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December 04, 2016
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The warmth of a cup of tea; Giving a tea party

On a brisk fall afternoon recently, I had the pleasure of joining Christine San Jose and a group of women for a high tea party ourselves. We met at The Willow River Gallery Café in Honesdale, PA. Willow River is owned and operated by Trix Render, who opened the art gallery in 2009 and the tea shop in 2011. Render offers everything from a simple cup of tea (or coffee, if that’s your preference) to extravagant tea parties; slices of pie or cake to an entire sit-down gourmet dinner. Everything offered in the tea shop is made from scratch using local products whenever possible.

Tea was served in the art gallery at a large table laden with sweet and savory treats. Following a unique tradition at the café, whenever you order tea, Render will invite you to select your own tea pot from her unique collection of wonderful pieces that fills a cupboard off to one side. As the guests took their seats at the table, each found a place setting of fine china with one of Render’s one-of-a-kind tea cups and saucers already waiting.

The menu included two kinds of delicate open-faced sandwiches (a choice of cucumber, or salmon) with the bread cut into round or heart-shaped, bite-size morsels; and such a variety of sweet treats it was hard to count: scones served with whipped cream, an assortment of cookies, pizelles, and crepes filled with bananas or apple compote; and, of course, plenty of tea.

Today we understand that tea offers many health benefits. Medical studies have proven that Green, White, Oolong, and Black teas are loaded with healthy antioxidants, fluoride, and Vitamin C. Tea is a name given to a lot of brews, but purists consider only green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea the real thing. They are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, a shrub native to China and India, and contain unique antioxidants called flavonoids. The most potent of these, known as ECGC, may help against free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease and clogged arteries.

Although a lot of questions remain about how long tea needs to be steeped for the most benefit, and how much you need to drink, nutritionists agree any tea is good tea. However, a good pot of tea cannot be made from bad tea, and each tea variety needs to steep for the correct amount of time for the best results.