Kentucky is a state I've learned a lot more about in recent years thanks to my dear tea friend Linda of the Friendship Tea blog. In fact, I had a hard time narrowing down the tea things I wanted to share about Kentucky, but I did finally settle on what I (currently) consider the three most important things about Kentucky and the tea world.
• You cannot mention Kentucky without conjuring images of bluegrass country and magnificent racehorses, so I think it's only appropriate to mention that the Kentucky Derby is one of the grandest social occasions of the year in this country, for events that certainly include teatime. I love to see the national news coverage on Derby Day since it focuses on the beautiful hats, the excitement of the races, and the grandeur of Churchill Downs. Increasingly, Derby Day tea parties are becoming a "thing," and I am fortunate that I got to attend a Kentucky Derby-inspired tea at Boone Tavern Hotel in Berea, Kentucky a few years ago. (Photos are here.) If you're planning a Kentucky Derby tea party, there are lots of great ideas on the internet. Go here to see a slew of them on Pinterest, and if you don't have the time or inclination, fine, but DO NOT MISS THIS GREAT IDEA for a silverware/plasticware presentation on Derby Day. It's so charming! The photo above, courtesy of the Library of Congress, shows the finish of the one-mile race on Derby Day 1901.
• Some years ago, an older lady in my town learned of my passion for teatime, and this native of Louisville (pronounced Loo-a-vull, not Looey-ville) asked if I'd ever heard of Benedictine tea sandwiches. I had not. Miss Jennie Benedict was a famous caterer in the Louisville area who created this tea sandwich recipe, and lo and behold, I learned that her Benedictine sandwich is quite famous and very much associated with Kentucky. In fact, I'd say that holding a Kentucky tea party and not offering either a chocolate "Derby Day" pie or a Benedictine tea sandwich would be akin to holding a Georgia tea party and not offering something made with peaches. Wrong, in other words. Here's a recipe I once shared for Benedictine sandwiches. And here's a recipe by the expert on all things Kentucky, my friend Linda. And here's Paula Deen's recipe. And here's Saveur magazine's. If you get the impression Benedictine sandwiches are a big deal, you would be right.
• There are superstars of the tea world just as there are in any field, and one I think must always be acknowledged in any serious discussion of tea in America today is Kentuckian Bruce Richardson of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas. Bruce and his wife, Shelley, once ran the Elmwood Inn B&B in Perryville, Kentucky, and they were among the first to offer not only afternoon teas but also tea education classes that launched many a career. He's now a world-renowned expert on tea, and having had the pleasure of briefly meeting him on several occasions, I can say that he is also a charming and unassuming man, quite down-to-earth and plainly eager to share his passion for tea. I consider him our national ambassador for tea, and those of us who enjoy high-quality teas today can thank Mr. Richardson for helping educate our country about tea through such publications as his books, his articles in Tea Time magazine, and his blog. (I happen to be a bit proud that he's from the South, but that's to be expected, right?) Oh, and I almost forgot to mention how delicious Elmwood Inn's teas are! I've enjoyed quite a few of them, several courtesy of my Kentucky friend Linda, and you can check out the offerings here.