates then similar enterprises started by men. What’s your take on this?
I think the issues facing men and women entrepreneurs are the same, BUT women have a different attitude from the get-go about getting things done. We bring different things to the table and I think makes all the difference in the world.

What surprises you the most?
It’s Company of Women. I was running this company as a sideline and never expected it would take off like it did.

What is your go to method to cheer yourself up?
Reminding myself tomorrow is another day.

What skill would you like to learn?
Hearty laugh ….

What never fails to make you laugh?
British humour.

Brodie1You’re a hugely busy lady; how do you make your life less stressful?
We just got a puppy and we’ve named him Brodie. I think this may have added to my stress! But I love walking with him and I think this is very relaxing and very de-stressing.

How do you indulge your inner kid?
I love to dance and I dance with Brodie, our new puppy.

What is you favourite work of art?
It’s a field of flowers. The painting is in our home and besides being beautiful, it has a story – so perhaps that’s also why it’s my favourite. Some years ago, we were in Paris and we came across this painting in a shop window; we certainly couldn’t afford the painting, but we bought it!

Toronto Symphony or Tegan and Sara?
Tegan and Sara.

How do you celebrate big moments?
Meeting up with my girlfriends.

How do you like to spend a summer day?
Anywhere near water.

If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be?
I read murder mysteries; I wouldn’t want to meet any of them!

Who is your favourite author?
The British writer Peter Robinson, author of the Inspector Banks murder mysteries.

What is your guilty pleasure?
A glass of wine.

What is the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever visited?

What is your favourite season?

What is your workout philosophy?
It needs work!

What is must see TV for you?
Downton Abbey.

What is your favourite Canadian city?
Quebec City.

Which contemporary celebrity do you admire?
Oprah Winfrey.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Somebody feisty.

What is your favourite virtue?

What are three aspects of your personality?
Strong sense of humour – I think humour has gotten me far; authentic and I would say I’m pretty well grounded.

What you appreciate the most in your friends?
A positive attitude

What is your idea of happiness?
Being by the sea with family and friends, for sure.

Who is your real life hero?
Oprah Winfrey

What is your favourite food?

What are three little known facts about you?
Aha … I don’t know if I should answer this …. I can’t swim, I can’t ride a bike, and I have a phobia about birds.

What do you bring on a long light to make yourself comfortable?
A shawl.

When you take a vacation, do you focus on luxury, adventure or relaxation?
Luxurious relaxation!

What is your current pre-occupation?
I love to write and I’m co-wrting my fourth book and blogging.

What is the best advice you would give your younger self?
Take more risks.

What would you like to be doing10 years from now?

What words do you live by?
o thine own self be true and all that we send into the life of others, comes back into our own.

To milk, or not to milk


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The controversy is alive and well. How to drink tea – with milk, or without?

imagesThat depends on how you like your tea.

If you add a little milk to your black tea, the tannins in the tea immediately bind to the milk. This has the effect of ‘toning’ down the taste of tea, making it less astringent on the palate.

Don’t event think of adding milk, or lemon for that matter, to green tea or to oolongs – it’s a sacrilege!

When to add the milk to your cup of tea is also subject of much controversy. If you add milk before pouring the tea, this allows the milk to blend more rapidly with the tea. If you add your milk after pouring your tea, well then, you have perfect control over the amount of milk in you tea, truly customizing the tea to your taste.

If you put milk first, then pour the tea, your habit dates back to the late 17th century. This was about the time the famous trading company, The East India Company, introduced fine porcelain teacups to England. Prior to this time, people drank their hot tea from pewter mugs. So not knowing the terrific heat-proof properties of porcelain, people were afraid to crack the porcelain with the tea, hence they poured milk first.


Credit: A. Mirabelli

A slice of lemon (no milk) with your tea is a Russian tradition and was introduced by Queen Victoria’s granddaughter who dated and married the local emperor.

How do you drink your tea?

Credit: A. Mirabelli

Credit: A. Mirabelli


The List for September 2014


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At the start of every month, we offer you a short list of pleasant activities to consider, some focused on afternoon tea, some not.

Herewith five suggestions for month of September 2014

 Ah, September! The month of enterprise and planning.

A bewitching month. The last long weekend of the summer. Now Labour Day is done and dealt with; the white gloves and white shoes are put away; the cottage and the carefree lifestyle are lingering memories and our daily pre-occupations take on a decidedly more serious demeanor. School. College. Fall foliage – admiring and raking. Getting the house ready for winter. Getting the car ready for winter driving conditions. Buying new ski boots. The list can go on. It does.

Is there a better way to make this transition than to pause and make a pot of tea?

We think not!

Steep, sip, enjoy.

So along with your lovely pot of tea, and perhaps a scone or two, here are our suggestions for five eclectic activities to see you through the month of September.

Alex Colville at the Art Gallery of Ontario; Toronto to January 2015
E-00733-Seven-Crows660We start with a visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario to view more than 100 works by the great Canadian realist painter, Alex Colville. This is the largest exhibition of the late artist’s work and honours his painstakingly precise images which depict high realism and an elusive tension. alex_colville_1954_horse_and_train


We met Alex Colvile when we took tea with Jill Fisher, lemonade purveyor to royalty. Her favourite artwork is Colville’s Horse and Train.




American Cool at the Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute; Washington DC, to September 7
‘Cool’ is a supreme compliment. ‘Cool’ evokes people who exude rebellious self-expression, charisma, character with a capital C., edginess, mystery and a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. This exhibit of cool people at the Smithsonian explores the original American sensibility that became a global obsession. The roots of cool lie in early 1940s jazz and the American Cool exhibit refers to those who contributed an original artistic vision to American culture symbolic of a given historical moment.


‘Influencing Hemingway’ A reading by author Nancy Sindelar, Sepember 24; Oak Park; Chicago
Ernest Hemingway changed the style of writing prose in English in the 20th century.

English: Hemingway posing for a dust jacket ph...


Nobel Prize.

Pulitzer Prize.

A giant of American literature.

Nancy W. Sindelar, author of Influencing Hemingway, will read from her book at the Hemingway Birthplace Home and present new insights into Hemmingway’s influences from birth to high school graduation.
Lively discussion and refreshments guaranteed!



HOPERA, beer and opera, September 17 and 18, Toronto
Mirella in front of glasses of beer
Craft beer and opera! Beerologist Mirella Amato hosts operatic arias, duos and trios. Each song will be accompanied by a sample of local craft beer. Pairings will be presented with details on the musical selection and the beer style as well as why they were chosen. HOPERA promises to be a lovely and  intimate affair. Reserve your seat. Her Ladyship (that would be me!) has her tickets.


2014 Fall Flavours Festival, September 5-28; Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island. Canada’s smallest province.
Official Potato capital of Canada.
Unofficial oyster capital of Canada.
Legal birthplace of Canada.
Home of Anne of Green Gables.


And home to The Fall Flavours Festival, a month-long culinary celebration highlighting authentic Island tastes and traditions communities across Prince Edward Island. You can join local hosts and pick potatoes, catch lobsters, harvest oysters or head off to Culinary Boot Camp. Each food experience or event offers an educational component with a local host, as well as a tasting and/or cooking opportunity.


Life’s interesting twists and turns


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Life has an interesting way of twisting and turning. And introducing you to new friends and new concepts.

I follow an Ottawa-based food blog titled Bake and Be Merry. It’s an eclectic site and every now and again I get an inspiration from visiting this blog – a new chef to follow, a foodie event in the Ottawa valley to visit, an interesting recipe – you get the picture.

A few weeks ago a posting on Bake and Be Merry introduced me to a new concept: A foodie pen pal programme. Her Ladyship (that would be me) was intrigued; she researched the programme and signed up!

Lindsay Livingstone of The Lean Green Bean blog runs the foodie pen pals programme.



Lindsay is a registered dietician living in Columbus, Ohio. Her blog’s main focus is nutrition tips, workouts and healthy living, delivered in an engaging manner. Lindsay says, “I believe that life is all about being balanced, simple and real….and I strive to show how I live this message in my everyday life via my blog and social media posts.”

She delivers.

Her Ladyship was teamed with Katie, of Toronto, and received the following very thoughtful gifts:

DSCF0415Organic cinnamon – this will certainly come in handy with Christmas baking.
Pink peppercorns – to be enjoyed in winter salads!

Tiki masala spice – Our fave Indian spice.
Wasabi peas –  perfect accompaniment for happy hour!

Quinoa cluster – perfect and wholesome  snack on a long hike.

Buckwheat Raw Honey – totally awesome on top of Devon Clotted Cream on top of a Classic English scone.

Katie’s homemade pineapple jalepeno jelly – Delish! Her Ladyship has already obtained Katie’s recipe.

The foodie pen pal programme has a $15.00 limit, so thoughtfulness, rather than extravagance, is in order.

Thank you Katie!









Afternoon tea with Mirella Amato, beer evangelist extraordinaire


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Dear readers and tea lovers everywhere,
Welcome to a regular feature of our blog,
 ‘Afternoon tea
with …. 
people of note’

Today, we’re taking afternoon tea with Mirella Amato, founder of Beerology™ and an extraordinary beer connoisseur.

Mirella in front of glasses of beerMirella is the pre-eminent authority on everything related to beer in Canada and one of the very few beer specialists in the world. That’s because she’s a Master Cicerone, a beer sommelier. Mirella is Canada’s only Master Cicerone, having qualified after rigorous written, oral and tasting exams. She is also the recipient of the 2012 Ontario Craft Brewers Centre of Excellence Industry Choice Award in Food & Beer Matching Development.

Mirella  established her company Beerology™ as a channel for facilitated beer tastings and workshops, which she gives across the country, as well as a training channel for pub and restaurant servers. She also offers beer tastings to corporations as team building exercises or for employee recognition. And she consults with restaurants to create beer and food pairings and with breweries to develop new products. She founded the Toronto Chapter of the women-only international beer-appreciation society, Barleys Angels.

Beerology book coverBeerology is also the name of Miralla’s hot-off-the-press book, which provides a written and visual exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of beer. Here you will find suggestions for a beer for every mood, food and occasion. She demystifies the choices, brewing styles and traditions associated with the universal pleasure of a pint. Beerology is published by Random House and is available from major bookstores as well as online from Amazon.

Today, Mirella favours of a pot of Earl Grey tea. Her Ladyship (that would be me!) is more than pleased to brew a pot of tea and take several cups with Mirella. Her Ladyship pours two cups (digitally!) of steaming, fragrant tea; Mirella’s preference today is for tea without milk and Her Ladyship always drinks her tea clear. We settle back and begin our conversation.

Where did you go to school?
I went to McGill University in Montreal and studied music – I was in the opera programme. I am fascinated by everything to do with music but I think I am most intrigued by the history of music and how music evolved over time.

Did you have a career on stage?
I sang on many stages with different orchestras and I was about to sign a major contract when I decided to leave opera – it was purely a geographic decision: I want to live in Toronto and a career as an opera singer meant living in Europe or New York.

Mirella looking at a glass of beerWhat led you to become a beer expert?
I was changing careers and was exploring ways to combine my performance training with my passion for beer. I spoke with brewers to understand their needs and how to marry these needs with my skills. I found out very quickly the breweries needed a good and credible cheerleader for beer. That’s when I started to study everything I could about beer.

Who introduced you to beer?
At home, I was raised to enjoy a small sip from my mother or father’s glass at dinner, whether it was wine or beer. So I guess a few drops from dad’s beer glass did the trick! Later in life, I had the good fortune to have a great circle of friends who were into craft beers. I became smitten with freshly-brewed beers.

What are you involved with right now?
HOPERA – an evening of craft beer and opera that I’m hosting in Toronto on September 17 and 18. HOPERA presents opera singers in operatic arias, duos and trios. Each song will be accompanied by a sample of local craft beer. Pairings will be presented with details on the musical selection and the beer style as well as why they were chosen.

HOPERA promises to be a lovely and  intimate affair. Reserve your seat now to avoid disappointment.

What advice would you give to someone trying to carve out a livelihood without a template?
Here’s what comes to mind: Mine your strengths as much as possible; find out everything you can about the field your interested in; keep your ear to the ground, chat up people and figure out where the demand is, AND GO FILL THE GAP.

At a high level, can you guide us through a beer tasting.
For those with experience in wine tasting, the technique is somewhat similar – you examine appearance, sense of smell to appreciate full flavour, let the beer move around in the mouth to discern flavour, carbonation and then you swallow the beer. This should leave you craving another sip of beer.

Her Ladyship would like to add that there is an excellent guide in Beerology.

What is the best lesson you’ve taken from a mistake?
So many lessons! I really enjoy learning and growing.

What is your go-to method to cheer yourself up?

What skill would you like to learn?
I want to learn the trick of opening a beer bottle with anything at hand!

What never fails to make you laugh?
I am a huge fan of local stand-up comics and I follow quite a few in Toronto.

What would you say is your main weakness?
I tend to see obstacles as surmountable challenges. In some cases, this can be a strength – I don’t think I would be where I am career-wise it weren’t for this trait. Having said this, it can lead to periods of (otherwise avoidable) intense frustration.

How do you make your life less stressful?
As a freelancer, I have the luxury to take an hour for lunch and cook from scratch, sit down, eat and enjoy lunch.

What is your favourite food?
Pasta in its many guises.


What is your favourite work of art?
It’s a contemporary piece by Damien Hirst, called Love Lost. It’s an awesome installation piece made of glass, painted steel, silicon, water, aquarium system, live fresh water fish, gravel, gynecologist’s chair, stainless steel table, computer keyboard and monitor, stool, mug, watch and pewter rings.

How do you celebrate big moments?
Sharing a drink with friends.



What is your fondest childhood memory?
I love swimming in lakes and when I think of my childhood, I try to recapture memories of swimming in the lake.

What is your best ever adventure?
I jumped out of a plane! I decided to celebrate my 30th birthday by sky diving. It was an incredible experience.

Who is your favourite author?
Michel Tremblay, the Quebec author and playwright.

What is your favourite season?
Late summer when it folds into early fall.

What is your workout philosophy?
I find working out boring, so I get a daily workout by cycling most places.

What is your favourite article of clothing?
I collect t- shirts so I would say my collection of locally-designed, artisanal t-shirts. A long time ago I decided I wasn’t going to wear logos on my clothes. I am very supportive of local artists and designers.

Which is your favourite Canadian city?

Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Meryl Streep.

Master-Cicerone-Mirella-Amato-5What is you favourite attribute?

What are the principal aspects of your personality?
I am curious; I love to learn, I love to share and I’d say I’m a pretty smart cookie!


What do you appreciate most in your friends?
Their sense of sharing and their support.

What is your idea of happiness?
Sharing a delicious meal with people I care about and having great conversations. Also being close to a lake.

Who is your hero in real life?
I admire the late Bob Flanagan greatly. He was an American writer, poet, comedian, performance artist and musician who suffered from cystic fibrosis and found ways to turn his illness into art. I admire how his courage and creativity impacted so many people in a positive way. Bob Flanagan died in 1996 at the age of 43.

Where is your favourite place to unplug?
In the lake!

What do you bring on a long flight to make yourself comfortable?
Water, gum and I like keep my mind busy so I always have a book or podcast with me.

When you vacation, do you focus on luxury, adventure or relaxation?

Mirella at microphoneWhat gives you satisfaction?
I have a lot of satisfaction in my work – I love introducing people to beer. I have been doing this for seven years and I am always thrilled when I move someone to the pleasures of craft beers. The feedback I receive is awesome! I’m not changing lives but the satisfaction is amazing and incredibly personal.


What is your favourite daily ritual?
My morning café latte.

What would like to do ten years from now?
I would like to own a cottage so I can jump in the lake!

What words do you live by?
Be true to myself.

Beer and Chocolate







British Tradition and the Appeal of Donuts

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas:

Reblogging a post is a first for Her Ladyship (that would be me). I am sharing “British Tradition and the Appeal of Donuts” because it is spot on and very entertaining. The blog author is Dorreen Augustine, an American lady who has lived in England for the past 20 years. I hope you will enjoy her post as much as I did.

Originally posted on Mother Hen Diaries:

Tea for the British is not just a beverage: It is, indeed, the very lifeblood of the country, regardless of whether one resides in Windsor Castle or a council estate. The very word carries a number of slightly differing meanings, and if and when you decide to visit, it is important that you understand what these mean.


There’s nothing quite like a lovely cuppa! Photo: britishfood.about.com

If a Brit invites you for coffee, for example, this could mean coffee, or it could mean tea or even hot chocolate. To be invited for coffee simply means you will be sharing a hot beverage together, no matter what time of day. It’s a little like an American asking if you want to get a Coke. It could be Pepsi, Kool-Aid, Iced Tea or anything.

If, however, you are invited for “Tea,” you must be sure to ascertain exactly what may be expected. Over…

View original 1,541 more words

August 2014: Let them eat poutine


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At the start of every month, we offer you a short list of pleasant activities to consider,
some focused on afternoon tea, some not.

Herewith five suggestions for month for the month of August 2014

The FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014 Various locations across Canada, August 5-24 This edition of the beautiful game plays in Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton. Cheer these amazing young women; get your tickets today. Along with host Canada, the 16 participating nations are Ghana, Finland, North Korea, Germany, USA, China PR, Brazil, England, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, New Zealand, Paraguay, France and Costa Rica.



Hot & Spicy Food Festival
Harbourfront Centre, Toronto August 15-17

Food crosses time and culture for sure. As does music. And dance. The 2014 Hot & Spicy Food Festival will introduce you to the nuances of layered flavours and the jumping jives of music and dance. Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas is honoured to be featured at this festival. Join us on Saturday August 16 at 1:00 p.m. at the Lakeside Terrace to see how we make our prized chocolate-cayenne shortbread.  samples after the demonstration.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas


Festival de la Poutine (PooTEEN)
Drummondville, Quebec August 21–23

This festival has plenty of live acts featuring great Quebecois bands and singers – all the better to tap your toes and to enjoy your fires, gravy and cheese curds. Poutine is a typically Quebecois meal invented in the late 1950s. Drummondville is one of three communities in rural Quebec claiming to be the birthplace of poutine, hence the annual festival. Over time, the popularity of poutine spread across Quebec and later throughout Canada. Poutine is often served in small town restaurants, bars, as well as being quite popular in ski resorts. In recent times it has found notoriety as an ‘it’ snack at weddings and special events.

Poutine festival in Drummondville  Poutine



Corn and Apple Festival
Morden, Manitoba August 22-24

Travelling west from Quebec, we offer another typcial Canadian festival – the Morden Corn and Apple Festival. Since 1967, this small prairie town shares the love equally between apples and corn, both of which grow abundantly on the farms of Morden. This is also known as the free festival: Free admission, free corn on the cob, free cider, free entrtainment and free parking. What’s not to love?


Create your own event
Your home, any time

And finally, create your own event. Gather friends, go to a famers market and see what’s good that day to use as inspiration for afternoon tea.

Freshly-picked watercress Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Freshly-picked watercress
Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Teapot with Laurel Leaves. Photo: A;an Mirabelli

Teapot with Laurel Leaves. Photo: Alan Mirabelli

Afternoon Tea, Inukshuk Style


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It’s hot and humid in our neck of the woods, so we’re celebrating the Arctic to chill out.
We built a rough stone cairn – an Inukshuk – and we’re taking our tea beside it.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Inukshuk are built by the peoples of Canada’s high Arctic regions and by the inhabitants of nations sitting atop the Arctic Circle. This pile of stones erected without benefit of adhesives is the mainstay of tundra travel. Tundras lack any discerning physical characteristic, so their singular feature are the Inukshuk – a navigation tool, a point of reference, a communication tool – FaceBook, Twitter and blog rolled into one platform of the high Arctic.

These architectural forms are perhaps the oldest objects humans have placed on the Arctic landscape. The form can be short or tall, skinny or fat, one stone or many stones – each form tells a distinct story. For example, a form with arms or legs lead to an open channel for navigation, or a valley for passage through the mountains. A form without arms is a marker for a cache of food.

Peter Imiq, Inuit cultural activist, explains the meaning of the Inukshuk. 

Some interesting Inukshuk factoids:

  • There are over 100 Inukshuk at Inuksuk Point, on Baffin Island. In1969, Canada declared the area a National Historic Site.

Inuksuk Point, Baffin Island; Wikipedia

  • Inukshuk are also a cultural symbol. For example, an Inuksuk (singular of Inukshuk) is on the flag and on the coat of arms of Nunavut Territory.
Flag of Nunavut, Canada; Government of Nunavut Territory

Flag of Nunavut, Canada; Government of Nunavut Territory

  • On July 13, 2005, Canadian military erected an Inuksuk on Hans Island to one up Denmark with whom Canada has a longstanding beef over the small Arctic island.
  • Inukshuk have been erected throughout Canada to commemorate special events:

Battery Park, on Toronto’s lake shore for World Youth Day in 2002.
Vancouver for Expo 86
Whistler Mountain north of Vancouver for 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Lamoureux Park, Cornwall, ON, to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Olympic torch passage through town

  • Officials in various wilderness parks throughout Canada routinely dismantle Inukshuk constructed by hikers and campers, for fear that they could misdirect park visitors from other markers that indicate hiking trails.
  • There are a couple of authentic Inukshuk gifted by the government of Canada around the world:

Canadian Embassy, DC, Government of Canada

India; Government of Canada

India; Government of Canada


Brisbane – Australia’s Bicentenary; Government of Canada


Monterrey, Mexico; Government of Canada

Oslo - Norway Centenary;  Government of Canada

Oslo – Norway Centenary; Government of Canada




Happy birthday, Alice Munro


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Today is Nobel Laureate Alice Munro’s 83rd birthday. Happy Birthday, Alice! We at Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas wish you a very special day.


Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young and CBC online

A literary giant from way back when, Alice Munro is the Canadian author known for her short stories and for creating a whole new architecture for the short story where time and space as well as character build the story. Her books are perennial nominees and winners of prestigious literary prizes, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Man Booker International Prize and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. In 2012, she announced that she was retiring from writing.

Afternoon Tea and shortbread for Alice Munro


Photo: Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

The Classic Pound cake: Afternoon tea classic


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What would any self-respecting afternoon tea be without cakes and biscuits?

Her Ladyship (that would be me!) is at a loss to explain!

We’ve introduced our simply splendid lavender shortbreads sometime ago, so today we are pleased to introduce our Simply Splendid Signature Pound Cake.

Lore has it the pound cake originated in northern Europe and when you consider the ingredients, it is certainly a cake that would ‘stick to your ribs’ and keep you warm through a winter’s night. A  pound cake is rich; very rich, as it contains a pound, or equal weights, of each chief ingredient, typically flour, butter, and sugar and of course eggs.

Over time, bakers started to experiment and added ‘adornments’. For example, Her Ladyship always grates the zest of a lemon into the batter; or adds a cup of fresh blueberries; or dices Australian crystallized ginger and pops about half a cup into the batter. Sometimes Her Ladyship tosses in the zest of an orange and toasted chopped almonds for the same textured cake but a totally different taste. And because Canadian tea drinkers prefer a more moist cake, Her Ladyship has been known to add a little buttermilk to the recipe.

So without further ado, here is Her Ladyship’s recipe for the basic pound cake (without adornments).


Simply Splendid Signature Pound Cake

  • Servings: 10-12 slices
  • Time: 1hr 30mins includes baking time
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees


1 cup butter

1 2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

5 eggs


Sift flour, baking powder and salt; set aside

On a a medium-high setting on electric mixer, cream butter; add sugar slowly and incorporate with butter

Add eggs one at a time and beat well until totally incorporated before adding the next egg
Add 1 teaspoon vanilla

Gradually add flour into wet mixture and beat lightly to incorporate

Pour into two greased loaf pans

Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour – test at 50 minutes


Pair a slice of this most decadent cake with a rich citrus tea – the Grey family of teas spring to mind: Earl Grey, Baroness Grey and Lady Grey.

IMG_2698Earl Grey is a black tea containing oil of bergamot as a flavouring. The Grey family history states the tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Lord Grey to suit the water at Howick Hall, the family home in Northumberland, using bergamot to offset the lime in the local water. Lady Grey used Earl Grey tea to entertain  and this tea proved so popular that Twinings began selling Earl Grey Tea as an international brand.

Lady Grey tea is a variation on the famous Earl Grey tea. It is a black tea scented with oil of bergamot (though in lower concentrations in Lady Grey) and it contains lemon and orange peels. Lady Grey was the wife, of the Earl for whom Earl Grey tea is named.

Lady Grey tea is a modern invention, created by Twinings in the early 1990s to appeal to the Nordic market, who found Earl Grey tea too pungent. It first went on sale in Norway in 1994 and in Britain in 1996.

Baroness Grey Tea, the signature tea of Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas, is a black tea with cornflower petals, lemon peel, rose petals, and bergamot oil


Theatre 20’s production of Company is a gem


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As promised in an earlier blog, Her Ladyship attended the July 2 performance of Toronto’s Theatre 20 production of the Stephen Sondheim’s play, Company, and she is pleased to report the play was a triumph.


The cast, consisting of many Theatre 20 founding artists, was superb. Each actor enthralled and emoted with vocal gusto as the story of love, relationships and marriage took its predictable, and unpredictable turns, in song and dance, in pitter patter and playfulness, in seductiveness and snarkiness.

Special shouts out to Chris Porter, the stage manager, who did yeoman duty keeping the production rolling along smoothly and to the the five-piece band led by Scott Christian who enabled the production admirably.

For Toronto readers, Company is at the Berkeley Street Theatre until July 13. Don’t miss it!




The List for July 2014


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At the start of every month, we offer you a short list of pleasant activities to inspire you; some are focussed on afternoon tea, some not.

Herewith five suggestions for July 2014.

PENTAX ImageResolve to drink more tea.
Hot tea.

In India, hot tea is a staple of the daily diet, year in year out. Science shows that as the internal body temperature rises through consumption of hot fluids or hot food – think curry – you will feel cooler. Over a billion Indians can’t be wrong!


Drive a Convertible

We’re indulging ourselves by renting a drop top for a July weekend. Hey it’s summer and the livin’ is easy!  Here are some choices we are considering: Mazda MX-5 Miata, VW Beetle, or perhaps a Mini Cooper, but then, the Jaguar Type E does appeal.

Photo courtesy The Telegraph

Photo courtesy The Telegraph


Our fave street street festivals for July are in Toronto and in Pamplona.

Salsa on St. Clair is a week-long celebration of Latin music, dance, food and culture throughout Toronto.  It is the biggest fiesta north of the U.S. – Canada border, and runs from July 12-20 culminating with the big enchilada, the 10th annual muy calliente Salsa on St. Clair Street Festival on July 19-20.


The Fiesta de San Fermin, is a deeply rooted, annual cultural festival running  July 6 – 14. The renowned street party inludes concerts, awesome fireworks, assorted parades and the running of the bulls.

The events of this festival were central to the plot of The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway. It has become probably the most internationally renowned fiesta in Spain. Over 1,000,000 people come to participate in this festival.


Exploring The Purple Road …. in our rented convertible

The Purple Road of Ontario groups the many and varied lavender farms in Ontario into regional road trips where you can meet lavender growers, cut your own lavener, picnic and photograph, buy plants and lavender products and be refreshed with a pot of lavender tea.

Bonnieheath Estate Lavender and Winery

Bonnieheath Estate Lavender and Winery

Echolane Lavender Farm and Fibre Arts

Echolane Lavender Farm and Fibre Arts

  A treat for Canada Day, Independence Day 2014

Canada and the United States share national holidays within the same week  July 1 and July 4. To celebrate, we’re offering The Nanaimo Bar – a dessert  of Canadian origin and popular across North America. Named after the City of Nanimao on Canada’s west coast where legend has it the dessert was invented by the ladies of the local Womens Institute (The women of the WI featured prominently in the movie Calendar Girls!) and consists of a wafer crumb-based layer topped by a layer of light vanilla or custard flavoured butter icing and covered with melted chocolate. Here is the authentic recipe from the kitchens of Kraft Canada.

Pair these delicious bars with a single estate tea like a Darjeeling, which incidentally is known as the champagne of teas for its flavour and light colouring.


Nanaimo Bars

  • Servings: Depends on the size of your bars
  • Time: 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

6 oz. Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate, divided
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. butter, softened, divided
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups Honey Maid Graham Crumbs
1 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp. Bird’s Custard Powder
3 Tbsp. milk
2 cups icing sugar

Heat oven to 350°F.

Microwave 2 oz. chocolate and 1/2 cup butter in large microwaveable bowl on MEDIUM 2 min. or until butter is melted.

Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Blend in egg and vanilla. Stir in graham crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press onto bottom of 9-inch square pan.

Bake 8 minutes; cool completely.

Mix custard powder and milk in medium bowl with whisk until blended.

Add 1/4 cup of the remaining butter; mix well.

Gradually beat in sugar until blended.

Spread onto crust. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

Microwave remaining chocolate and butter in microwaveable bowl 2 to 3 min. or until butter is melted.

Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Spread over custard layer.

Refrigerate several hours or until chilled before cutting into bars.

Nanaimo Bars courtesy of Kraft Canada

Nanaimo Bars courtesy of Kraft Canada

Carly Street IS GOOD Company


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The first reviews are in!

On Friday June 27, we posted an interview with Carly Street, an up and coming young Canadian stage actress. Carly plays the role of Amy in Theatre 20’s production of Sondheim’s Company. The play has opened in Toronto and the weekend reviews are in: Her Ladyship’s conviction she was taking tea (digitally!) with a great and versatile actress is confirmed by early reviews. Her Ladyship is delighted!

Carly Street is good Company
In last season’s Canadian Stage hit Venus in Fur, Carly Street starred as Vanda, a fearless actress/dominatrix. Her latest role, in Stephen Sondheim’s Company, has her swapping black leather for white satin to play Amy, a bride-to-be who’s freaked out by the prospect of marriage. “Amy way over-thinks things,” says Street of her neurotic character, “which is problematic when it comes to relationships. She’s certainly very different from Vanda, who’s living right in the moment.” Martin Morrow, TO Gird Read more

Company: A happy hit for Theatre 20 to build on
“Theatre 20’s revival of Company, Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s 1970 musical about modern marriage, easily justifies its existence in four minutes flat. Those are the sharp 240 seconds or so that Louise Pitre’s Joanne takes to sing her perfect, pitiless rendition of Ladies Who Lunch – the show’s famous skewering of rich and unemployed women …  Carly Street, star of Canadian Stage’s recent Venus in Fur, provides the musical comic high not long after as Amy, Globe and Mail  Read more

Other reviews, too many to follow, include this accolade:

” … Carly Street also does a knockout job as Amy, who decides on her wedding day she’s not crazy about the idea of “Getting Married Today,” in Sondheim’s psychotic notion of a patter song. Street delivers it with amazing conviction and even better diction. You have to love a woman who’s got all her theatre tools working in such excellent shape. …”  Toronto Star

Carly Street as Amy in Theatre 20's production of Company; credit TO Grid

Carly Street as Amy in Theatre 20’s production of Company; credit TO Grid


Afternoon tea with Carly Street, brand new Best Actress Dora winner


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Dear readers and tea lovers everywhere:

Welcome to a regular feature of our blog,
‘Afternoon tea with …. 
people of note’

carly head and sholdersToday we’re taking afternoon tea with Carly Street, a superb actress who is well known on Broadway and in her hometown of Toronto. And she is the newest minted winner of a Dora Award for Best Actress for her role in Venus in Fur.

The Doras are the Canadian equivalent of Broadway’s Tony awards and are named after Dora Mavor Moore, a Glaswegian who immigrated to Canada in 1896 at the age of eight and devoted her extremely productive life to creating theatre and theatre companies in Canada.

Carly has appeared in over 50 film, television, theatre and radio productions. In addition to her Dora for best actress, she has garnered three best actress nominations for her stage roles in Into the Woods, the world premiere production of The Lord of the Rings, and Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare. Here, Her Ladyship (that would be me!) must divulge that she thought Carly’s dramatic presence coupled with her singing and comic turn in Bloodless were stellar.

Since 2010, Carly has lived in New York City.  Her U.S. credits include the Tony-nominated Brief Encounter, the world premiere of Dead Accounts, the Tony-winning Clybourne Park, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tovarich.

Carly has chosen her favourite tea – Irish Breakfast. This is a blend of Assam and several black teas, grown at, or near sea level and known for body, briskness, maltiness and strong, bright color. Many Assam blends are known as “breakfast” teas because of their heartiness and higher caffeine content. Her Ladyship (that would be me again!) has brewed some Irish Breakfast tea in a fine china teapot and the requisite steeping time has passed. Two cups of tea are poured – Carly has a little milk and a little sugar with her tea and Her Ladyship takes her tea clear. We settle back for our conversation.

You are from Toronto, but live and work in New York. How often do you return to Canada?
I come home at least once a year to spend time with my family and as I am a founding artist of Theatre 20,  I return for productions. As a matter of fact I am in Toronto right now for Theatre 20’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company.

The show was huge on Broadway …
Yes, the musical was nominated for 14 Tonys and won six. The story takes place in upper-middle-class Manhattan and unfolds through a series of vignettes. Each character and scene are linked to Robert, a single man unable to commit to a steady relationship; the married couples who are his best friends and his three on-again off-again girlfriends. The artistic vehicle linking all these stories is Robert’s 35th birthday. I play the role of Amy, one of Robert’s married friends.


The cast of Theatre 20’s production of the Sondheim musical, Company.

It is widely held Company ushered the age of today’s musicals. Her Ladyship will see Company on July 2 and will report back. For Toronto readers, Company is at the Berkeley Street Theatre until July 13.

What is Theatre 20?
1391471656It’s a Toronto-based company and it is the artists themselves who drive the company. We champion new Canadian musicals, especially those based on stories, as well as young Canadian artists and composers. I’m truly honoured to be part of the founding group of artists. This summer, I’ll be onstage with some of the country’s finest performers.


Who or what led you to co-found Theatre 20?
The seminal founding artists invited me to join and I like the philosophy of putting artists in control of the artistic process. The core group felt I had a unique voice in the community. I was, and am, excited about putting artistic control in the hands of the artists.

You mentioned you have a unique voice in the community …
I definitely have ideas about what plays are produced, and how they’re produced. In other words, I talk a lot at meetings!

How old is Theatre 20?
The company marked its debut in 2012 with Bloodless: The Trial Of Burke And Hare. The central figures, William Burke and William Hare, are 19th-century serial killers who sell their victims’ bodies to a medical school. “It’s a story filled with lust, murder and the desire for power,” says Carly who played Janet, an 1820s Edinburgh prostitute. “But while the material is dark, the show is delicious fun, sophisticated and filled with great tunes.”

Where did your artistic training start?
I became interested in the arts thanks to my mother who took me to theatre performances when I was a girl. School was another driver. I went to schools where the music and drama programs were great and in my last two years of high school, I transferred to the Etobicoke School of the Arts. 

You are  a graduate of the famed National Theatre School in Montreal. Do you remember your audition?
Oh gosh yes! But then not very well! I remember three auditions. At the first audition, I had to perform two monologues – I chose one from the Jacobean-era play, Maid of Honour, and the other was Portia from Julius Caesar. For the second audition, I was required to choose a play and perform a three-minute condensed version of it. I chose Sondheim’s Assassins. My final and third audition was to perform the same piece but in front of a blue chip panel of judges, which included the late Heath Lamberts, himself a graduate of the NTS and who worked extensively on the stage, particularly at the Shaw and Stratford Festivals and on Broadway.

Another cup of tea?
Yes please, that would be wonderful.

What is your favourite role to date?
Vanda in Venus in Fur. Vanda is a young actress, who wants to land the lead role very badly. She sings and acts her way through a spellbinding performance –the performance ‘of her life’ as it were – and it’s both subtle and forceful and a very fine balance between fantasy and reality.

Carly as Vanda in the Canadian Stage production of Venus in Fur

Carly as Vanda in the Canadian Stage production of Venus in Fur

Her Ladyship notes this interview was conducted a few weeks before the Dora Awards were announced, so Carly had no inkling she was going to win the best actress award for her portrayal of Vanda.

What  role would you like to play?
The Fool in Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters. Also Richard III – I’m interested in male roles.

What is your go to method to cheer yourself up?
I call my parents.

What is the best criticism you received?
A lot! All interesting and helpful!

How do you make the life of an actress less stressful?
I keep a really clean house!

If you could choose any person from history to teach you any topic, who would it be?
Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s first wife. I admire how she overcame so much adversity – living through terror, her divorce, her penury, and disappointments in general all through her life. And yet she had a full and active public life. I would like to learn her adaptability and survivability.

What is your favourite work of art?
A Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat.


Who is your favourite author?
Virginia Woolf.

How do you celebrate big moments?
I call my parents in Toronto; also I turn off the critical voice in my head.

What is your fondest childhood memory?
Fishing with my family.

What would you consider your best ever adventure?
New Zealand with my sister.

What is your guilty pleasure?
I love math puzzles; also can’t resist red wine.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Talk less, listen more.

Toronto Symphony or Tegan and Sara?
Toronto Symphony.

What is your workout philosophy?
My philosophy is to workout more! I do have a workout routine, but it has to change every now and then to deal with injuries. I also do Bikram Yoga.

What is your favourite article of clothing?
A little pair of black ankle booties.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Gilda Radner, if she were alive.

What is your favourite virtue?
Strength of character.

What are the principal aspects of your personality?
Charismatic, sensitive, willful and loyal.

What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Their generosity of spirit. I am blessed to have a lot of friends and I thank them very much for their generous spirit.

What is your idea of happiness?
Living in the present moment.

What is your idea of misery?
Living in the past; living with regret.

What are three little know facts about you?
I love math puzzles; I chew my nails as a zombie chews skin and I love accents.

What are your favourite haunts in Toronto and New York?
I love the Ceili Cottage  in Leslieville, a popular Toronto neighbourhood and Harlem Public in New York.

When you take a vacation, do you focus on luxury, adventure or relaxation?

What is the most amazing thing you have ever done?
I moved to a new country on my own.

What is the best advice you would give your younger self?
You are just fine the way you are.










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