A nice cup of tea and a party

TEA is our national drink, right?

Well, yes, but these days it is most likely to come from a bag (not at all environmentally friendly, since many of them include plastic) rather than loose leaf tea served from a tea-pot. And then there are all those international coffee chains (equally bad on the environment with their disposable cups).

The great Henry James famously wrote (in The Portrait of a Lady): “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” In those few words he captured the essence of the matter – tea should be a leisurely pursuit, an occasion to step aside, for even a few minutes, to take time to enjoy a great drink, properly made.

So let’s welcome National Tea Day, described as “the biggest par-tea of the year,” with a festival of tea on the weekend of 21st and 22nd April, at Chiswick House and Gardens.

Special guests at the festival include Mich Turner, the founder of Little Venice Cake Company, who is often described as Queen of Couture Cakes. She originally trained as a food scientist and was patisserie buyer at Harvey Nichols, before founding her successful cake business in 1999.

Another guest is Alana Spencer, winner of The Apprentice in 2017 and founder of the cake company Ridiculously Rich. Mich and Alana will both be in the Tea’n’Treat Village, leading masterclasses. .

Special features of the festival will include the Tea Bazaar tents, offering a wide range of teas from around the world, as well as other food, drink and homewares, the British Bou-tea-que, showcasing the best of Britain’s tea, treats and fashion, and the Picnic Park, with riverside views, the perfect place for families to relax and refuel.

The Vitali-Tea Garden, in Chiswick’s Italian Gardens, will be the place to meet and talk to health gurus and tea professionals, and try and buy organic and healthy products.

The programme of tea masterclasses includes using tea as an ingredient in cocktails, blending your own tea under the guidance of a tea master, and learning how tea can be the perfect complement to any food.

The Museum of Historic Tea Ware will include the Chitra Collection, spanning a thousand years of history. This exhibition, on display at Chiswick House for two days only, will highlight the importance and diversity of tea drinking customs across the globe.

Of course, you don’t have to go to London to enjoy an excellent pot of tea in relaxing surroundings. Michelle and Rob Comins, of Comins Tea House at Sturminster Newton and Bath (in Monmouth Street, close to the Ustinov studio of Bath Theatre Royal) are tea merchants and experts who offer a wide range of delicious and rare teas, and you can enjoy home-made cakes and savoury delights at their beautiful tea-houses.

To find out more about National Tea Day visit nationalteaday.co.uk

Pictured: Rob and Michelle Comins at their Sturminster Newton tea-house; two traditional Brown Betty tea-pots.