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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Guest Blogger - Day 2

I am honored to introduce Phyllis Barkey as a guest blogger today! Phyllis is a tea specialist from Michigan, and a graduate of the UK Tea Council's Tea MasterClass.

I first met Phyllis in 2007 on my Tea in London tour. Since then, we seem to have become connected in other ways - both professionally and privately. Most recently, I had an opportunity to meet with her and her husband over tea in Charleston, when they were on holiday in South Carolina. What a treat!

Phyllis loves travel, and especially loves travel when tea is involved! She recently returned from Victoria and TeaTime magazines' An Occasion for Tea event in Victoria, British Columbia and shares her thoughts with us below:

PART II of II

Our first collective gathering was for dinner on Friday evening. Following a tasty dinner of roasted chicken breast, Phyllis Hoffman brought greetings and Mandy Kray, Victoria and Empress Hotel Historian, shared tales from times past. She was interesting and entertaining and in full Edwardian dress. As we departed, we were each given a gift package containing a tin of Empress tea and a silver-plated demitasse spoon from a local shop, Classic Silverware & Home Furnishings. Also in the gift package were delicious marshmallows rolled in toasted coconut from a confectionery in Vancouver. They were to die for!!!

We gathered together collectively again for dinner on Saturday evening. The menu was a delicious steak meal with the dessert as the showstopper. It was a chocolate teacup filled with mousse with a chocolate spoon laying across the top of the teacup. It was almost too pretty to eat but somehow most of us managed! All meals were served with perfectly brewed, Empress signature black tea.

Loren Wood, Hoffman Media's recipe developer and food stylist, was the first speaker following dinner. Her topic was, "You don't have to be a culinary professional to get inspiration or creativity for a perfect tea party." She stated that a basic scone is the backbone of a tea party, followed by sandwiches and pastries.

Following Loren's presentation Tricia Foley spoke. She was a writer for the original Victoria magazine. Amazingly, Hearst publications had no archives when Hoffman Media brought the magazine back to life. Tricia, however, had saved all the photos from her articles and shared some during her presentation.

As we dismissed for the evening, we were given a Thistledown Tea Cozy filled with four silver-plated teapot place card holders by Alda Ellis and decorated sugar cubes by Home Sweet Home.


We gathered the next morning (Sunday) for a delectable breakfast. With a good night's rest and full tummies, we were ready for the final session of speakers to begin. Dorothea Johnson, Etiquette Expert was first on the agenda, and she was absolutely delightful as she shared experiences with humor and charm. Dorothea was followed by floral designer, Susan Woodard from New Orleans who demonstrated how to make three different types of floral arrangements.

The last speaker was April Cornell, acclaimed designer and entrepreneur. April demonstrated three different tablescapes and as difficult as it would be to pick a favorite speaker, I think I would have to say she was mine. As we departed the final session we were all given an April Cornell apron, and a coupon for April's store in Victoria or for online shopping. She mentioned in her talk that if you answer the door for guests with an apron on it will give the impression that you've been in your kitchen cooking/baking all day- whether you have or haven't!

I don't think Hoffman Media intended their event to be an educational conference per se, even though all the speakers were very informative. The intent was to provide a relaxing and entertaining, tea-filled weekend in the lap of luxury -- the Empress Hotel! They definitely accomplished their objective. The hotel accommodations were lovely. My room was on the third floor. Kudos to hotel management for placing an electric kettle alongside the coffeemaker with a large selection of their private labeled tea bags. If only the hotels in the U.S. would follow their lead.

Two dinners, one breakfast, Afternoon Tea, outstanding speakers, and numerous gifts made the $499 registration fee a real bargain. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest, I'd give the event a 9.5! It was very well planned and executed.

I heard Phyllis Hoffman's son telling another attendee that a definite location hasn't been determined for next year's event, but it will be somewhere in the East. My mind was swirling... would they choose Boston... New York City... Cape May? Who knows, but I'll be eagerly awaiting the announcement and will most likely make plans to attend!

Thank you Phyllis for a fantastic report! You have an eye for detail and didn't miss a thing! Hope to see you and everyone at the next Occasion For Tea!

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