Friday, May 18, 2012

A Victoria Princess Moment

One can't truly appreciate the notion of afternoon tea without first appreciating the woman who fanned the popularity of this notion. Queen Victoria. Her entire history is fascinating and the stuff of fairy tales, replete with becoming heir to the throne as a baby shortly after her father died, a controlling mother, being protected from uncles who could not produce heirs of their own, various attempts on her life, and marrying her own Prince Charming.

But before she became queen, she was a princess.

As a young princess, she travelled the country to become more familiar with what would become her kingdom, and her mother, in a rare display of wisdom, gave her journals to encourage her to document her experiences. Though an only child with only her tutor to call 'friend,' her extensive journals expose a playful, curious, brilliant mind who was able to bring the written word to life in an extraordinary way.

She married her one true love, Prince Albert, and he lovingly helped her become a most beloved and successful monarch. Her reign is most often credited with industrial expansion, economic prosperity and a growing empire.

It is said that one of her ladies in waiting, the Duchess of Bedford, came up with the idea of afternoon tea to overcome that "sinking feeling' she had in the late afternoon, well before dinner would be served. Already a tea fanatic, the now "Queen" Victoria embraced the concept and made it all the rage in very short order. So, while using her influence to build and strengthen a country, she also brought about one of the world's most refined and elegant pastimes, Afternoon Tea.

With so many complexities, it is no wonder that American Tea Room has created an equally complex yet lovely blend of tea invoking her name, Victoria. A black tea blend with bergamot, rose petals and vanilla beans, this tea gets down to business, but in such a surprising way.

Typically, a tea blend might be described as having citrus notes or floral notes or vanilla notes. In this case, it has all three - which should not work (in my mind). Additionally, vanilla has never appealed to me in tea blends. With all these strikes against it, I was prepared to be disappointed, but as with all fairy tales, this had a happy ending. The aroma is what strikes you first, and I was pleasantly surprised to find the rose and citrus scents enhanced and elevated with the vanilla. Then, the first sip. The full bodied black tea held a light symphony of the citrus, floral and vanilla notes, swirling together in perfect harmony. No one essence overpowered another. Delightful! And delicious!

I love the thrill of discovery, and if it has to do with princesses or royalty, all the better. My never ending thanks to a fine queen who encouraged a practice that brings so many such pleasure, and to American Tea Room for providing the tea that honors such a princess who became such a queen.

(We love our princesses and their castles)

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