Tea for Two at the Willows
By Sharman Ramsey
Kimberly Meadows, owner of the Willows
See Also: Cecily and Lily's Mom and Me Tea
Tea for Two at the Willows
Kimberly Meadows had a dream. She wanted to run a tea room. Her grandmother, Muriel Meadows, a native of Liverpool, England, had shared with her granddaughter her love of tea and teatime. Muriel took Kimberly to tea rooms when she was little and at Christmas and on birthdays gave her tea pots of all colors, shapes and sizes. Kimberly, daughter of David and Diane Meadows and niece of state attorney Steve Meadows, grew up in Panama City and when she graduated from Florida State University her goal was to open a tea room on Panama City Beach. But, when she found out the Willows, a charming tea room on 4th Street in downtown Panama City, would soon be available, she decided to take over the established business. In June 2006 she became the proprietress of her own tea room, sandwich and British grocery specialty shop, as she says, "a small place with a warm, cozy feel."
The only person I know who loves tea parties more than I do is Miss Lily Clare Butterworth, my four-year-old granddaughter, referred to within the family as "Miss Lily" as she was so aptly dubbed early on by her great-grandfather, Dr. E. G. Burson of Dothan. She and I decide that having a tea party at the Willows would be a lovely thing to do on a Friday afternoon. So, I call and make arrangements for Kimberly to give Miss Lily special instruction on making tea and serving tea dainties. Lily and I come dressed for tea and are greeted warmly by Kimberly who shows us to our white linen covered table set with a rabbit tea pot and tea cups and a nosegay of flowers.
Kimberly takes Lily with her to choose and prepare her tea. First the pot must be tempered with hot water. Kimberly helps Lily pour the hot water into the pot and swirl it around before emptying the water. Then Lily is shown the variety of teas from which she may choose. This takes serious deliberation on Lily’s part, but she finally decides on strawberry. The bag is popped into the pot and hot water is poured into the tea pot. Kimberly directs Lily to stir twice. Lily counts the stirs aloud, seriously applying herself to the proper preparation of our tea.
Kimberly and Lily then bring the pot to the table where Lily adds several teaspoons of sugar and a dash of cream to her cup before pouring the tea into the cup. Lily again counts aloud her two stirs, having taken her earlier instruction to heart.
I have chosen an afternoon version of Earl Grey which has less caffeine than the usual morning selection. My tea is served in a charming chintz teapot and blue willow cup and saucer. Lily and I sip our tea as Kimberly serves us finger sandwiches of egg salad, chicken salad and cucumbers.
The scones come with directions on proper dressing. The scone is split, covered with cream and topped with strawberry preserves. The scone is the former Willows owner’s recipe, but Kimberly does have her grandmother’s recipes for scones and other tea dainties.
207 East 4th Street, Panama City, FL 32401
“The round shape of the teapot was designed by the Chinese, who used a musk melon as the model.
To brew a perfect pot of tea, boil fresh, cold tap water in a kettle. (Cold water is essential because it has a greater oxygen content and gives the tea a fuller flavor.) While the water is boiling, warm the teapot with hot water. Once the teapot is warmed, pour out the water and put in the tea. Use one teaspoon of leaves or one tea bag per cup of tea. Some people like to add one extra for the pot. Once the water is boiling, bring the teapot over to it and pour it in the teapot immediately. Boiling water drops in temperature the moment you lift it from the flame, so by bringing the teapot to the kettle rather than vise versa, you have the hottest water possible. Let the tea brew three to five minutes. For reliability in flavor, always ‘brew by the clock, not the color.’ Serve hot.”
The cream used in England is not available here, although there are a number of substitutes and facsimiles available. We use the following:
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
One hour before serving, pour the heavy cream into a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Whisk in the sour cream and sugar, continuing to beat until the mixture is very thick.
Place in the refrigerator and chill until it is time to serve.
If you want to make this ahead of time, it should last 4 to 6 hours in the refrigerator.
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
¾ cup milk
½ cup currants
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift the dry ingredients together. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly.
Beat the milk and egg together. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until well blended. Add the currants stirring until well combined.
Prepare a flat surface by flouring it well (the dough will be slightly wet and will absorb the flour quickly). Place the dough on the flat surface. Knead briefly (once or twice) and pat the dough until it is ¾ inch thick. Cut out the scones with a 2 ½ inch biscuit cutter and place on a greased baking sheet.
Beat the egg yolk with the cold water. Using a pastry brush, glaze each scone with this mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot or cold, with ham and clotted cream,if desired.
In Chester I asked the server to demonstrate her preferred method of eating scones. It came with strawberry preserves and delicious clotted cream. M. Dalton King in her book, Special Teas, gives an excellent recipe for tea, scones and clotted cream:
Our afternoon tea is completed with a choice of four different cakes made from these recipes.. Lily examines each and concludes the chocolate looks the most scrumptious and will be her choice. Lily declares the chocolate delicious, especially the dark chocolate icing. I choose the carrot cake and agree with Lily that the sweets served at our tea party are outstanding.
Our afternoon tea comes to a total of $19. The memories are priceless.