For Julie Peterson, the concepts of tea and family are inextricably intertwined. In the introduction to her book, Treasuring the Gift of Tea Time, Julie recalls the spur-of-the-moment tea parties she often staged with her mother, grandmother, and sisters.
“As children, those were magical moments that seemed to sprinkle us with tender love and security,” she writes. “Those simple, spontaneous teas with my family are precious memories forever captured in my heart.”
Now Julie is helping other families create such special memories through her book, a natural extension of her catering business, Specialteas, which plans children’s tea parties. The business started seven years ago when Julie began hosting teas for her own young daughters.
“Friends would ask me to host them for their children,” she says. “Then people I didn’t know started asking me, and that kind of threw me into a small catering business.”
When women started telling Julie that they wanted to learn how to create their own tea parties, she got the idea to write how-to booklets. She had so much information to share, however, that the booklets eventually grew into a full-fledged book, rife with ideas for themes, invitations, decorations, entertainment, and recipes.
Julie’s concept of a tea party is distinctly old-fashioned, and this preference suffuses every aspect of her book, from her tabletop suggestions to the inclusion of Victorian party games such as Hide the Button. Even the photographs have a vintage feel, which Julie achieved by removing most of the tint from colored photographs. There is at least one genuinely vintage photograph in the book, however—the cover image is of Julie’s mother as a little girl, hosting a tea party for a friend.
“When I found that photo, I just fell in love with it,” Julie says. For her, the picture represents the legacy of tea that has been passed down through her family—a legacy she hopes to pass down to her daughters through this book.
“More than anything, I just wanted something for my own children to have,” she says. “I had no idea there would be other people who are like minded and have the same passion I have for tea.”
For those not blessed with a family tea legacy like Julie’s, the book makes it easy to start one. The pages are filled with simple yet delectable teatime recipes passed down from Julie’s own family and friends. In addition to helpful hints that cover every aspect of planning a tea party (there’s even a preparty checklist to guide last-minute preparations), Julie also offers ideas for instilling the spirit of teatime in your family.
In the chapter titled “Hospitali-Tea,” for instance, she discusses the importance of teaching this attribute to children during and after tea through simple lessons like making introductions and writing thank-you notes.
After all, she says, too many people get so caught up in the little details of hosting a tea party that they forget what really matters—taking time to bless your guests and make them feel special.
“The important thing about a tea party is that it is really about connecting,” she writes. “The ritual of tea is the giving and receiving of each other. It is coming together to enjoy sweet communion, face-to-face and heart-to-heart.”