This story is from Master Herbalist, Jennifer Vollbrecht, owner of You, Me, and Uni and author of Feminism: A Journey To Equality. She attends an annual tea party with her childhood friend, Erica, each summer. I asked her to write about it for our readers since this is a spectacular tradition that I am incredibly envious of. I thought perhaps you would be just as intrigued as I am to hear this story.
“This is a story about women coming together to build each other up and celebrate one another. Life gets busy and we don’t hang out as we did in our teenage years, but the hours that pass during the annual tea party are a small glimpse of the love and laughter we remember from our childhoods. This is also a story about cherishing tradition and friendship, a friendship of twenty-five years.
Erica returned to California and wanted to reconnect with a few friends, so she decided to host a tea party in her dad’s garden. She mailed beautiful handmade invitations, writing our names in calligraphy with a fountain pen. The party was outside under the shade of a grapevine trellis. She served homemade biscuits, scones, fruits, dips, cucumber sandwiches, and many other finger foods and desserts.
Each course was made with a special tea pairing. We started with iced tea and moved on through several different blends of English tea, green tea, and my new favorite, Iraqi tea! It was an intimate party of four. We all wore dresses and hats, because, why not? We ate, drank tea, laughed until we cried, and then ate and drank some more. It was such a good time that we decided to make it a yearly tradition!
I’ve been friends with Erica since we were tweens. We grew up together, went to the same parties, and hung out almost daily during our teenage years. When we spent time together, we listened to music way too loud, drove way too fast, and stayed up way too late. We laughed until our stomachs were sore!
We snuck out of our parent’s house, pushing the car out of the driveway and down the street. We almost got caught trying to coast back up the driveway to put the car away after an adventurous night driving gocarts and crushing on boys at mini-golf. Almost! But we were never caught. We never did tell our parents, even after all of these years.
When Erica graduated high school, she went to bible college in Visalia and I joined the Marines. We kept in touch a little through Myspace (LOL!!!!) and snail mail (obviously this was early 2000’s). In 2005, when I deployed to Iraq, I was surprised to receive a Myspace message from Erica letting me know that she was in Kabul, Iraq! She had taken a job as a civilian contractor and ended up deployed at the same time as me. We didn’t get to see each other overseas because our bases were pretty far apart, but we emailed a lot and talked about the culture and life on a military installation. I cycled back to the states and she stayed out there for years. Erica met her husband in Mosul and they were married in a traditional Iraqi wedding. We thought she might stay there forever.“
Fast forward to 2014
“Erica called to say that she was moving back to California! She and her husband were moving back from overseas. I can imagine how difficult it was for Omer to enter a new country and for Erica to reemerge after being gone for almost ten years. The first year that she was back, we would talk about living overseas for hours and hours. They introduced me to Iraqi tea- black tea with cardamom and sugar. It was incredibly yummy and I would look forward to sharing tea-time during our chats.
For the past five years, we have gathered six times for the tea party. The 4th year gathering was to celebrate Erica’s baby shower. The tea party theme was a perfect way to celebrate Erica before she became a mother to Dahlia.
Over the years, the guest list has remained small and intimate. We eat and drink out of her finest china and silver utensils. We wear dresses and hats and we sip all sorts of tea. This year we had stuffed dates, smoked salmon, smore bread, cucumber sandwiches, croissants, chicken Caesar salad, and angel food cake with strawberries and fresh whipped cream. As usual, we had tea pairings and we added mimosas somewhere along the way. This year we added Uni tea: Meditative State of Mind, as one of the pairings.
As is customary with each year we take pictures and boomerangs of the beautiful table settings. This year we all doted over a particularly beautiful bouquet of fresh dahlia flowers from a local farmer: Dutch Roots Farm. Over tea, we go around the table and share our goals for the next year. We dream of growing our businesses, connecting more with friends, learning a new language amongst other things.
It’s always hard to say goodbye. This is a story of over 25 years of friendship.”
Jennifer Vollbrecht, Master Herbalist, You, Me, and Uni
Erica wrote in to share her thoughts on this lovely and delicious tradition
“In 2014 I decided to host a tea party for a few of my closest friends. I have always loved tea and the idea of tea parties. As adults, we don’t get many opportunities to do “fancy” things, especially as a working parent. Living overseas, I was in awe of the great hospitality they show guests and I wanted to share that with my friends. We serve tea & crumpets, biscuits & jam, cucumber sandwiches, salad, iced tea, plus a few other yummy treats!
It was such a hit that it became an annual tea party. It’s a time when childhood friends can get together and talk about life, make goals for the next year, and wear cute dresses and big hats. It is a time when we as moms can take a breather and focus on ourselves for a change. Over the years we have mastered the process and got it all figured out. We have had six Tea Parties now, over the last five years, and I can speak for us all when I say there will be many more!“
Anastacia Elizabeth Walden
Freelance writer and editor at Walden Writes For Women, in Gainesville, Florida