Review: Having Tea: Recipes and Table Settings, by Catherine Calvert

by Rebeca on May 31, 2009

Until I was in grad school, I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker. I drank mostly Lipton’s tea with milk and sugar until one day the red Twinnings tin of loose English Breakfast tea caught my eye and I thought I would try it. Well, I’ve never touched Lipton’s since then.When I spent a semester abroad in France, I became very friendly with a Canadian fellow who was an avid tea drinker and enjoyed formal afternoons teas. One afternoon, we discovered a little tea shop that had a little restaurant that served “Afternoon Tea” to the British ex-pats. I always looked forward to 4:00 pm when we’d make our jaunt, settle in to have tea, and try all the assorted sandwiches and pastries. It was such a civilized way to spend the afternoon.

When I returned to the States and told my mother about my love for afternoon tea, we decided to start our own tradition and stock up on different types of tea, which included, Early Grey, Irish Breakfast, Ceylon, Jasmine, Orange Pekoe, Oolong. Every afternoon, we’d take out our good tea set and sip that day’s choice and savor the tiny sandwiches and pastries we made.

In one of my weekly forays to our local independent bookstore, I discovered Having Tea by Catherine Calvert, and I knew that I had to buy this book just by looking at the cover. I’ve had this book for 22 years now and it’s still one of my favorites.

teaHaving Tea: Recipes & Table Settings
By Catherine Calvert, photographs by Keith Scott Morton
Clarkson. N. Potter Inc./Publishers, 1987
87 pages, $22.50

If you want to go beyond dunking a teabag in a mug and enjoy a civilized “cuppa,” Calvert’s book gives you five option on how to be civilized and a slew of recipes. And chuck away that all chipped mug, because you’ll need a proper tea service if truly want to enjoy tea.

If I had to pinpoint what I like so much about Having Tea, I’d have a hard time. As I leaf through the book, I ooh-and ahh at the tea services that have been photographed. These range from traditional white porcelain sets to 1930s Art-Deco geometric designs. Others include delicate flowered porcelain sets (we had those, my mother was partial to egg-shell thin porcelain with an ornate flower design), to Asian-inspired services.

But my oohs soon change to stomach grumblings  as I read through the recipes, I suddenly get a hankering for “Brunch in the City” which consists of the following:
• Toasted Cornmeal Muffins with Apple Butter
• Slow-Scrambled Eggs with Cream and Chives
• Pan-Fried Tomatoes with Fresh Tarragon
• Honey-Dew Melons Wedges with Lemon
• Bloody Mary’s and English Breakfast Tea.

Now that’s how you kick off a Sunday!

What if you’re in the mood for a picnic? Try “Summer Harvest Picnic” which includes:
• Honey-Glazed Chicken with Rosemary
• Red Potato Salad
• Vine-Ripened Tomatoes with Fresh Basil
• Crusty White Peasant Bread
• Old-Fashioned Peach Pie
• Fresh Peaches
• Mint Iced Orange Pekoe Tea

In addition to the recipes, Calvert includes a section on tea tasting and lists the major types of tea and their individual characteristics. Like wine, the qualities in tea reflect the region they’re cultivated, the soil, the altitude, and the climate.

Once you’ve decided what teas you like, you need to stock your tea larder. Some items you might want to consider:
• Crystallized Ginger (sweet, but with a little kick)
• Honey
• Lemon
• Preserves (stir in the preserves in your cup in the fashion of the Russians or Hungarians)
• Sugar

Short on tea sandwich ideas? Calvert offers the following:
• Stilton Cheese crumbled over pear slices on oatmeal bread
• Asparagus spears with lemon mayonnaise on wheat bread
• Smoked turkey with raspberry mayonnaise on cracked what bread

Next time, when you need a pick me up of sorts, skip the Starbucks. Instead, have a nice cuppa with a few shortbread biscuits and enjoy your tea time.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

gautami tripathy May 31, 2009 at 9:55 pm

I love tea. I can drink it at any time of the day (or night!). You have made my mouth water mentioning all those yummy food!

Rebeca May 31, 2009 at 9:58 pm

I’m glad you liked it. It really is a beautiful book.

RS March 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Your RSS feed doesn’t work right in my own browser (google chrome) how could I correct it?

Rebeca March 8, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Unfortunately, I don’t know. Wish I could help you. I also use Google Chrome and I’ve had the same problem with other blogs.

cricrigorycki March 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I have this book also Rebeca.  It is one of my favorites!  While I am not much of a chef, I do love to bake.  I grew up “taking tea” with my Swiss mother and my Great Grandmother on my dad’s side of the family.  My mother would set up the tea service in the dining room and when Peter and I would return from school, we would have about a half hour of relaxation with a good cup of tea and finger sandwiches or scones and jam (with clotted cream, if it could be found).  The book has marvelous photographs and delicious recipes.  It brings back wonderful memories for me.  When it comes to taste, I prefer the traditional English Breakfast or Earl Grey, but recently I have been experimenting with the Green Teas for their therapeutic qualities.  My favorites right now are Red Goji & Raspberry and White Mangosteen & Peach.

RebecaSchiller March 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm

@cricrigorycki I used to buy so many different teas whenever I would go to the specialty shops. One of my favorite teas is Jasmine with a touch of milk and a drizzle of honey. I drink a lot of green tea too. A favorite is the Good Earth Green Tea with Lemon Grass. It’s decaf so I chug a lot of it. I love to bake too, and the one cake I want to try is the strawberry shortcake recipe that’s in the book.

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