Typically featuring clotted cream, scones and a pot of hot water, tea time conjures up images of hats, china and good manners. While that beloved image still rings true, tea time has evolved to include everything from literary readings to trivia as a means to attract a new audience to an old tradition.
"We offer a variety of different teas, including traditional, ethnic and literary," said Katy Cleary, assistant sales manager at Elkridge Furnace Inn. "All of them are fairly unique. No teas are exactly alike."
Each tea features a menu relevant to the theme, Cleary said. An Indian Chai Tea planned for Aug. 12 will include hummus on grilled naan while the Secret Garden Tea on June 25 will offer watercress tea sandwiches. Depending on the theme, either historical facts or literary readings are shared between courses.
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"Teas seem to be pretty trendy," Cleary said. "Originally, it was an older crowd but I've been seeing more younger people. It is not as stuffy as one first thinks it is with all its niceties. It is more enjoyable."
When looking for a new event, Howard County Recreation and Parks decided to host a tea and trivia night at its outdoor venue, the Patapsco Female Institute, according to Caitlin Chamberlain, heritage program manager.
"We thought it would be a different twist on a typical trivia night," Chamberlain said. "The setting, with its history and being a Victorian-era girls' school, keeps that tea theme."
Featuring both sweet and savory pastries from Wegman's Catering, along with a pot of hot tea, the tea will be served along with general trivia questions with a "history slant," Chamberlain said. Prizes will also be awarded. Everything will be outdoors, Chamberlain said, with the ruins of the school as a backdrop. Tents will be set up in case of rain.
"We're trying something different and seeing where it goes," Chamberlain said, of the event that was scheduled for May 11, at 6 p.m.
After losing everything but its china in last year's flood on Main Street, Tea on the Tiber in Ellicott City reopened its doors six months and 10 days later completely renovated and ready for business, according to Linda Jones, owner.
"We have more men than we've ever had," Jones said. "A lot of young people, too."
Regularly offering afternoon teas on three floors, Tea on the Tiber does offer special event teas like its 13th annual Mother's Day Tea on May 14, which Jones said is sold out with a waiting list of about 60.
Tea times, Jones said, are "an event."
"It is relaxing," Jones said. "You dial down and sit a couple of hours and enjoy the company. Some people do love to wear their hats, gloves, high heels and so on. Our dress code is, if you're comfortable and we're not uncomfortable."
Everyone is welcome to attend a free Mother's Day tea at Trinity Episcopal Church in Elkridge on May 13 at 2 p.m. An idea of a parishioner, the tea will be a first for Trinity.
"We typically do something for mothers but this year we're taking it up a notch," said the Rev. Anne Coghill MacNabb. "We've had a huge response. We're excited."
While there will be homemade pastries and hot tea, MacNabb believes the real reason for tea's popularity is more basic.
"You sit and have tea and some sandwiches and catch up with your loved ones and meet some friends," MacNabb said. "It gives people time to sit and be together."
Elkridge Furnace Inn, 5745 Furnace Ave., Elkridge, offers a Secret Garden Literary Tea on June 25, $37.50; and an Indian Chai Tea on Aug. 12, $32.50. Afternoon Teas are offered by reservation. 410-379-9336.
Tea and Trivia, May 11, 6 p.m., Patapsco Female Institute, 3655 Church Road, Ellicott City. Hosted by Howard County Creation and Parks. $25. 410-313-7275.
Tea on the Tiber, 8081 Main St., Ellicott City, Thursdays and Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday sittings at noon and 3 p.m. $22.50 for afternoon tea; $12 for shopper's cream tea. 410-480-8000.