ABOVE PHOTO: Invited guests sharing a light, sisterly moment at the Annual Mother and Daughter Tea (from left to right): Lillian Miles, Leah Fletcher, Philadelphia Sunday Sun COO; Frankie Darcell, WDAS-FM on-air personality, Karen Dean and Courtney Richardson. (Photo By: Shae-Marie Thomas)
By Leah Fletcher
There is more to an old-fashioned garden tea party than meets the eye. No one knows that more than the Lankenau Environmental Science High School’s students who participated in the school’s Fifth Annual Mother and Daughter Tea.
At the annual event, held last week, Lankenau’s seniors hosted their mothers at an old-fashioned tea party with a modern twist. The party occurred at a time when the focus on the upcoming nuptials of England’s Prince Harry and American Meghan Markle and her initial meeting with Queen Elizabeth II for afternoon tea has fostered renewed interest in the British style of tea-drinking.
That said, the mothers and daughters — or more aptly, the queens and their princesses — began a similar adventure in an atmosphere reminiscent of an outside English garden that contained tables set with beautiful vintage linens, assorted china cups and teapots and sprays of flowers. With the help of students and faculty, the school’s auditorium was transformed.
No tea party would be complete without guests in distinctive hats ranging from large-brimmed hats, adorned with flowers, rattan straw hats with bowknots, Bowler hats with sprays of feathers and every kind of spring hat in between. For those without hats, Marva Price, program coordinator and organizer of the tea party, had a selection of extra ones.
It’s a great time for everyone, Price said.
“We love putting on the tea,” she said. “It is a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate a special time of life for our students. And, we’ve enjoyed giving mothers and daughters time to spend together, surrounded by friends, during the approaching graduation season.”
The tea was a distinctive feature of the party. Tea choices included floral and fruit flavors, such as orange and chamomile, and classic teas like Earl Grey and green tea blends. There was a traditional touch with finger sandwiches, tea cakes and scones. The food was complemented with chocolate-dipped strawberries, fruit salad and an array of cakes and desserts.
The tables were graced with programs that provided proper formal tea etiquette and the do’s and don’ts of how to properly drink tea.
British and American tea-drinking etiquette has many intricate layers. And there is a growing interest in the style of British tea-drinking, according to Lillian Miles, a retired Philadelphia School teacher, who provides the students with instructions on the intricacies of tea party etiquette, something she has done since the inception of the program to assist Price.
During Markle’s meeting with Queen Elizabeth II, Miles deduced the duchess-to-be learned there’s a lot more to royal-tea drinking etiquette than where to place your pinky.
According to Miles, there are over 25 rules, but these are the most important:
- You should never add the milk to your cup before pouring the tea. Always add milk after.
- If you need to stir the milk in the cup, you should use a back and forth motion, rather than a circular motion, so that the spoon doesn’t clink against the sides of the cup.
- You should not blow on the tea to cool it down and you should replace the cup on the saucer between sips.
- You should never drink your tea with your pinky finger extended, despite what you may have seen in the movies.
- There are rarely foods that require cutlery served with tea (scones and small sandwiches, which you are permitted to eat with your fingers, are more typical).
- Even the placement of the napkin is important: You should never leave a used napkin on your seat. If you’re getting up to leave or to use the restroom, place your unfolded napkin on the table, to the left of your plate.
WDAS-FM host Frankie Darcell, was the tea’s keynote speaker. Her message addressed the season of change that would occur in the lives of the attending daughters as they embarked on new life journeys. Darcell advised mothers to intimately communicate with their daughters, while incorporating listening into the equation.
“It is important for mothers and daughters to build bonds of trust that allow them to communicate, at this important time of their lives,” said Darcell, who spoke proudly about the process of building a strong communication network with her own daughter, who recently graduated from Spelman College and has been accepted to Boston University Medical School.
“Our daughters are embarking on life journey’s that will require support and we cannot provide that support if we do not listen without judgement,” Darcell said.
Attorney Courtney Richardson offered the young women words of encouragement as they prepared to graduate to the next level of their lives. She advised, “Make a commitment to yourself and your dreams. Don’t give up and never let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve your dreams.”
Lankenau Principal Joshua A. Levinson has wholly supported the program during his two-year tenure, and he said he will continue to do so because of the uplifting academic and social experience it provides students and their families.
“Today, it is import to connect with our children. The annual tea program provides moms and daughters that opportunity. For all participating students, it is an opportunity to participate in a unique program that also allows them to broaden their academic and social experiences.”
Karen Dean, Lankenau’s former principal, pronounced that she would not miss an opportunity to attend the annual event. “The tea is more than an opportunity for mothers and daughters to bond. It allows them time to expand the dimension of their relationships at a time their lives are taking new direction and in need of guidance.”
According to Price, the tea’s program originator, she wanted to provide a dimension of social preparation for graduating students, who would eventually find themselves in an array of social and professional situations.
The tea was a team effort, with many Lankenau students, friends and sponsors pitching in to provide food, floral arrangements, china service and their time in the kitchen. Male students volunteered as parking lot guides, guest escorts, and music DJs.
Student attendees participating in the program included Zenique Harmon, who introduced mistress of ceremonies E. Marie Lambert. Other students included Janaya Churn, the Lankenau Dance Team, and Jasmine Dabir. Musical selections were provided by Juliane Nagovich and Olivia Stocklin, who sang a capella. Doryann Burry offered a musical rendition of Whitney Houston’s version of “I’ll Always Love You.”
“It has always been my goal to prepare our young ladies to function with knowing and with pride in any social situation,” explained Price. “If they ever find themselves in a social situation, even if it is having afternoon tea with a queen or a first lady, they will be prepared.”