Saturday, April 15, 2017

Happy Easter from Barb's Tea Service! Wishing you lots of great tea and very good chocolate in your basket!

Easter basket filled with Bon Bon Bons

 After filling your Easter basket with jelly beans, peeps and brightly colored eggs, choose the ultimate chocolate treats from our favorite Michigan chocolatiers:  Bon Bon Bon and Mindo, (and, rather exclusively,  my friend, Pam).

Enjoying Earl Grey bon bon with Earl Grey tea

When Easter falls in April, I get more of my share of goodies, since it's also my birthday month.  I love sweets, but chocolate is on the top of my list, as any readers of this blog know, I write about chocolate almost as much as tea. Of course, holidays and birthdays are a good excuse to indulge (it's worth a few more steps on the daily dog walk).

Key Lime truffle, incredibly delicous!

 Last week, my son, Matt, gifted me with a dozen bon bons from Bon Bon Bon. I've been enjoying one (or two) a day with a cup of tea. There were some I hadn't tried before and they were as amazingly delicious as all my old favorites. Key Lime Pie is incredible - it even has a little crumble crust between the key lime mousse and the chocolate shell.

Earl Grey bon bons created with help from BTS

Included in this dozen bon bons was my go-to truffle to accompany my go-to tea, Earl Grey.  When Rachel and I took the truffle-making class at Bon Bon Bon last summer, we assisted in making those fabulous Earl Grey chocolates.

Barb, Alex (owner of Bon Bon Bon) & Rachel

Mindo Chocolate is another great place to stock up on holiday treats for your Easter basket. Barb's Tea Service worked with Mindo in a recent chocolate tasting event. You can see the ingredients just bursting out of every bar and they are simply scrumptious to eat.

Mindo offers a variety chocolate bars  We love the dark chocolate and sea salt.

The ingredients burst out of every bar!

Pam and Barb with Dana from Mindo Chocolate

Finally, and I know it's not available everywhere, but if you are lucky enough to have a friend who makes you homemade fudge, there's really no equal. My birthday treasure-bath this year included a box full of espresso fudge from my very good friend and tea associate.  #thankspam  #extralongwalksthismonth #worthit

Delicious homemade fudge part of birthday treasure bath

Whatever you find in your Easter basket: peeps, jelly beans, sinful chocolate or, best of all, lots of good times with family and  friends, we at Barb's Tea Service wish you a Happy, Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Tea gifts for Easter from Adagio Teas!

Joyous Easter package from Adagio Teas includes tea mug/infuser and two teas from the Spring Collection

Looking for a springtime tea treat to fill an Easter basket? Adagio Teas has the perfect Easter tea sampler specially packaged for the holiday.

Joyous Easter comes specially packaged for the holiday.

Adagio's "Joyous Easter" collection, includes two Spring teas and a pretty, pastel pink tea mug with its own infuser.  The latter does double duty as cheery over-sized cup to sip from as well as a steeper of loose tea.

A great Easter treat to open and savor!

The two teas included in the Joyous Easter package are "a-tisket, a-tasket", a green tea blend comprised of lemongrass, sunflower petals, citrus peels and lemon and vanilla flavors and "bushel and a peck", a mix of black and jasmine teas with orange peels, chamomile flowers and orange flavor.

Both tea blends offer a taste of Spring with abundant citrus-y and flowery notes.

In keeping with the theme, even the tea tins are miniature gardens with yellow and white blooms displayed on the front of the green and yellow boxes.

"Bushel and a Peck", one of the two tea blends included in Joyous Easter

This lovely holiday package isn't limited to Easter. Adagio sells similar packages for Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day.  They come in loose tea or bag tea options.

Treat your tea enthusiast to a tasty treat this Easter with Adagio's Joyous Easter.

Spread the joy of Easter with the "Joyous Easter" tea collection from Adagio. It's a great gift for all the tea enthusiasts on your list - including you!

Note:  Although the front of "a-tisket, a-tasket" tea tin states "loose leaf black tea", it is green tea. 

Product review disclaimer:  I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free or a discounted price. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Etiquette Program "Eating Various Foods" at the Townsend: Take our Quiz - Fingers or Forks?

Eating Various Foods: Dare to take on more!

Coming soon to The Townsend Hotel, the third in its Dining Etiquette Series, featuring Barb's Tea Service.  We will cover "Eating Various Foods". You don't always have to play it safe with grilled chicken breasts and cooked vegetables.

If you've ever been stumped by which foods are eaten using fingers or forks, we've got the answer. Take our quick quiz below to assess your skill! (answers below).

                                               Fingers or Forks?

                                               a)  Asparagus                    
                                               b)  Bacon                        
                                               c)  Olives                          
                                               d)  Corn on the Cob          
                                               e)  French fries                   

Etiquette presentation is part of Afternoon Tea at the Townsend's tea lobby

We'll cover the art of mastering a variety of challenging foods as well add in a few tea etiquette tips - all in the most beautiful setting,  Townsend Hotel's afternoon tea lobby.

We hope you will join us for a delightful afternoon tea featuring the Townsend's delicious savories, scrumptious scones and tasty desserts, all served up with bottomless pots of expertly brewed tea!

Join Barb's Tea Service for Dining Tutorial at the Townsend

Answers:  a) fork unless you are in Europe, b) fork, unless extra crispy, c) fingers, d) fingers and e) fork and knife, unless served with hamburgers or hot dogs.
Five correct: Master Diner, Four correct: Honorable Mention Diner, Three correct:  Pretty good Diner, Two Correct:  Almost Pretty Good Diner, One Correct: Almost Pretty Good Diner in Training, Zero Correct: Diner

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Meadow Brook Downton Days: Photo Album (Part II)

As part of Meadow Brook Hall's "Downton Days", Barb's Tea Service presented "A History of Tea and Cora's Story" during afternoon tea on February 23. "Cora's Story" is what we refer to as the Downton Abbey Prequel, an era where  Gilded Age Americans and British aristocracy came together for mutually beneficial unions. In the spirit of such a sumptuous lifestyle, we donned our  best Victorian dresses and, against the elegant backdrop of Meadow Brook Hall filled with handsome guests, our professional photographer, Karri Brantley, captured the event beautifully. Here are just a few of the photos from that special afternoon.

Barb's Tea Service (Barb and Rachel Gulley) present in the Christopher Wren dining room at Meadow Brook Hall

Presenting "History of Tea/Cora's Story" in Christopher Wren Dining Room

 Lynn Anderson, Doreen Raynak, Rachel, Barb, Shirley Moon Koebbe, Donna Kenske, Connie Sonnenberg, Gail Raynak

Having a cup of tea in the Sun Porch

In the Living Room of Meadow Brook Hall

Meadow Brook Hall Sun Porch

Sharing a cup of tea in the Sun Porch 

A wonderful afternoon shared with delightful guests at the beautiful Meadow Brook Hall - amazingly captured by Karri Brantley, of Karri Brantley Photography.

All rights reserved.  No part of this blog, including photographs, may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without permission of  Barbara Gulley/Barb's Tea Service.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dining Tutorial at The Townsend Hotel: Etiquette Program featuring Barb's Tea Service and many lovely guests!

Barb's Tea Service presenting etiquette at the Townsend

Last Saturday, Barb's Tea Service presented a  "Dining Tutorial", second in a monthly etiquette series at Birmingham's Townsend Hotel. As part of the afternoon tea, we presented a short program on proper protocol for a multi-course formal dinner.

During the program, guests enjoy scones and savories.

Guests were treated to spectacular afternoon tea fare:  tasty scones, savory sandwiches and extraordinary mini-pastries all served up with bottomless pots of deliciously brewed tea.

This table had one special  birthday girl. Everyone asked a lot of great questions!

There was a great turnout of absolutely wonderful guests. Two young ladies were celebrating birthdays.

Wonderful group of ladies enjoying afternoon tea together at The Townsend

In the "Dining Tutorial" we discussed the three different toasts that can take place in a formal dinner. In that spirit, we ended with a toast of our own:   "To all the special ladies and gentlemen who attended this month's tea and etiquette program. Cheers to all!"

Special celebration with these lovely ladies and another delightful birthday girl!

We hope you will join us for our next etiquette program at The Townsend Hotel on April 8th! We'll cover "Eating Various Foods" including, oysters, lobster, corn on the cob, shrimp and kumquats. (Don't always play it safe with grilled chicken breasts and simple cake!). For more information, see The Townsend Hotel Afternoon Tea page on The Townsend's website. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Abiding in the Vine: Owosso tea room with vintage charm and good taste

Barb T, Corky Adams, and Barb G. at Abiding in the Vine

There is so much to admire at Abiding in the Vine: charming decor, restored tin ceilings, gift shop displays, delicious and beautifully presented tea fare and, the woman behind it all, Corky Adams.

Abiding in the Vine is a Michigan tea room located in Owosso, a small town about half way between Flint and Lansing. Although its about an hour drive for those of us who live in the Detroit-metro area, I can tell you, it is worth the miles.

Afternoon tea fare is scrumptious and beautifully plated

My good tea friend, Barb Tabb, alerted me last month about Abiding in the Vine. After checking out their website, I knew I had to visit. So, we quickly made arrangements to meet up at this Owosso tea room the first of week in March.

Barbs enjoying afternoon tea in Owosso

Their afternoon tea was wonderful. The scones, savories and desserts were not only scrumptious, but beautifully plated.   I especially loved that one tea sandwich and one creme-filled cookie were heart-shaped.

Heart shaped savories and sweets

Our course started with a fresh salad, followed by scones, a variety of mini sandwiches and a generous dessert plate that included macaroons, lemon bars and cookies.

Our tea started with a fresh salad.

And, of course, each afternoon tea comes with a full pot of your choice of tea. The tea list is extensive, although tempted by many of the blends offered.  I went with my go-to favorite, Earl Grey.

An extensive tea list 

Corky said the inspiration for a tea room came from her grandmother, who would have weekly suppers for the family and always serve it using pretty place settings and serving pieces. Corky worked at tea room/herb farm and hosted several large tea parties at home before opening up a brick-and-mortar of her own.

She found the perfect setting on Owosso's main street -  a vintage building with a ton of character. The tin ceilings and exposed brick walls are a lovely back drop to the glass chandeliers and eclectic array of antique chairs, all painted a uniform, bright white. Corky also has a collection of tablecloths for all occasions. The tea room hosts special events throughout the year, so guests can customize the decor to suit the party.

Vintage charm with tin ceilings, glass chandeliers & collection of antique chairs

Adding to the unique setting, there's a border of retro doors in different sizes and hues that separate the dining room from the kitchen.

Border of retro doors between kitchen and dining room
Abiding by the Vine was also voted number one tea room in Michigan by TeaMap.

Number one tea room banner proudly displayed inside

In addition to afternoon tea, Abiding by the Vine also serves lunch and breakfast Monday through Saturday. There's also a gift shop full of fun items for any tea enthusiast.

Lots of great tea items in the gift shop

Both Barb's give this tea room a collective "two thumbs up!".  Thanks to Barb T. for notifying us about this delightful venue. 

Abiding by the Vine is located on Main Street in Owosso, MI
Abiding by the Vine is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Afternoon tea is $15.00, but if you order between 2:00 and 4:00, it is only $11.00!!  For more information, visit their website at

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Downton Days at Meadow Brook with Barb's Tea Service (Part I)

Barb & Rachel (BTS), part of Downton Days at Meadow Brook

Last week, Barb's Tea Service was part of Meadow Brook Hall's Downton Days Afternoon Tea. After our presentation, guests were scheduled to tour the mansion. However, we provided a tour of our own that covered the history of tea, its introduction to England, the invention of afternoon tea and "Cora's Story", the prequel to Downton Abbey.  A lot of ground was covered in thirty minutes!

BTS "tour" included history of tea & more!

Starting where it all began, we traced the history of tea from China to Japan (brought to the latter by Buddhist monks) until it finally made its way to England in the 1600's.

BTS' display table and some of the guests at Meadow Brook

As England embraced tea, it elevated it to the fancy affair we refer to as "afternoon tea" in 1840. (For Victoria fans, it's a delight to note, it was that Queen's lady-in-waiting, Anna Duchess of Bedford who is credited for that spectacular creation.)

Gothic Room at Marble House where Lord Marlborough proposed to Conseulo

Afternoon tea was not the only event to shake up England in the 1800's! There was also the invasion of the "American Heiresses" or "Dollar Princesses", as they were referred to -  daughters of the American noveau riche who married British aristocrats in  "cash for class" transactions. Downton Abbey's Cora married Lord Grantham in such an arrangement.

Alva V. who pulled the strings on the marriage

A true life Cora, Conseulo Vanderbilt married Lord Marlborough in 1895, at the insistence of her mother, Alva, and became a Duchess at the age of 19. Lord Marlborough proposed to Conseulo in the Gothic Room at the Marble House, one of the many Gilded Age "cottages" we toured last October.

Attired in our own Gilded Age gowns, we were thrilled to be part of Downton Days afternoon tea at Meadow Brook Hall. It's a beautiful venue and we had the event captured by our cousin, Karri B., who is a professional photographer. We'll be sharing those photos very soon!

We also met a great group of ladies at the tea, dressed in gorgeous period dresses, who graciously consented to be part of our photo shoot. We'll share those pictures soon as well!

Stay tuned for Downton Days at Meadow Brook with Barb's Tea Service, Part II!! 

Great fun at Meadow Brook. More pictures to come!