Tea Time


Mackenzie Shaffer

Illustration by Preston Randall

Hello again, friend. I’m so glad you’re here.

I owe my grandma, who I call Mimi, all the credit when it comes to my fondness for tea. Mimi introduced me to the warm, comforting drink when I was very young, and we’d drink it all the time –– in the mornings when she watched over me as my parents worked during the day and even at night sometimes before bed. 

When I was around 14 years old, Mimi and I decided to indulge in afternoon tea at The Plaza Hotel while we were in New York City, and it was quite the experience. Everything from the table settings to the cups and saucers to the tea itself was mesmerizingly ethereal. We were amazed. 

Neither of us have been back to The Plaza for afternoon tea since that special time, but that hasn’t stopped us from wanting to recreate it. So, this last week, Mimi and I did just that!

We wanted to recreate the essence of our experience at The Plaza for our friends to enjoy. We invited a few people over, carefully set the table and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon tea. 

Mimi and I had so much fun planning our tea party –– from the tablecloths to the finger sandwiches, we enjoyed every bit of the process. 

For the table, we decided that a clean, white tablecloth would suit the sunlit afternoon best. Mimi has an extravagant assortment of fine china dishes, so we ended up settling on a simple white set with silver rims around the edges. Quite classy.

For food, we constructed a tray of strategically arranged blueberry scones, lemon poppyseed muffins and shortbread cookies for dipping. In between the desserts, I placed clusters of grapes and berries in addition to some freshly picked wildflowers from Mimi’s garden. 

The assortment was dainty and elegant. I wasn’t able to photograph the process, but I did snag a few pictures of the end result. 

In addition to the dessert tray, we quickly made cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches and classic egg salad sandwiches, both cut into straight, narrow rectangles and placed those on another tray also decorated with wildflowers and fruit.

Shortly after we finished getting things ready, which took about an hour, our guests arrived. We played soft classical music in the background and the natural afternoon sunlight streaming in from the kitchen window. We welcomed our friends with open arms to the table, giving them their choice of tea and their own teapot to brew in. 

The event lasted around two hours in totality, and we had so much fun talking and catching up with each other, passing the afternoon away with gentle smiles and warm sips. 

My favorite thing about food is that cooking and eating (and drinking) are a vital part of everyone’s day, giving each of us the opportunity to do it together as a communal activity, if you will. Those rare times when we do come together have the potential to be so special and life-giving, and this tea-filled afternoon was just that.