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  • In Words + Photos: Afternoon Tea & Oils

    In Words + Photos: Afternoon Tea & Oils

    Back in January, I posted a photo on my Facebook page from a Tea & Essential Oils gathering I'd hosted the night before.

    I'd invited a couple of friends over who'd expressed an interest in learning more about essential oils. I served tea and chocolate, shared my essential oils story, and taught my friends the basics of essential oils. It was a lot of fun! Super laid back and chill.

    About a week later, I was on the phone with a friend from upstate New York. She'd seen the photo and had a crazy [awesome] idea.

    For at least two decades now, she, her sister, and their mother have been getting together once a year for a mother-daughters afternoon tea. They'd meet somewhere special, spend a few days together exploring the area, and, of course, have tea. They've been all over New York City, in various other cities and states, and even had tea at the beach one year! 

    And this year, my friend was thinking, maybe it was time to come to Baltimore! Inspired by my photo, she wondered if I'd be interested in hosting a "culinary nutrition" style Afternoon Tea & Oils class for her, her sister, and her mom. 

    I instantly said: Yes! 
    And then thought: What the heck will I do?!

    I've been to one high tea before - at the Ritz Carlton, with friends of mine, in elementary school. (With our American Girl dolls in tow, if I'm not mistaken.) So I certainly was no expert on planning tea parties. But I reminded myself that my friend had invited me to get creative, do what made sense to me, and to give it the culinary nutrition twist that she knows I love.

    And here's the thing: I love tea, food, and essential oils. So to get to plan a day around those three most wonderful things, for three incredible women, was going to be amazing! And adventure? Yes. But definitely amazing. What an opportunity!

    PREP

    My tea party guests had booked their flights and hotel and were Baltimore-bound, flying in from New York the day before the big event. They'd be staying at the Inn at the Black Olive, a luxury organic-themed, eco-conscious boutique hotel tucked just between Fells Point and Harbor East. I'd heard wonderful things about it!

    I stopped by that morning to drop off a welcome card and gift: A bottle of Grapefruit essential oil. Just a drop in your hands, cupped in front of your face and breathed in deeply is instantly uplifting. It's also awesome in a glass of water, adding the perfect amount of flavor (I use two or three drops) and helping to support the metabolism and curb cravings. I thought it would make a refreshing welcome for weary travelers.

    If you haven't yet been to the Inn, I recommend putting it on your to-do list. The Agora Organic Market on the ground floor is lovely! Green juices, smoothies, organic cafe fare, and even a selection of biodynamic wines. 

    That evening, with help from my best bud, I set the table with some of my favorite colors, textures, patterns, and flowers: A table runner from our trip to Bali, gorgeous cloth napkins from Anthropologie, a sugar jar Eddie brought home from México, and a bright bouquet of red tulips, gifted to us by a recent guest. Thank you, Kath and Mel.

    Next up? Prepping the menu. I wanted to feature a mix of my favorite brands, Baltimore makers, and homemade items. Here's what I came up with:


    TEA

    The first course was Tea. In keeping with my culinary nutrition theme, I decided on a traditional yogi tea, which, according to Ayurvedic wisdom, helps to purify the blood, lungs, and circulatory system and cleanses the liver. It's a warming, spicy blend of cardamom, peppercorns, ginger, clove, and cinnamon, sweetened with a touch of local raw honey. Simmer for about 15 minutes and you're good to go. It was a hit! On the side, I offered coconut palm sugar, homemade maple hemp milk, and a local organic milk (just in case). 

    In addition to the yogi tea, I offered a selection of some of my favorite organic teas from Traditional Medicinals: Ginger, Raspberry Leaf, Cup of Calm, and Peppermint, each of them soothing and health-supportive in its own way.

    Yogi Tea

    Ingredients:
    2 quarts (8 cups) water
    5 sticks cinnamon
    1 tablespoon whole cloves
    1 tablespoon whole cardamom seeds
    1/2 tablespoon whole peppercorns
    1 inch ginger root, freshly sliced
    almond milk, optional
    raw honey, optional

    Instructions:

    • Place all ingredients in a medium-sized pot
    • Simmer for 20-30 minutes
    • Serve alone or with a touch of milk and raw honey

    Note: 
    You can simmer much longer (2-3 hours, even) if you like, but 20-30 minutes will do the job.

    The last of the teas was, I think, an unexpected one: Kombucha, from Hex Ferments, which I picked up at our local Farmers Market the morning of. Hex is awesome because they use organic tea, organic free-trade cane sugar, filtered water, and local, organic and wild foraged herbs to create their super lovely and unique kombuchas. For our afternoon, I chose the Butterfly Lime (the purple one up there) and Parsley varieties.

    Kombucha is a big culinary nutrition player because it's a natural source of probiotics, which help to keep our guts (where nearly three quarters of our immune systems live) strong and healthy. 

    SNACKS

    For the savory portion of the menu, I served a beautiful Coconut Veggie Curry, which my incredibly talented husband (primarily) whipped up the night before. He's so amazing with food, and - having witnessed my "food as medicine" journey and hearing me teach about the importance of understanding the quality of the food we eat/buy - he's very much on board with what I do these days. He's the greatest. Thanks, Babe.

    To accompany the curry, I made the most adorable little tea sandwiches, inspired by the one and only Meg, of Beard & Bonnet. Hummus, lentils, cucumber, dill. Simple flavors that came together very nicely, I thought. Loved them. And have already made them again several times.

    Coconut Veggie Curry

    Ingredients:
    3 tablespoons coconut oil 
    1 onion, roughly chopped
    5 cloves of garlic, minced
    2 cups carrots, chopped
    4 stalks of celery
    1 crown of broccoli, roughly chopped
    1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
    1 tablespoon curry powder
    1 tablespoon dried parsley
    1 tablespoon dried basil
    1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne, more to taste
    1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
    1 teaspoon ground black pepper, more/less to taste
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    1 BPA-free can diced tomatoes, fire roasted
    1 BPA-free can coconut milk
    8 cups vegetable stock (or water), more or less depeneding on desired consistency

    Instructions:

    • Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat
    • Add all vegetables to the pot
    • Add spices and sautée until just softened, about 10 minutes (stirring frequently)
    • Add diced tomatos, coconut milk, and vegetable stock
    • Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer (uncovered) for 30 minutes
    • Allow to cool (enough to transfer to the blender)
    • Puree soup (we used the Vitamix), then return pureed soup to pot, rewarming as needed

    SWEETS

    My favorite course, of course, was the Sweets. And this one I've gotta share a little story about.

    Synchronicity. God. The Universe.
    Whatever you believe, somebody had my back and believed in this tea party.
    And I have proof.

    First, I made a trip to Jinji's (chocolate genius) the day before the party, to pick up a few items. All of her ingredients are raw and vegan, and she does everything in the most creative, quality, heart-filled way imagineable, with the most interesting flavors and combinations. On top of that, she is just the nicest - and so is the whole Jinji's team!

    And would you believe that, just as I arrived, she was putting the finishing touches on a green tea truffle?! It was obviously M.T.B. Meant to be. She sent me home with a collection of Matcha Gunpowder, Mace Stuck Pot Rice (a new favorite), and Lavender Lemonade beauties.

    And then: I wandered over to PlantBar to see if they might have anything there that would fit the occasion. And guess what!? They had a raw Chai Cheesecake. Craziness! And oh my goodness was it good.

    Inspired by a recipe my aunt brought to our Easter get-together this year, I also created a batch of Lemon Blackberry Melts, but with a raspberry surprise in the middle! Such a genius idea, and one I'd never seen before. The only thing I changed was: I used a combination of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and three drops of Lemon essential oil. They were a challenge to recreate, but so worth it. 

    OILS

    To finish off the afternoon, I planned an Introduction to Essential Oils class. 

    What are essential oils?
    How long have they been around?
    How can I use them?
    What can I use them for?
    What do I need to know in choosing the right essential oils for me and my family?

    All this and more was covered, along with a lot of sampling and smelling of the oils, discussing common uses, and sharing some of my favorite resources. We even did a little DIY session, creating customized fresh air sprays and sugar scrubs for the bath or shower. Lavender, Vanilla, Frankincense and Orange, Grapefruit, Clove, Peppermint. A feast for the senses, to be sure. Want to learn more about my favorite oils? Shoot me an email here.

    The sun was starting to set as I waved goodbye to my friends. It had been a beautiful day, getting to know these three beautiful women and, I hope, providing a space to sip, savor, relax, connect, and learn together.

    I am beyond grateful to have been invited to be even a small part of such a longstanding, special tradition. I hope they enjoyed themselves! And I hope it won't be long until they find themselves in Charm City again.

    They'll always be welcome here. With love and tea and oils.