Last week I received a review copy of a soon-to-be-released book I'd been itching to get my hands on, "Vintage Tea Party" by Carolyn Caldicott, who with Chris Caldicott once ran a café in London's Covent Garden. This book is even more lovely than I'd hoped it would be, picturing flea market stalls of chintz teawares, close-ups of freshly-made tea sandwiches and sweets, and thatched-roof cottages in the English countryside. And while the book is full of terrific eye candy for tea lovers, it's also quite an inspiring read. Giving advice on "Where To Find the Vintage Look," Caldicott says a collector of vintage teawares first should always check with family, who may have unused pieces they're willing to share. "Once you have exhausted the possibilities at home," she says, "it is time to hit the local charity shops, the final destination of many a spring clean, offering an endlessly changing supply of bric-a-brac, linen and cutlery."
A brief history of tea is a nice addition (and would make this book a great gift for those new to tea), but as always I learned something new myself. While I'd read about Anna, Duchess of Bedford and her legendary "sinking feeling" which led to the beginning of afternoon tea, Caldicott surprised me by tossing in a tidbit I've never read before. "Fortified by her tasty repast she soon decided to share the experience with her lady friends by sending out invitations for 'Tea and a walk in the fields.'" So the Duchess and friends were walkers! Nice to know!
Following a few pages on the basics of selecting and preparing a good cup of tea, the book offers recipes for jam, finger sandwiches, cakes, cookies, bite-sized sweets, and all manner of treats you'd love to make or eat. I especially like the recipes for High Tea, which the author notes is "a much more generous meal" and "traditionally served at the end of the working day." Welsh Rarebit and Crumpets are two of the recipes featured here, with other chapters spotlighting Tea in the Drawing Room, Tea in the Garden, Fireside Tea and Nursery Tea. With terrific photography by Chris Caldicott, this book is a must for those of us who favor all things vintage—and all things tea!